Did you hear that? The timer on the stove just went off, and you know what that means, don’t you? Another bowl of Indy Stew has cooked up and is ready to be served. This is the third bowl of 1986 stew. It’s kind of like a good pot of ham and beans. The more you reheat it, the better it gets. So tuck in your napkins and grab your spoons. Dinner is served.
Will 1986 ever end? This is the third time I’ve written about it and the race still hasn’t happened. As we know, day one ended soggily, so we packed up our shelter and headed home. Maybe better luck and blue skies would show up on Monday. Wishful thinking. Monday was just like Sunday with intermittent showers. Even though there were no cars on the track, we were certainly entertained.
In 1986, in addition to the regular cast of characters, my buddy Vic rolled in from Florida. Vic was a hometown friend of mine from Shirley, Indiana. In ’86, he brought his biker buddy Nick with him. Yes, I know. It’s Vic and Nick. If I was making this stuff up, don’t you think I could do better than that?
In any case, our new friend Nick fit right in. There’s something to be said for having a biker looking guy who really is a biker hanging with you. Nick had long dark hair, bulging muscles, and wore a sleeveless jeans jacket…with patches. The patches I remember said “In Memory of Wheelchair John” and “In Memory of Troll.” Let’s just say that Nick got your attention. Some people have an aura around them. That was Nick. Truthfully, he was a funny and friendly guy. He brought a battery-powered blender and mixed a great margarita. He had never been to the race and wanted to experience it at least once. He certainly added to a stranger’s race experience.
The IMS staff had just built the new infield restrooms. If you ever used the old pits-with-plywood-over-them restrooms that used to dot the infield, then you know what an upgrade they were. We were almost giddy to have stainless steel troughs and stalls. Nick and I happened to be heading that direction at the same time, and we were discussing how he was enjoying the race experience. He commented that his expectation was that the race crowd would be a little wilder. Now, I’m not quite sure how to phrase this next part. There is a certain lavatory etiquette among men when troughs are used. Conversation is kept to a minimum unless you are conversing prior to trough approach. You don’t talk to strangers. Never smile at the guy next to you. These are unwritten rules, but every guy knows them. I am sure there are corollaries and codicils, but rules do exist. I was about to witness what happens when these rules, a biker, and a nasty sense of humor intersect.
Following the rules, we entered the lavatory without talking. At this moment, some poor citizen had the misfortune of taking the spot next to Nick. He was either unaware of the rules or inattentive to the situation, and he smiled at Nick. Wrong choice. Nick hit me with a quick elbow and whispered, “Watch this.” I watched as Nick slowly turned his head toward the guy and in a low, slow, and evil voice said, “You know, I can’t pee with someone standing next to me. I guess I’m going to have to kill you.”
I’ve always wondered what went through the poor guy’s mind at that moment. Did fear course through his body? Could he hear his own heart beat? Did his life flash before his eyes? I was stunned. I had never witnessed anything quite like it. The stranger’s knees buckled slightly. He gasped. And then he ran out of the lavatory. Nick turned to me and laughed loudly and long. His laughter was full of humor and danger. That was life in the infield in 1986.
Nick never came back to the race. He started going to the motorcycle rally at Sturgis, and I’ve not seen him since. Every now and then, I wonder if the stranger ever came back to Indy. I wonder if he ever tells the story of the biker in the bathroom. It’s just one more tale from the “Greatest Spectacle in Racing” that makes me smile when I tell it. How can you not love Indy?
The adventure has just begun. Next time, we finally get to race day in 1986. I’ll just put the pot of Indy stew on a slow simmer until then.