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Dan Schatzeder

August 11, 2022

I’m leaving baseball cards here and there lately. I hope people find them and get something out of them. The cards are random, and the places where I leave them are random. I pick one out of a plastic bag full of doubles from my recent influx of cards, and I carry it around in my wallet until it occurs to me, when I’m out in the world, that I have a card in my wallet that I can leave behind.

I left this one behind, as it turns out, near a turning point in my life. Back in 2003, my girlfriend and I packed a Ryder van full of our belongings in New York City and drove it to Wisconsin. We didn’t have jobs or a place of our own to live, but we thought we’d give Chicago a try, and we stayed at my girlfriend’s parents’ house while we looked for jobs in Chicago.

It took several weeks to find anything. I was the first to get a nibble, successfully answering a call for a freelance proofreader. I started driving an hour and a half south to an office building in the Chicago suburbs a couple days a week to compare text in one document against text in another document. I was in my mid-30s by that point but still had never had a longtime office job, getting by in my 20s by working part-time for years at a liquor store for a few bucks an hour, writing nonfiction young adult books for way under a few bucks an hour, serving as an adjunct professor for a couple years for even farther under a few bucks an hour, living in a cabin with no electricity or running water, borrowing money off my family, and running up an ever-increasing credit card bill. Mixed in all that at some point was some sporadic proofreading work, including one temp gig for the NYC board of education that one of my best friends had gotten me. He had always been gainfully employed since leaving college, and around that time he said something about having and keeping a job that stuck with me.

“It’s all about finding a way to make yourself useful,” he said.

I kept those words in mind while my girlfriend and I were trying to start our new life in Chicago, and I started picking up more and more days at the temporary proofreading gig. We found a place to live in the Ukrainian Village neighborhood of Chicago, just a couple of blocks away from the hospital where our first son would be born a few years later. The fast-forward, time-hopping dynamic of that sentence you just read became the driving element in my life, or so it seems now in retrospect. My temp job turned into an opportunity for a full-time job, which I took, and I’ve been working at that company, or the company that company merged with, ever since. Yesterday I took the afternoon off from that job and went to a baseball game at Wrigley Field with my son, the one who was born in the hospital in the Ukrainian Village neighborhood, and I realized that the first time I’d been there was twenty years earlier, on the road trip with my girlfriend that would lead us, the following year, to load all our shit into a Ryder truck in New York City and give Chicago a try. One second Sammy Sosa is racing out to right field to volcanic joy-cheers, so much in my life still to come, and in the next second twenty years have passed and I’m sitting next to my 11-year-old son.

It’s trite, that whole thing: it all goes by so fast. But that’s the message of my life with these cards. I still can’t quite get over the fact that Dan Schatzeder isn’t still pitching. He did stick around for a long time, and he was one of those liminal figures who first carried to me the message of time passing because he got going when I was still a kid and was still at it when I’d begun my stumble into adulthood. He was a left-handed pitcher, could start or relieve, could even hit a little. One of those guys who finds a way to make himself useful.

Last thing I’ll say, or maybe the second to last, is related to where I left this card. My first day-in, day-out job was pumping gas at a Shell station. I was sixteen, and I discovered that time began to move excruciatingly slow the moment I put on a Shell Oil cap and a Shell Oil button-down shirt. My deepest wish was always that it would move faster, that the day would end, that I’d get to the part where I would be free to ride my bike home to my grandfather’s house to watch Magnum PI reruns and eat Cape Cod potato chips and not be in that awful condition: working.

Anyway, yesterday, while I was taking the afternoon off from working, time eased its tortures for a moment. My son said something, speaking softly and shyly and from behind a surgical mask that he and I both prefer to still wear around crowds. I couldn’t hear him. He hadn’t been to a game since before he was too young to remember, so it was in effect his first game, and the crowds seemed to make him even more soft-spoken than he usually is. Finally, I leaned down close to him and heard him.

“This is so much fun,” he said.

One comment

  1. You’re bringing back Random Acts of Cardness! https://twitter.com/hashtag/RandomActsOfCardness?src=hashtag_click



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