I drove a car, which my neighbor had borrowed from a friend, to the gas station. Actually, he had traded vehicles with another friend; he had let his friend use his nondescript sedan in exchange for the use of his friend’s RV. It’s a long, convoluted story, but I’ll tell it the best I can.
My neighbor wanted to take a vacation in an RV. His friend who owned an RV agreed to let my neighbor use his. I agreed to look out after my neighbor’s house while he was away. The day after he and his wife left, I was inside his house, watering plants, when they returned. To say I was surprised would be an understatement.
“Jesus, you scared the hell out of me! What are you doing back so soon?”
“It’s a long, ugly story. We discovered, during a monstrous downpour, the windshield wipers don’t work. And something’s wrong with the shocks; Jenny got motion sickness just being in the passenger seat for an hour. And I got too close to the side as we were crossing a bridge and broke off the side rear view mirror. There’s more. Lots more. We just decided we’d had enough. It’s gonna cost me a fortune to have the damn RV fixed, so I can’t afford to take a vacation. Anyway, I left the RV at the shop to get it fixed. I borrowed another buddy’s car to tide me over.”
“I’m not sure I completely understand what you just told me, but I get the gist of it. I’m sorry that happened. But your plants are doing fine.” I nodded to the geraniums, water pooling in the saucers beneath the pots in which they were growing.
“Since you’re here, would you mind doing me another favor and taking the car down to get gas? It’s almost empty. I would have stopped to gas it up, but I would have had to cross heavy traffic and I was just fried.” My neighbor held out a set of car keys, assuming I would take them. I did.
“Sure, happy to. Anyway, you’re parked behind me, so I can’t get to my car.”
I pulled on the door of the 1980 Corvette, surprised at how hard it was to open. It felt heavy; an unfriendly introduction to the car. When I sat down, the leather seat was hard and unyielding, as if petrified from non-use. The engine started easily, but I heard the unmistakable sound of consistent misfires as I pressed on the accelerator. I coerced the monster into reverse and backed out of the driveway. The steering wheel fought with me as I tried to maneuver the car into the street.
My neighbor watched me drive away. He must have wondered why I turned right instead of left at the stop sign. So did I. There are no gas stations in that direction. The moment I made the turn, I realized my mistake. I’ll have to make a u-turn up ahead, I said to myself. Because I was driving a Corvette, I expected the car to respond assertively when I punched the accelerator to the floor. Instead, it coughed and heaved and, very very slowly, gained speed. When I neared the spot where I wanted to make the u-turn, I pressed on the brake pedal. It was just as responsive as the accelerator. The car seemed reluctant to slow down, so I pushed harder as I spun the steering wheel to the left. Somehow, I managed to catch my sleeve on the turn signal lever as I whipped the wheel. The stalk broke off and slid into my sleeve. Distracted by the mishap, I failed to notice that the turning radius of a 1980 Corvette is radically greater than the turning radius of a 2005 Chevrolet Cavalier. The car jumped the curb on the opposite side of the street, jarring me to my core and, I discovered later, bending the wheel rim. The front bumper barely missed a palm tree, but the grass in front of the tree was torn to shreds by the car’s tires. I looked in the rear view mirror as I straightened the car in the street to see a box truck barreling toward me at high speed. I punched the accelerator to the floor. Again, the car coughed and wheezed, but then suddenly took off like a rocket.
According to the police officer, the car had reached sixty-five miles per hour by the time it reached the far end of the school zone. Fortunately, I missed the children in the cross-walk, but that apparently was not enough of a positive outcome for him to give me a pass. The officer, wearing a red “Make America Great Again” baseball cap, pushed me into the back of the squad car, lacking the decency to hold my head down in the process. The bleeding stopped shortly after we arrived at the police station, but the lump remained for weeks.
I offered to pay to have the turn signal stalk repaired, but I stood firm on refusing to pay for the wheel rim; it’s my contention that I should have been told about the large turning radius.
I’ve received no response to my phone messages. And every time I knock on my neighbors’ door, they turn out the lights and draw the shades. And, yes, it’s okay for me to go as far as next door. The ankle monitor sends an alert only if I go more than two hundred feet from my house.