Last night Dawn and her friend Janice and her little brother Joey wanted to go to the free Redmoon Theater show at the Museum of Science and Industry. I had made reservations for us a while back, and the plan was we would take the Garfield bus out there and get a ride home. But my friends with the car bailed at the last minute (totally OK--wedding plans take precedence), so we were faced with taking one bus home through uncomfortable territory or two buses home on a school night.
So Dawn's parents offered to let me drive one of their cars. Great idea, right? But these are the same people who left one of their cars on my parking pad, remember? It's still there, still with a beer can on the seat, still not running yet because Dawn's dad and brother haven't had time to work on it. Last night's car was an older model white van, I forget the make, in only marginally better condition.
Dawn's brother, who's officially not allowed to drive because he messed up when his parents did let him--the fact that he's only 15 now is apparently immaterial--was deputized to show me how to drive the van, since he could explain the fine points in English. He hopped in the driver's seat, gave it some serious gas, and explained that if you let your foot off the accelerator, the car will stall out. "So you drive with two feet," he said, demonstrating the use of the brake with the gas on an automatic car. My dad drove that way all the time, I thought. Then he pointed out the wisdom of shifting to idle at prolonged stops, as if you were driving stick. Pop, I thought, you better come down from heaven and take a ride in this car. You are the man for this job. Especially since the driver's side seat belt was broken.
"No voy a matar tus ninos," I promised Dawn's mother. Fortunately, she laughed. I really wasn't going to kill her children--after all, their seat belts were working.
"Say a Hail Mary before we start," I suggested, more than half seriously, but didn't enforce it. Given that I drive about three times a year and the last time I got behind the wheel I rear-ended someone at a tollbooth and ended up out $500 between the car I hit and the one I was driving, I really did want Dad's spirit along for the ride. We certainly had our share of rolling stops at stop signs, but eventually I did manage to shift into idle without provoking the enging into agonized wailing.
Joey tried to play with me on the way to the gas station. "What's that noise?" he asked.
Aurora could tell it was no time for games. "Joey, hush!" she said earnestly. He did.
I managed to keep my cussing to down to one east of the expressway and one west. The first cuss was on the one slope we were stuck on, just before the Ryan, where I nearly front-ended someone trying to shift out of idle on the tiny slope. "Fuck" escaped me at that moment. I'm sorry.
Twenty feet later, the other curse emerged. "Shit, would you get in a lane!" I said as a truck with a busted taillight hand-signaled past me.
"Can we go on the highway?" Joey asked.
"No way, buster," I said. At least he made me laugh through my gritted teeth and leg cramp from keeping my left foot ready to brake at any moment.
to be continued...
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