Thursday, October 8, 2009

There's A Signpost Up Ahead

Yes, all roads lead to baseball cards, eventually.

'The Hitch-Hiker' is a classic Twilight Zone episode that first aired in early 1960. It opens this way:

Boy, Rod's such a killjoy. Cross 'Mr. Glass Half Empty' off the cocktail party invite list.

So Nan Adams has just begun a cross country jaunt. A popped tire didn't shake her nerves despite the mechanic's declaration that she's lucky to be alive. Apparently she had been bopping along at 60 miles an hour when the incident occurred.

We find Nan back on the road, resuming her westward journey, when she sees a man with his thumb leveled.

If Twilight Zone has taught me anything, it's that there is nothing more frightening than Joe Everybody. Normalcy is downright creepy.

Nan however isn't very concerned about a commonplace hitch-hiker. She passes by without a thought of stopping to pick him up.

Some time later, much to her surprise...

She sees the hitch-hiker again. The same man. She is taken aback this time around. How strange that the hitch-hiker has ended up ahead of her. Nan tries to put it out of her mind.

Miles pass the hours and then, there he is again!

The hitch-hiker in constant pose, seemingly traveling at a pace not possible; especially if depending on rides to move ahead. Nan is flustered in the extreme, her mind racing to make sense of it all.

Days pass. Nan continues to come across the hitch-hiker as she rolls through the states.

She becomes desperate. She alters her routes. She turns quickly down side roads. She drives fast. She drives slow. Nothing shakes him from reappearing time and again.

Six days of travel.

Six days of the disturbing man seeking a ride.

Forever standing.


His arm swung around, cocked, thumb calmly hitched upward. A frozen stance always ahead.

Finally, at her wit's end, she calls home hoping to reach a calming voice. She is expecting her mother to pick up but instead a stranger answers. Nan asks for Mrs. Adams. The stranger explains that Mrs. Adams is in the hospital having suffered a nervous breakdown.

"What do you mean? A nervous breakdown?" Nan sputters.

The stranger replies "It's sudden, really. It's all taken place since the death of her daughter. Nan was killed six days ago in an automobile accident in Pennsylvania. A tire blew out and her car turned over."

A shocked Nan instantly realizes the hitch-hiker is The Grim Reaper. Nan has been dead for nearly a week.

She drives on, numb. The hitch-hiker appears once again. Nan is no longer flustered. She pulls to the side of the road. The hitch-hiker climbs in the back seat. She accepts the truth.

What a great episode. Unfortunately Joe Morgan has become my hitch-hiker. And THAT is what this is really all about. My struggle. Look, I love Nan. I've always loved Nan, but I've got my own troubles right now.

I come across this same picture of Joe Morgan year after year. Set after set. Brand after brand. I can't escape it. The cards I've found with this exact picture range from 2002 to 2009. That's over 20% of my life.

I don't have all the Morgans shown in this post but I do own the nine pictured together above. I didn't seek them out. One by one they showed up. I just hope the rest don't come my way.

How many times can the same picture be used? I know it happens often, but sixteen times and counting? How many different variations of the same picture exist? How many different ways can it be cropped, have its colors altered or have different borders slapped around it until companies get sick of it? What's the message here?

I bet I could discover a 17th version in my closet. I bet I could. I've got a whole box of unsorted stars on the top shelf that have been there for a few years. I can even reach them from here if I carefully climb up on my desk and lean over just a bit to the left and stretch oudsfl;thhklfds;l;fk