Sometimes, life can cause people to forget the importance of friendship. Here is a throwback story of a simpler time. In the spring of 2000, my friends and I embarked on a road trip to Georgia’s capital city, Atlanta. Have you ever wondered what happens when 8 Massholes decide to rent a minivan and visit a fellow jerk in Atlanta?
Here is our tale:
***For the purpose of this post, I will replace the names of my friends. There is no real reason other than I think the story will be better if I travel with former Broncos’ Greats.***
I will travel with Ricky Nattiel, Jason Elam, Rod Smith, John Elway, Steve Atwater, Shannon Sharpe, and Terrell Davis. We stayed at Dennis Smith’s house.
Special Shout Out to Steve Atwater and Ricky Nattiel for handling all of the driving duties.
Before we start the trip, allow me to preface the story with a relevant fact. A month or so before the journey, there was an incident at a wedding which must be mentioned. My uncle was drunk and he went around telling everyone that one of my cousins “likes the big banana stick!” As you can expect, we quoted him a thousand times during the long drive. Everything anyone said was challenged with, you like the big banana stick.
The trip started in Boston, but the group stopped at my apartment in South Orange New Jersey to pick me up. At the time, I had no idea how lucky I was to live in New Jersey, but as the story unfolds you will come to understand why.
We tortured each other the entire ride down. Any outsider witnessing our crew interact would probably think that we hated one another, but everything we did was all in good fun.
About three hours after I entered the car, we stopped at a gas station for some snacks. Shannon Sharpe was seated in the passenger seat and trying to sleep the entire time. We must have used my uncle’s quote fifty times or so. Everyone left the car and returned with random junk food. Shannon Sharpe didn’t leave with the rest of the group; he decided to wait until the last minute to get his snacks. He walked sluggishly to the door and returned after several minutes. He purchased a bottle of water and a banana. (I have no idea how he found a banana at a gas station quickie mart!)
Shannon Sharpe entered the car and sat down without a peep being heard. We all waited for several minutes before breaking out into a riotous laughter. For the remainder of the ride, there was only one person who literally loved the big banana stick. (When in the company of jerks, always remember to pay attention to what people are saying!)
The ride continued and it was brutal. Every stop ended with a mad dash for a seat in the back row or shotgun. For some dumb reason, we decided to play smack-the-shit-out-of-the-person-sitting-by-the-door-in-the-middle-row; fun game for those who sat in the back. People would refuse to leave the car so they didn’t have to sit in the middle. I’m sure the trip was elongated by three hours because the loser stood outside of the car and refused to sit in the hot seat. I lost one time and it was hell.
After the longest trip of my life, we finally made it to Dennis Smith’s place. Dennis shared a rented home with his cousin, “Sage Steele” and two roommates. We’ll call them Karl Mecklenburg and Tom Jackson. Karl was cool and joined in on the silliness, but Tom was a serious person who didn’t appreciate having his home overtaken by a group of maniacs. The same immature behavior from the car continued during our stay; we just amped up the activities due to the excessive drinking. (We couldn’t find a liquor store fast enough!)
Tom Jackson wasn’t around for a good portion of our stay. He decided to spend the time with a lady friend in order to keep his sanity. Every so often, he would return to pick up some things, and each time he left shaking his head. (I guess we’re not for everyone!)
I won’t cover all of our activities, but the trip was full of nonstop nonsense. There was one interesting fact about the house; it was haunted. Apparently the home existed during the days of slavery, and we saw a list of slave names and prices. The renters were always scared to be home alone because the house had an obvious negative presence. The basement was off limits because it was the most haunted spot in the place; no one dared venture down there. (We honestly heard all types of random noises emitting from both the cellar and the attic, throughout the night.)
One afternoon, Ricky Nattiel and Terrell Davis left with Dennis Smith to get some food. Before leaving, there was an incident. Ricky Nattiel couldn’t find his shoes. He was extremely upset and blamed everyone. There were threats of payback; he felt a line was crossed and promised retaliation. No one copped to hiding his shoes, so he was forced to leave the house with someone else’s sneakers, which were several sizes too large. It was hilarious! (I AM LITERALLY LAUGHING OUT LOUD, RELIVING THE MOMENT!)
A funny thing happened once the guys left. Steve Atwater admitted that he knew where the shoes were; they were under his leg. Steve was seated on the couch and the shoes were hidden under him. He discovered them during Ricky’s rant and decided to keep them hidden. After laughing for several minutes, we decided to put on our thinking caps in order to come up with a perfect plan for hiding the shoes. (We were incapable of thinking without our caps!)
There was only one location; the basement. The problem was finding someone who was brave enough to walk down the steps to place the shoes at the bottom. No such luck! Not only was the place scary, but we didn’t trust one another to leave the door unlocked. (There was no way in hell I was willing to risk being locked in that basement!)
We agreed on a second best location and threw the sneakers into the washing machine. The guys returned and Ricky continued to spew out threats. We all laughed and finally revealed the truth. He was pissed that we hid the shoes and didn’t even bother giving us the satisfaction of watching him scour the premise in an attempt to find the sneakers.
I decided to walk to the fast food joint with Steve Atwater and Jason Elam. When we returned, the house was in a stir. Apparently, the ghosts decided to make an appearance. The shoes were no longer inside of the washer. At first, we didn’t believe the story; we assumed someone removed them. We searched high and low until finally, someone opened the basement door. To everyone’s surprise the shoes were on the bottom step.
