Cars and Irony

I'm getting to an age where I forget which stories I've told. I'd doubt you've heard the one about the belt and “I WANT SOME ANSWERS!”, but I'd be wrong. You'll forgive me then if I repeat myself, but current events have a way of circling back to past ones, and good stories like fine wine improve with age.

Life seems to follow a cyclical pattern of its own. In the beginning, family is the most important thing, even when we'd rather be somewhere else. By college and our early 20s, we finally can be somewhere else and friends become the priority. But in doing so, many of us end up with families of our own. As friends marry and procreate, the priority shifts once more to family. We go from seeing people every day in the same place for four years to seeing them once or twice a year on special occasions. We feel like nothing has changed as we joke and reminisce, our mind shielding us from the inevitable changes that have taken place.

Friend after friend dwindled as our most recent gathering wound down, and soon only a few of us remained standing around a parking lot. My friend Rob was recently sideswiped, his truck no longer drivable, and has found himself driving his father's old car in the interim. After my last accident and the discovery that my brakes were not long for this world, I recently traded my ‘89 Mazda for an ‘05 Honda. We soon found ourselves sharing college car stories with his new girlfriend, and his misadventures in the “FemaleName5”.

His car's name came from its vanity license plate, as it originally belonged to his mother(I've omitted her actual name). I'll never forget the time a group of us came back to Queens from the city, headed up the block to where we'd left our cars before boarding the subway, only to find ourselves short one car. After a frantic search, we were informed by a neighborhood woman that the vehicle had been towed. The nearby impound yard was closed, and my friend would not be able to retrieve it until the following day. As he quietly delivered the news to his folks from a nearby payphone, as none of us had cellphones in the early ‘90s, I could hear the shocked response of “TOWED?!” on the other end.

Hassle though it was, Rob was able to resolve the issue. The sign where he'd parked was completely missing, and only a metal pole obscured by some trees even gave a hint of it. Additionally, they broke his headlight while towing it. In the end, they had to fix the car and return it to him at no cost. But this wasn't the end of his troubles with that vehicle. Soon after, his gas gauge stopped working and, inevitably, he ran out of gas on the way to school one morning. There was a phone in the subbasement studio where we had most of our classes, dubbed the “Mezzanine” by the dyslexic building designers, and he was able to call me and get a lift.

As we relived these moments from our past, his girlfriend couldn't stop laughing. When she was able to catch her breath, she managed to inform me that he'd run out of gas just last week. After dropping her off, he stepped on the gas and nothing happened, and the sputtering sound clued her in that he was still sitting out there. In this case, he'd just had a lot on his mind between the recent accident with his truck and his dad’s recent hospital stay. Once he reminded me of these things, I had to cut him some slack. It was pretty ironic that I told a story about him running out of gas over a decade ago so soon after he'd done it again.

Not to be outdone, as there are so many more stories about MCF, it was Rob's turn to share. There was the infamous “chicken with broccoli/hold the broccoli” incident that I'll never live down and a Chinese waiter will never forget. And there was the time that I was driving two completely drunk friends home from a beach in the Rockaways at 3 AM. I'd seen one finish a 60 oz. drink followed by a 40 oz. beverage, and was amazed he was still conscious let alone understandable. Navigating dark, unfamiliar streets on which my car was the only vehicle, it wasn't until I'd driven over a bridge and noticed the position of some toll booths and some dotted white lines that I realized I was on the wrong side. “Oh crap...” I hissed, darting through some traffic cones to shoot over the proper side before continuing down Cross Bay Blvd. “Are you on the wrong side?!” exclaimed Mr. 100 oz., “I'm DRUNK and I can see you're on the wrong side!” I hoped he'd forget the next day, but the next time we were all together he shared the story with Rob, Rey and the rest of our crew. Fact became history, and history became legend.

“He was ALWAYS doing stuff like that,” chuckled Rob, “And sometimes he'd VOLUNTEER stories, without us even ASKING!” It's hard to imagine I'd share embarrassing stories to amuse and entertain others, isn't it? He couldn't think of anything more concrete to tell his girlfriend other than my admitting that I had cats, but I had one more story left in me, perhaps proving his point. A few years after we were all out of school, I'd taken my girlfriend out to get some steaks on her 25th birthday. Driving home, I crossed an expressway and made a right on red. Traveling North, this meant that I'd turned on to the service road heading against traffic. Neither of us realized my near fatal error right away. It wasn't until I muttered my inevitable “Oh crap.” that she noticed. “What's--? OMIGOD!!” she exclaimed, as I pulled in to a U-turn, ending up on the grass on the other side as the one oncoming car that did approach us hit me with a doppler effect “A--HOLE!!” All I could manage was a meek “My bad!” and we were finally able to laugh about it.

It's fun revisiting the past with friends, especially when they have new friends and significant others who get to hear these stories for the first time. Oh, things change and get embellished. My old friend Joe(1.0), who I never get to see anymore, was a master storyteller in this regard. At some point though, we all settle on the same account of events, the best and funniest version. The trick is not to strain credibility and get too outlandish, which is probably why the story of Mr. 100 oz. and the Horseshoe Crabs never stuck, and may never see the light of day. But the mere mention of such things is still enough to crack us up, and confuse the newcomers. In the immortal words of Mr. Bryan Adams, “those were the best days of my life.”


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