Saturday, February 15, 2003

A Conspiracy Of Cars

Eleven fifteen in the office. You are up to #17 (you have the sexiest phone voice ever) on the Valentine's Day list of 100 things I love about you. Phone rings. Darcie says that Ginny's just come in the door frostbitten, having walked 5 miles in the subzero from her broken down car; her keys are still in her pocket; come home and drive her to the car to wait for the towtruck.

Tow truck called. Leave paraprofessional in charge of office. Driving across the bridge from one campus to the other the white car in front of you pulls suddenly into the breakdown lane and begins frantically waving me past. The car does not slow down. You speed up to pass. A cop passes going the other way. In my rearview mirror you see it turn around as you pull left into the school gates, past the stone pillars and under the trees.

Flashing lights behind you. Pull over against the high snowbanks. No, officer, I was just passing; the car was waving me over. License and registration, yes.

The long wait while in the rearview mirror the cop speaks into the radio and speaks into the radio again. The long walk in the side mirror, the onionskin citation visible between the hard plastic of the license and the wide thick paper of the registration. Bad news: speeding is speeding, you're welcome to your day in court and have a reasonable chance of getting the $176 ticket thrown out, saving insurance and ticket costs. Worse news: the car's registration is expired, and I can't let you drive it, not even on the school's semi-private property, the 500 yards it would take to get it to the driveway.

Cop has called tow service for $75 (are you keeping count?). No need to wait by the car but the cop is obligated to take an inventory of it before it goes to the towlot, take your time getting what you need to bring home.

The cop waits warm in his dark blue front seat. He speaks into the radio. You gather up the backpack of CDs, the baby seat, the materials Darcie needs for her student crafts activity tomorrow. He flags down the passing schoolbus for you. The students applaud as you climb the steps clutching a long tube of silver wrapping paper.

Home. Cancel the tow truck. Call the registry. You'll need to get a form from your insurance agent in Greenfield, bring $360 to the taxmen in Easthampton, return to Greenfield to the DMV with forms and receipts. You will need...the other car.

The other car, which hibernates across the street under snowfall accumulated since November, has been plowed in, and plowed in again, buried by hail and ice and remelted surfaces now deep layers like a shalebed.

While Darcie hitches a ride with a passing campus security officer to successfully convince the towman to a) take a check, and b) tow the car to the driveway, you gather a longhandled hoe and a steeltipped but otherwise plastic snowshovel and poke hopefully at the disappointingly solid tower that is, somewhere deep beneath, huge powderblue couch on wheels with summer tires, your only transportation.

It is hopeless. Salvation arrives early in the body of long-bearded Richard, Director of Farm Programs. He scrapes the backhoe across the outer edge of your ice cube car after lunch to carve it from a lump extended outward into a closecropped sheetice cube. Then it is just a literal pain, made worse for the public passage of a parade of passersby.

Two hours after he leaves, the ice around the tires chiselscraped away. Ginny leans against the car to no avail; your muscles twisted and back howling, you scour the halls to find seven boys in sneakers whose eager machismo makes them topple forward like dominoes as the car moves beneath them despite your warning.

Couchmobile free. Too late for all but the first leg of the trip; Monday a holiday. But Greenfield anyway: bank, insurance agents, money down on a photoprinter to replace the never-finished list of love reasons, and home, back and groin burning through the haze of powerful pain medication, wrist perhaps sprained, to sit very still for a moment on the rocking chair, but only a moment: the dinner reservations are almost upon us; you are not yet dressed.

posted by boyhowdy | 12:43 AM |

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