Chills were sent down everyone’s spine. It was our last night and we were looking forward to getting the hell away from the paranormal activity, in the morning. Rod Smith was a brave soul and he decided to run down the steps to retrieve the sneakers. We had to promise him that we wouldn’t lock the door, but he only agreed after Ricky vowed to hold the door open. With the speed of a cheetah, chasing after a gazelle in the wild African plain, he ran down and grabbed the shoes. His return to the top happened in less than a blink.
Obviously we are a bunch of skeptics, so everyone wanted to get to the bottom of the incident. I was clearly the prime suspect, except for the fact that I was not in the house when the shoes were moved. Sage was visibly shaken because she had to live in the home. She had several instances in which she1 heard random noises, but this was beyond anything that she had ever experienced.
While I was alone in the kitchen, Sage approached me and said, “Peter, I know you couldn’t have done this because you were not here, but if you had anything to do with this, please tell me so I will be able to continue sleeping here. If you gave someone the idea to do it before you left, tell me and I won’t snitch.” I looked her in the eye and assured her that I was innocent. I was not in the house and I promised that I did not tell anyone to move the sneakers. She knew I was being sincere and was terrified. We all gathered in the living room and sat in a large circle; Tom was not there the entire day.
We had a serious discussion trying to figure out who was responsible because no one wanted to stay in the house. There were the people who feigned confidence, but they were clearly scared. No one copped to moving the shoes, so we agreed to end the discussion. The final act was for everyone to “swear to god” that they had no involvement in the incident. Everything went as planned. There were two people remaining. The lover of big banana sticks himself, Shannon Sharpe and me. Shannon wouldn’t do it. He simply refused so we all knew it was him. Everyone felt a sense of relief, except for Sage; she wanted answers and Shannon refused to admit his guilt.
The following morning, I called everyone into the living room and shared a truth. It was I who moved the shoes. I grabbed the sneakers and hurriedly placed them on the bottom step before we left the house. It was perfect because I had an alibi. I can’t count the number of times I heard someone say, “it can’t be Peter; he wasn’t here.” The only reason I decided to reveal the truth was Sage. I knew that she would not be able to sleep comfortably so I did what was right. The guys were lucky because if she wasn’t there, I might have kept the secret for a couple years.
Because I am always a prime suspect, Ricky decided to blame me for originally stealing his shoes. The following morning, while I was away from the house, he recruited the others to hide my bag. Where? In the attic! The entrance was in the ceiling so Rod had to stand on John Elway’s shoulder to reach the opening. I wasn’t too worried because I understood the rules of the game. Eventually, I grabbed Ricky’s bag and snuck it into the basement. (It was the scariest thing I ever did. If anyone knew I was down there, I would have been trapped for hours!)
He continued to joke about my missing bag and was incensed when I pointed out that his bag was missing as well. We are both stubborn so no truce was agreed upon. Steve Atwater was pissed. “We’re leaving soon so you guys better stop playing around and get the bags.” He ordered. We laughed! “You guys are idiots anyways. Why didn’t you just keep your bags safe in the car?” He went on and on about how smart he was for locking his bag in the car. We laughed uncontrollably. (Tears were rolling down our cheeks!)
Unbeknownst to him, prior to his rant, we snuck out the back door, ran around the house and stole his bag from the unlocked rear door. Rod Smith and Jason Elam helped me sneak the bag into the basement. Although it was scary, being there with two other people made the basement a less horrifying place. We hid the bag deep under the house’s foundation.
Steve figured out that we were up to something and decided to check the car. He opened the back door and was stunned; his reaction was priceless. I have never laughed so hard in my life. He entered the house and threatened to leave us behind unless we returned his bag. I could hardly breathe; it was the funniest scene ever. After realizing that we would not give him his bag, he said, “I’m leaving. Anyone who is not in the car in ten minutes is staying!”
His announcement was music to my ears. I honestly hoped he would leave because I would have preferred to fly back to New Jersey, rather than get back into the hell on wheels. Ten minutes elapsed and true to his word, Steve drove off. We were all happy! Everyone began to search for flights. Steve actually drove to the highway until he finally realized that he should turn back around. When he entered the house we were pissed. The letdown of having to drive back was the low point of the trip.
We all decided to give up the bags and I was honestly impressed that they were able to hide my bag in the attic; the ceiling was high. Atlanta survived our visit and we hit the road. The return trip was weird and completely opposite from the drive to Atlanta. We tortured each other so much that we were exhausted. Everyone became extremely nice. People were quiet and we were actually sharing snacks; it was sickening. (Our behavior was out of character!)
The return trip did provide one memorable moment. Steve was pulled over by a cop for speeding. It was either at the end of Georgia or the beginning of South Carolina. The cop looked at Steve and in a racist manner he said, “You ain’t gon speed in my state, boy!” (I thought that only happened in the movies!)
The drive back was long and boring. For the first time during my stay in South Orange, I was happy to live in New Jersey. I jumped into my bed and recovered from the weekend; sleeping like a baby. I was happy to know the rest of the guys had to suffer another four hours in that god-forsaken minivan. I had the last laugh!
Having great friends is the best!