Just as most history books tend to gloss over the lesser important events of the war, choosing instead to discuss the major battles as representative of the struggle, so too is that necessary here. I have to skip over detailing the lesser accidents of my first son, not noted here, including the time his friend (a modern day Eddie Haskell/Lumpy hybrid) took off the driver’s door of a motorist exiting his parked car – because technically my son wasn’t driving.
My son told him to ‘circle the block’ while he went inside the bank.
The fact that it could only have been made clearer that no one else was to drive the Jeep but my son by tattooing it on the back of both of his hands so he could see it every time he put his hands on the wheel and the fact his list of war crimes by then was getting notoriety even back at his old grade school, was of no consequence. Even his grandmother was having difficulty incorporating reality in his defense.
His friend is the same one who drove the Jeep onto the ball field, my son’s first night with a driver’s license, thereby setting off the entire arrest, grounding, fund raising, telephone pole, red Chevy Citation domino process leading to the current state of affairs. (More fully set out in previous chapters of Car Wars.)
I sometimes, even now, 20 years later, take time out of my day to silently remember and list all the people I wish to curse with the exact problems I suffered being visited upon them by their own kids. Unfortunately, I rarely get to this friend, wherever he is hiding under an assumed name. My own kids take up the first seven slots on the list.
Anyway, the episode at hand:
My son did indeed drive the 15-year-old Chevy Citation despite his indignity at having a new Jeep replaced by the Citation, with the resulting loss of stature and popularity. Turns out a car, even the utterly pedestrian version he was forced to endure, was better than no car. Imagine that.
But his option to consider possible consequences of stupid decisions was still the same. He didn’t.
He broke the key off in the ignition of the Citation. It was the only key, naturally. Not his fault there was no spare. The directive to get more keys made ‘this afternoon’ was still recent enough to excuse his inability to get extras in time to avoid this inconvenience. After all, he was still within the 14-month grace period.
Now the car was unlocked and could be started by merely turning the ignition. Six weeks go by, but my son can’t possibly fit ‘getting it fixed’ in with working a summer job, etc. But not to worry, ‘no one would steal this car.’ It was 15 years old with an AM radio.
He was right. One person didn’t steal the car. Two did. It happened the night of the preseason inter-squad varsity football game. My son was playing defensive back/running back/special teams.
My wife was meeting me with the rest of the kids, their friends, and cousins later. (She never met an event that needed her presence within 40 minutes of starting so I left ‘early’ to be there at kickoff.)
Third quarter, my phone rings. My wife is out in front of the school. My son’s car is totaled up against a tree. The police are there. I quickly understand my wife has apparently appointed me understudy to my son for the verbal, Geneva Convention violating, English language testing, tongue lashing she wants to deliver to my son. Ordinary profanity would have been way too ordinary. She should have had me sign a health waiver before she started.
Here is how it all went down: As my wife was pulling into the parking lot in her Suburban packed with kids, my son’s car was pulling out with two little guys inside, the driver barely able to see over the steering wheel.
So naturally, she followed them while attempting to call the police. But these two little guys were not your average two little guys. They were smart. They could spot a Suburban crammed with pointing and yelling kids and one clearly agitated looking Italian who could also barely see over the wheel following them. They realized they had been made. Like I said, they were smart little guys.
And so they stepped on the gas. And immediately ran into a tree, hopped out, and ran.
Because she was clearly extremely agitated and the police had been trained for defusing that exact situation at the Academy without mace, they rounded up two suitable little guys to present for an impromptu line up. Presenting those unfortunates to my wife in her state of mind was like a take off of ‘Scared Straight,’ Soccer Mom style.
The car was totaled. And my son resumed riding his bike, as he did in eighth grade, to Bill’s barber shop, permitting Bill to make his sage observation regarding my son’s circle of life, in this case, circle of bike. (See earlier chapters of Car Wars)
My son had had his license for 15 months.
His grandmother, my son’s public relations spin-master/public defender, claimed it was all because he didn’t have enough sleep..
Son number two was closing in on his license. And he could see the quality of the potentially acceptable cars was dropping like a rock. He was right. From that day on until my last daughter graduated from high school, the driveway of our house looked like an abandoned salvage yard.
(In fact, a ‘Finney car’ has specifically been identified as an unacceptable/humiliating car by my nieces and nephews – i.e. Please just not a ‘Finney car’. Kinda proud of that.)