by Kevin McCrea '88
December 13, 2007
I’m not a superstitious or particularly religious person. But I do have one quirky connection to what I hope is the heavens above, or at least to remembering a good person from my past the way I believe many would like to be remembered.
That connection is channeled to me through liquid crystal displays—specifically LCDs which allow us to know the exact time. In my case, that time is 10:01. Whenever I see that time displayed I feel strength and energy, the power to stick to my guns, to question everything and try and make the world a better place. All thanks to my old fraternity brother Mark Schneider.
Mark was a year older than me. We met at Wabash in 1984, where we became pledge brothers at Phi Kappa Psi our freshman year. Through shared classes, activities, and hijinks, we became friends.
Mark was a thoughtful person with a quick, strong, biting wit.
He read with a passion, played hackysack and whiffleball, and was a de-fuser of tense situations—definitely the "Why can’t we all get along" type." About six feet tall with a scraggle of a beard, he loved and knew all types of music. We traded albums, tapes, thoughts, and information. We also talked politics, communism, capitalism, and socialism. We shared a strong sense of social justice.
When he was in high school at North Central in Indianapolis Mark started a student newspaper that questioned school policies, priorities, and poked fun at various high school-related things. He crossed the wrong people, was expelled, and the ACLU took up his case, restoring his first amendment rights.
Mark’s family was working class, with five or six siblings. One of his brothers worked as a band manager for local rock and roll acts, and one of the acts he managed was a band named 10:01. Mark had one of their "concert" T-shirts—a fairly non-descript black shirt, with some white squiggly lines and "10:01" printed across the chest. There was nothing special about it—I had never heard of the band, there was nothing cool about the design; it was just a shirt Mark wore.
Near the end of our freshman year, I invited Mark to come to Boston for the summer. I will never forget the 16-hour overnight drive from Indy to Massachusetts, when we stayed awake playing "Alphabet Rock N Roll."
The game was simple: go through the alphabet one letter at a time, each person naming a band that starts with that letter. The timer was the radio; if one of us couldn’t name a band in the amount of time that a whole song played on the radio, he would lose that letter. So "A" was Aerosmith, ABBA, Aldo Nova, Allman Brothers, Asia, A Flock of Seagulls, with discussion about the merits of any group named, favorite songs, or anecdotes superceding the game at any and many points. I’m not sure who won, or even if we got all the way to ZZ Top, or even X, but we stayed awake all night and arrived safely on the East Coast.
We went through a few jobs that summer. We tried selling pots and pans, but Mark opted out the first day. True to his nature, he ended up working for MASSPIRG, a non-profit organization that raises money to advocate for environmental causes. It was a tough door-to-door job with a lot of rejection and not much money, but gave Mark a chance to meet and talk with many people and advocate for something he believed in.
One weekend a friend of my mother’s in Concord organized a house painting party into which Mark and I got roped into attending. Mark happened to be wearing his 10:01 shirt that day, and someone snapped a picture of us in the yard sitting in the aluminum and nylon lawn chairs of the day. Both so young, long hair, ill-fitting and -looking clothes, yet both full of potential. I still have that
picture, on the top of a clothes drawer in my bedroom.
We returned to Wabash in the fall and enjoyed a great year. The Little Giant Football team was strong, Mark was studying English, we had a great group of guys at the frat house, all filling our time as we prepared for bright futures.
The next summer I returned to Boston, and Mark traveled to the Caribbean to visit his aunt and cousins. One day when they were driving into town their car was hit by a truck. Mark Schneider was one of many fatalities.
Since then, whenever I see 10:01, I think of Mark, asking questions as he always did: Is what you are doing significant? Are you doing the right thing? Are you caring for the planet and those less fortunate than you?
I also tend to notice 10:01 at odd times, or times of conflict or self-doubt, and I always feel reassured, as if Mark is saying, "You may not have won, but you did the right thing," or "Have strength; you are not alone, and you are on the right path.
Sometimes I see 10:01 when things are going well, and it feels like a pat on the back.
Other times it just reminds me how fleeting life can be—to live it to the fullest and the best, with no regrets for what I’ve done of my own free will. Mark appreciated free will more than most.
A few years ago I went back to Wabash for a football game and for a fundraiser to renovate our fraternity house. There was a communal breakfast in one of the school buildings and about 100 Phi Psi alumni were on hand. During the final play of the previous year’s Monon Bell game, quarterback Jake Knott had thrown a Hail Mary pass, Ryan Short had tipped the ball, and Kurt Casper had caught it in the end zone to win the game. It was probably the most exciting play in Wabash football history, so the team had ordered a limited number of replica footballs from that day and had them signed by the three players involved. That morning at the Phi Psi breakfast we raffled off one of the balls. As my fraternity brother looked at the ball and read the name of the winner, he smiled.
"It’s very appropriate that this ball should go to Kevin," he said as he threw a spiral across the room to me in my red-and-white-striped Wabash overalls. Only after boarding my flight back to Boston, when I looked at the football closely, did I realize what that fraternity brother had meant. On the back of the football, in large numbers, was stamped 10:01, the model number of this officially sanctioned NCAA football. Mark had been there, with me, with us. But why write all this now?
I’m presently traveling by motorcycle around the world with my bride, Clara. As we crossed over the bridge from Mexico to the United States, when this adventure truly began, I happened to look down at the console on my bike. 10:01 was displayed on the digital clock. On the biggest trip of my life Mark was right there, reassuring me that this was the right thing to do—to see the world, to meet it’s people.?
Then in Belize where Clara and I were having a rough time, I saw 10:01 three days in a row, reminding me then to be the person I hope to be, to affect change, to show compassion.
Finally, this morning as we woke up in this beautiful house on April 4, 2007 with nothing but a day of relaxation in front of us, 10:01 showed on my Blackberry, telling me the day had finally come to pay tribute the person Mark was, how much he meant and still means to me; to write and encourage others to take a moment and appreciate the good people in their lives, to think about how lucky most of us are to be where we are, and to think about how to mke the world around us better.
Kevin and Clara are traveling the world on their honeymoon. Follow their adventures at http://motomoments.blogspot.com/