It was not my favorite Super Bowl commercial. It was not even my second favorite. Yet, there was something about the Audi commercial featuring the teenager emboldened by driving his father’s sweet ride to the high school prom that struck me as life come back to make me smile. No, I did not go the prom alone or walk up and kiss the prom queen long and hard, but bear with me as I recount two stories that made the commercial a winner with me.
On Topeka High prom night of my junior year, I did not have a date. Neither did my friend Tim Clark, and it was his senior year. Clark was the school body president, a star tennis player and a stud. Now, you can call me a loser all you want for not having a date, but you could not say that about Clark.
His only problem was that he had just been dumped by his stunning girlfriend from Topeka West. She had reached the point in her life, as so many women have, where she wanted a “bad boy” to rock the big wild night and the summer ahead before everyone ran off to college, except for the bad boy. Clark, for all his tanned good looks, was at that point in life simply too nice a guy. All he was left with on prom night were bouts of anger and periods of sulking.
So, what are two guys like us to do? We crashed the prom and really did crash it. We sat on the porch of the old Labor Temple that was across from the entrance to the school gym in 1968 and watched the parade of couples file past in their tuxedos and long dresses. We picked out all our friends and laughed and joked over all the finery. That is when we decided we needed to sneak into the school for another look.
We checked every door of the massive school and found them all locked. About to give up, the band for the night came out the gym doors to smoke on their break. When they returned for their second set, we streamed in on their tails. The prom was held in the historic basketball gym at Topeka High. Army surplus parachutes had been carefully stitched together and hung to the give the massive gym a low ceiling and moody feel with lights shining through the gossamer silk fabric.
Once inside we raced upstairs to the huge seating area on the south side of the gym to view the silken ceiling. We could see shadows of couples dancing and needed a closer look. We began to detach enough of the ropes that held the parachutes that we could stick our heads through and watch for what seemed forever with absolute delight. What we had not counted on were the patrols that moved through the seating area to make sure no one had sneaked upstairs for some teenage romance.
Suddenly, the massive hands of the school’s wrestling coach, Dick Patterson, squeezed our necks from behind and lifted us from our perch. We managed to hold onto the ropes but in the process pulled more and more of the ties away from their moorings. When Patterson turned us around shock filled his face to find us there. I received my fair share of chastisement from Patterson, my handball partner for almost every day of the year as part of my final-hour proctoring duties. However, Clark truly took a beating for not being down on the floor with date in hand.
As we began to be escorted to the door with the promise of a visit to the principal on Monday, we were still holding the ropes. There was no chance we could tie them back. We just let them go and with that extra free weight a major section of the parachutes came crashing down like Rangers landing in Normandy on D-Day. We all turned back when girls, shocked by the silk now crashing down on their big hairdo’s, began to scream. With one final warning we were summarily kicked out into the night with giant smiles of joy plastered on our faces. For the rest of the night, there was no more moping from Clark.
That is my rocking the prom story, but what about kissing the “hottie” in the commercial? While I might have gotten off to a slow start dating women, once I got rolling I caught up at warp speed. With that warp speed we now jump ahead a number of years to late in my extended college years.
For years, many of my best friends and I played on a highly competitive fast pitch softball team. From May through August, we played some 75 games a summer with tournaments almost every weekend. On a steaming hot July weekend, we found ourselves battling back through the loser’s bracket of a tournament in Emporia. On Sunday, we played four games back-to-back to take the title. After catching all four games, and sweating nearly every ounce of fluid out of my body, I was a filthy and sweat-stained mess.
A flat-out attractive Emporia State coed walked onto the field to hand out the trophies starting with the all-tournament team. Every player called locked his eyes on the lovely young woman to the point the trophy meant nothing compared to the sight of those very, very short cut-off jeans.
When my name rang out as the all-tournament catcher, I strode out to accept my trophy and without hesitation took the girl in my filthy arms, and as noted in the movie Sandlot, I “kissed the girl and kissed her good.”
Recounting this story to my wife today, I told her how dirty I was from the day’s play and how shocked the girl was to be kissed by such a filthy pig, Laura pronounced, “You were a pig on so many levels.” Right dear, but no one came running up to give me a black eye. As I sat with my teammates replenishing much-needed fluids of the 3.2 point kind, the smile on my face was as glowing as the little gold trophy sitting on top of the cooler.
Thanks to Audi the smile on the teenage driver heading home brought back memories that made me smile as well.