“Why did you drive your car into a ditch?” he asked.
“I didn’t” I replied, sheepishly, not really knowing how to answer my friend.
“Then why are we in a ditch?”
“I was trying to make a U-turn and I must have misjudged where the shoulder ended.”
“Well, (pause) lots of people make U-turns, but I don’t know anybody who ends up in a ditch.” Now he’s agitated. “Why you drive in a ditch? WHY YOU MAKIN A U-TURN ANYWAY!” Now he’s yelling. “Only you man. Only you. You’re the only dude I know can make a U- turn and drive your car INTO A DITCH!”
“I don’t think it’s that bad.”
“It ain’t that GOOD! WE’RE IN A DITCH!”
“Why do you have to make everything such a big deal?” I asked. “I accidentally drove the car off of the road while trying to turn around so I can show you something cool. We’ll push the car out and be on our way.” Now I’m getting a little irritated, it really didn’t seem like that big of a deal. It was my car getting messed up not his.
“There’s nothing for me to see that’s cool enough for me to get over being in a ditch in the middle of the country on a Sunday morning. You can’t drive, man….you can’t drive. And we ain’t pushin this car out, I can’t even get out on my side, this tree is right up against the door. We’re gonna have to get towed. How we gonna get a tow truck in the middle of a Sunday morning? In the middle of the country?”
“One could drive by; we’ll just flag someone down.” I said.
“THERE HASN’T BEEN A CAR DRIVE BY SINCE WE BEEN HERE! SO NOW WE’RE JUST GONNA FLAG DOWN A TOW TRUCK! YOU CAN’T DRIVE, MAN.”
He was really stuck on his point of my inability to drive. My friend yelled this last bit of his tirade while laughing at me. At least now he was laughing and he could find the humor in the situation.
He was pretty much right about everything though; in my early years – my Mayhem Years, my driving skills were not strong. I was easily distracted, I didn’t have good equipment, I was insufficiently funded, and I was usually upset, angry, broken-hearted, or drunk. But I would also submit that nobody from the Prince William Driving Academy was knocking on his door to offer him a position as a driving instructor either. My 20-year-old friend only started driving about 2 years earlier, and he couldn’t make a lane change to save his life. I thought about mentioning what a shitty driver he was as he was chewing me out, but when DJ is in this kind of agitated state it’s not a good idea to kick that hornet’s nest. Regardless of whether my friend is right or wrong, he loses very few arguments, and I did, in fact, just drive my car into a ditch.
He was also right about the fact that we had not seen a car since we (well…I) accidentally disabled this royal blue metal flake 1972 Plymouth Duster on a country road in western Prince William County. We were in a tight spot.
It was one of those beautiful fall mornings in Virginia. The air was crisp and clean and brisk. The hardwood trees were in their full firework display of autumnal color; various shades of red, and gold, and green; the air smelled like firewood and football. It’s my absolute favorite time of year, and this day was going to be a great day. We decide to go for a little cruise in the Duster, pick up some brewskis, ice them down in the perpetual cooler that rode in the fold down back seat of my car, and spend the afternoon watching football. A couple of young ladies were going to join us at DJ’s place for the 4:00 game…it was simply a great day to be an American male. Except…
…except for the fact that we were in a ditch. One of the things that I have always admired about my lifelong friend is that he rarely uses curse words. I drop an F bomb when I’m helping my kids with their homework, someone could steal his wallet and he would just say, “Dang it!” As we tried to push the car out of the ditch, and we trapped it more hopelessly, (as DJ had predicted) I was expecting a tirade of cursing. There was none. The car wedged itself tighter against the trunk of the pine tree he mentioned earlier, and he just laughed. It wasn’t a laugh of humor; it was a laugh of frustration seasoned with a little disgust.
“We are really testing our badness here. There is a very good chance that we’re gonna have to WALK for a while, and wherever we walk to, there’s gonna be somebody who will see us. Two broke ass, Sunday walking, car in the ditch, so-n-so’s…” (I think by so-n-so’s, he meant “Mother F-ers”, at least that’s the phrase I would use, but I have no confirmation of his actual meaning. He may just have meant “so-n-so’s” which I think most people would agree with me that “Mother F-er” would probably be the more appropriate phrase or term).
“So you’re really just worried about how this will look?” I ask.
“YES!” agitated again…”YOU CAN’T DRIVE, DUDE!”
“I drive better than you.”
“Oh yeah? When’s the last time you saw me drive in a ditch?”
I had no retort. He wins the argument, again.
“We are really testing our badness” he repeats.
So we lean on the side of my incapacitated ’72 Plymouth Duster for a few minutes, in silence. Because I am, and have always been a positive, half full glass thinking so-n-so (excuse me, I mean Mother –F-er) I wasn’t really too bummed out, I just figured someone would come by and help us out…and eventually…after about 30 minutes or so, a good ol’ boy with a big ol’ truck, with big ol’ tires, and some chain stopped and asked us if we needed some help. I said “yes”.
“How much would you charge to pull us out?” I asked.
“You got fifteen bucks?” was his reply. DJ and I looked at our available resources, which was basically his wallet and my cooler, DJ had twenty –three dollars…I had twenty-four Michelobs.
“Pay the man.” I said with the confidence of 5 Star General. Then I got behind the wheel of my almost sideways leaning car, watched as they connected the chains, I turned the key and threw that blue beauty into gear. The car rolled out of its country road confinement with the ease of the birthing of a third child. There were a few scratches, a minor dent, but nothing that would need any shop work. All-n-all, it was a no big deal. We made it home in time for the 1:00 game.
At half time, DJ asked me why he was the person who had to “pay the man” when it was my car, my ditch, and my stupid decision. This was a fair question. I simply told him, that “…the reason we ended up in the ditch in first place was because I was trying to show you something cool, so obviously the situation was caused by you, and therefore your responsibility. But it’s also because I had no money; I spend my last dime on the beer that we are enjoying right now. You should be thanking me for this; you were on an adventure today, you shouldn’t be complaining.”
“Yeah, I should be thanking you. You owe me…” Just then, just at the beginning of his lecture on my driving, and my money management skills, just as he was about to start the debate and tell me what the interest rate would be on his fifteen dollar loan, the Universe intervened and put Jayne Kennedy from NFL Today on the television screen for some kind of special report. We both immediately became lost in her intensity, her intellect, and her cutting journalistic style…and her amazing rack, and her gorgeous eyes. Soon after Jayne finished, our lady guests arrived, we drank our Mich, and we enjoyed the beautiful fall day. The money issue was forgotten, and has only been mentioned since in amused reflection.
I probably owe DJ 15 dollars. I’ll catch him next time I see him.
This is but one of many stories from the Mayhem Years. It was a dangerous time, but it was a joyous time. It was a time of fear, because it was a time of discovery and growth, but it was also a time of exhilaration because it was a time of really living. I was riding on a razor edge – romance, adventure, prosperity, laughter and glory on one side; abject disaster, bodily harm and property damage…and jail time, on the other. I experienced all these things. It could be that the greatest personal accomplishment of my life was simply surviving the Mayhem Years. As Charles Dickens wrote… It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, and it was the age of foolishness…heavy accent on foolishness.
To be continued…maybe.
Thank you all for reading, it gives me great joy to know that these tales are worthy of your time. Your comments of praise or disappointment are encouraged and appreciated; this is how a writer grows. If you wish to discuss your points privately, please send an email to email@example.com
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If you don’t hear from me before Christmas, have the very best of holiday seasons. Hug your kids, hug your parents, hug anyone you can.
The Large Man