Help! I need somebody. Help! Not just anybody. Day Two, Part Deux.
Oh, Murphy’s Law, how we abhor thee.
Less than an hour into the second day of our journey toward securing Sir Paul McCartney’s autograph on The Beatles-themed piano, we found ourselves in Franklin, Kentucky, two hours away from our destination of Louisville.
As we coasted into B.I.R. Truck and Trailer Repair shop, conveniently located near the end of the interstate exit ramp, we embraced the reality that if we were to make it to our 2 p.m. scheduled Louisville arrival time, we would have no choice but to leave the Habitat truck in good hands and secure an alternative means of transportation.
So as East St. Tammany Habitat for Humanity President and CEO Debbie and her ReStore Manager and truck driver, Eric Jones, spoke with shop proprietor Ravinder Kumar, Slidell Magazine editor Kendra Maness and I began reaching out to local cargo truck rental facilities in an effort to find a lift gate truck. When those efforts proved unsuccessful, Eric said that he felt he could personally lift the piano enough to move it from the Habitat truck to a replacement without a lift gate, living up to the organization’s “Whatever It Takes” mantra.
Kendra was able to locate a U-Haul rental truck at the nearby Franklin Self Storage facility, and she and Debbie headed over to secure that much-needed lifeline toward completing our journey. When they returned, the transfer of the piano from one truck to another was completed by Eric, with the assistance of Kumar and another of the repair shop’s personnel, Galen Tronnes. The shop duo offered to tow the truck to a dealership in nearby Nashville for the specialty repair it needed. This was yet another case of exemplary customer service, and it would not be until our return the next day that the crew would learn more details of the quest toward which their efforts had been invaluable.
With the transfer completed, we were off yet again, knowing that the cushion we had built into our travel time frame had been depleted by this unexpected stop. Insert stress here.
And so we forged on, determined to do whatever it took to successfully complete our journey and secure Sir Paul’s autograph.
At a fuel stop somewhere between Franklin and Louisville, Eric approached Debbie with another, “You’re not going to believe this” look upon his face.
“The pump is not taking the credit card,” he said.
“You’re kidding,” said a very frustrated Debbie.
I looked at the card, then at the signage, and back at the card.
“Um, Eric,” I said, “that’s an Exxon card. We’re at a Shell station.”
It was one of those fatigue-induced moments that provided a much needed chuckle and stress relief.
Fueling complete, we were back on the road, just knowing we were getting closer and closer, and in the end, it would all be worthwhile.
“And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make.”
I sent an email to our Sir Paul contacts, advising of the delays and that we were en route, but due to the complications, we may be an hour late, hoping that would not cause any problems.
We arrived in Louisville, tired and hungry, close to 3:45 p.m., nearly two hours past our scheduled 2 p.m. arrival time.
When we were a mere two miles from our exit, we came to an abrupt halt. There was an accident on the interstate that had traffic backed up for miles. Kendra and Lori were about a mile ahead of us in another vehicle, and called to let us know that the traffic was not moving.
By this point, all we could think was, “This is not happening. We were almost there.”
We decided to take a chance and take the next available interstate exit with the hopes of bypassing the accident and navigating our way to the venue. Because the older model GPS in the Habitat truck required both departure and destination addresses to function, Eric was unable to reprogram while driving, so we attempted to wing it by following the tiny map screen on the iPhone. Big mistake. We soon ended up we know not where, only to get a text from Lori and Kendra: “We are here!”
So after some unexpected and ill-timed sightseeing, we found our way back to the interstate on which the congested traffic had finally cleared, and followed to the appropriate exit. And suddenly, there we were, at long last: the KFC Yum Center in Louisville, Kentucky. The time was 4:30 p.m., some two and a half hours after our scheduled arrival time.
And with that, the heavens opened up, rays of light shined down upon facility, and a choir of angels sang in unison, “Hallelulia.”
Or perhaps that glistening was the sparkle of Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds. Whatever the source, it was a surreal experience that provided a welcome beacon of light following the darkness which had preceded our arrival.
What we know for sure is this: nearly 30 hours after we had departed from Slidell on what was supposed to be a 10 hour trip, we arrived at the facility in which Sir Paul would autograph the piano. And all was good with the world.
We drove around to the designated entrance and informed security that we were bringing The Beatles piano as pre-authorized. They acknowledged that they had been awaiting our arrival, and motioned for us to enter.
Debbie and I were permitted entrance, followed by Eric in the UHaul truck. Kendra and Lori parked in the facility’s lot, and Lori joined us in the loading dock area shortly thereafter.
Due to the security restrictions we had been provided in advance, only Eric, Debbie, Lori and I were permitted to remain in the loading dock area. With the assistance of the venue’s crew, the piano was offloaded. Eric was required to drive the truck to an external lot while the remaining trio awaited our instructions.
From the very beginning of my negotiations with Sir Paul’s representatives (whose names are not included here at their requests,) we had been told that none of us would have an opportunity to meet the legendary musician. Yet we were required to submit in advance our full names and contact info, presumably for background checks, prior to our arrival.
The plan was that we would wait in the loading dock area while the signature was secured and the piano would be returned to us, at which time Eric would return with the truck and we would begin our trip back home.
As the piano was unloaded, the venue crew and Sir Paul’s representatives oohed and ahhed. When we shared that the proceeds would benefit the East St. Tammany Habitat for Humanity’s Veterans Build, one of the stage crew members got a bit teary eyed, placing his hand over his heart and said, “I’m a veteran. Thank you for what you are doing for my brothers and sisters.”
Then one of Sir Paul’s representatives introduced herself, saying, “You must be very special people to be here. Sir Paul does not sign autographs.”
In that moment, the reality of just how monumental this occasion was hit us.
The East St. Tammany Habitat’s Beatles themed piano, which already had been autographed by Ringo Starr, was about to have the second of two signatures of the last living Beatles: Sir Paul McCartney.
And that moment was framed by one of my absolute favorite Paul McCartney and the Wings’ songs: “Maybe I’m amazed.”
Definitely, we were amazed.
To be continued.