a stream of consciousness cautionary tale
This was not the best time of my life. The car I had was cool but I was spinning out of control. This is what happened one day on the way to see Texas roots rocker Chris Whitley in Berkeley.
A hood flew up and shattered my windshield. Fine I’ll own it, ‘my hood’ flew up and shattered ‘my’ windshield. It flew up because the latch got undone when I bumped into a BMW sedan. I bumped into a BMW sedan because it was one of those right turns from a side street onto a highway so we were both looking to the left before turning right. He saw his opening and took it and then I looked to the left and saw my opening and gunned it and then turned to find he hadn’t taken his opening at all he was really just about ten feet from where he was the last time I’d looked. I slammed on my brakes which slowed me but didn’t grab. They didn’t grab because did I mention my car was a humongous 1965 Chrysler 300 that weighed two tons? Well it was. They also didn’t grab because the last time I’d done the brakes the pads had worn down so far they put two grooves each into the drums mostly because I didn’t do them when I should have done them. Old cars have brake drums instead of brake rotors, and they need all the surface area they can get.
So I hadn’t been able to find replacement drums for the humongous 1965 Chrysler 300, this being before the internet, and so I’d put new pads on old drums with grooves in them so when I slammed onto the pedal they slowed me but not a lot. Or not enough. So I hit the BMW sedan in the trunk with my hood. I was so ticked and preoccupied with why the older gentlemen (who as luck would have it was a rich doctor) had moved forward yet not actually begun driving onto the highway that I didn’t really check my damage and so after we exchanged information which was interesting because I also at that point remembered that I had seen an insurance bill yesterday that was due at midnight. Had I mailed it? Maybe. Maybe not. I wasn’t 100% sure. Just like I wasn’t 100% sure those brakes were going to stop me and as a side note now I don’t take any chances with brakes or insurance. 100% is my current and future standard. But even though I was heavily annoyed I’d told my friend I would pick him up for this concert, which in itself was a dumb idea anyway because even though Chris Whitley had a cool song on the radio at the time (Big Sky Country) the concert was in Berkeley, an hour south, and my friend lived almost an hour to the north so me picking him up at all was dumb but… anyway.
So I started back on my way in the wrong direction of the concert I shouldn’t have been going to in a huge car with so-so brakes and maybe no insurance and a fresh accident to figure out how to deal with and when I got to about 40 mph (it was on Lakeville Highway) the wind caught that huge Detroit steel hood which apparently had gotten just barely unlatched from bumping the doctor and so it flew up in front of me like a big barn door holding back King Kong from the natives. At least thats the fear level I felt, the same fear I felt at five years old watching that damn ape on the big screen in the theatre in 1978 or maybe it was 1977, the one with Jeff Bridges.
Anyway when the hood flew up it SLAMMED into my windshield, cracking it into a bunch of smaller windshields that thankfully didn’t come all the way in, safety glass really does work, but millions of tiny glass shards began to fall on my knees, at least on knees that were exposed through the holes in my jeans which sounds already like an old country song but that was my attire at the time and because now my view of the road was 100% impeded by my new style of windshield I stuck my head out the window and began cursing.
Cursing that day.
Cursing those brakes.
Cursing my very birth.
I pulled over and just stared for a moment. Stared at the car. Stared at what had become of a car that had previously just needed a good wax. The hood wasn’t the only thing dented now the roof was a little dented and the side hinges were bent up bad. This wouldn’t buff out. But I was determined to get to that concert which was still a dumb idea so I opened the trunk and found two bungee cables and put the hood down and began making sure the hood was not going to do that again. At least not today.
That’s when the cop showed up.
Apparently I hadn’t sufficiently pulled off the road to the safest possible place being so pissed off so that when the highway patrol officer who may have been nice otherwise said
“sir you can’t stop here, you’re going to have to move your car off the road because this really isn’t the best –– ”
that was when I remembered Tombstone.
I loved Tombstone and you may remember when Wyatt’s brother died and he stands alone in the street and it might have been raining and his wife I think runs up to him and he shouts don’t you see what has happened here! And so I said that to the cop. Yes I said it in the best Wyatt Earp voice that I could and she bought it and left.
“Don’t you see what has happened here!” I shouted.
I like to think she figured I had enough problems.
She would have been right.
* * *
*postscript — we never made it to the concert, and the car as bad as it was, at least still had both doors. Which is another story altogether.