Today, I consider myself a very good driver. During my teen years? Not so much. I wasn’t exactly a bad driver, but I was young, and a tad immature behind the wheel. I’ve got many, many auto moments that are worthy of a share here on the ole blog, so I’ll just jump right in with one from the beginning. In case you missed it, I had an old Chevy Chevette with suicide doors. Click here to read about one adventure that my buddy Squeaky and I had with that car.
My hooptie, which we lovingly named Bucket, shuttled my girlfriends and I all around the DC metro area. And by all around, I meant e-v-e-r-y-w-h-e-r-e that $10 would take us. Remember, back in the early 90’s a gallon of gas was around 90 cents or so. For $10, we could ride all weekend. And by all weekend, I mean the short window of time (usually about 4 hours) that my parents begrudgingly allowed me hang out with my friends. Not that they didn’t allow me to have a social life in high school, but they were not big fans of teenage girls running the streets with no purpose or destination other than “being seen”.
Anyways, this particular weekend, my girlfriend Goldie (cause she had blond hair) and I had lobbied HARD to attend a go-go show on a Sunday night, of the MLK holiday weekend and there was no school Monday. (Author’s note: Go-Go music is a regional thing, native to Washington DC that relies heavily on percussion instruments (definition #5 here is pretty good). A go-go show is a live concert, usually held at an elementary school, VFW or American Legion Hall, community center or other random azz location. You may be somewhat familiar with the polished sound of go-go in such songs as Salt n Pepa, “Shake Your Thang” or the highly danceable EU, doing “Da Butt”. Please click here or here or here for a couple of samples of the go-go sound.)
I actually hated go-go when I first moved from NY to the DC area in 1991, however, I learned to appreciate and actually enjoy it. I rarely got to attend shows though because my parents
thought it sounded like people playing buckets and jumping around like they were crazy talked to enough people and watched enough of the local news to know that fools don’t know how to act, especially at gogo shows. Goldie and I had been begging shamelessly asking my parents for weeks about this particular show. Our favorite group at the time was the Northeast Groovers and we just HAD to make it to the show. Although we both were “good girls”, we had concocted a fail proof plan. The sticking point was that my parents thought the show was going to be in Springfield, VA, about 15 minutes from my home in Alexandria, VA. The show was really in Forestville, MD, about 25 minutes from my house. The parentals didn’t like the idea of me driving so late at night alone and they never would have agreed if they’d have known we were going to Maryland. We had to be in my midnight, but that was still late enough for them to worry about us. Finally, DaddyTDJ relented and convinced MamaTDJ that it would be ok if we went. OH YEAH!!
Goldie and I were funky fresh dressed to impress and ready to party. Money in our pockets, dying to move our bodies. To get inside we paid a whole $10 but we had no razor blades taped to our collars. And the Northeast Groovers did not disappoint! The show was FANTASTIC!! We danced as hard as we could, sang along when we knew the words, and shouted back at the lead singer when he told us to. Man! What a show! Of course, things had just started getting GREAT at 11:30pm when we needed to leave. Yeah, yeah, 11:30 was pushing it, but I knew that if I drove just right, we would make it. Dammit!! This was one of those moments when I hated having Ozzie and Harriet for my parents.
We had no choice but to roll out and head for home. As soon as we merged from Pennsylvania Avenue onto the Capital Beltway/I-495, I knew we had a problem. When I pressed the gas hard, Bucket acted like he didn’t want to accelerate. I scrunched my face up and Goldie said what I was thinking, “Oh lawd, please don’t let this car break down in Maryland! We’re gonna be late for curfew!” Shoot, I thought, the hell we are. I was willing to push that dang car back across the Woodrow Wilson Bridge to Virginia if I had to. Breaking down was NOT AN OPTION!! Being late for curfew would be a stern lecture, and perhaps a few days of punishment. But breaking down in a state we weren’t supposed to be in??? Hellfire and damnation!
I mashed the gas pedal as hard as I could. Bucket jerked, and then shook as he suddenly gained momentum. We shot onto the Beltway at a much faster speed than I expected and my breath caught in my chest. Thankfully, at 11:40 on a Sunday night, traffic was light. As we chatted about the show and all the cute guys we had seen, Bucket started to shimmy and shake like he wanted in on some of those gogo dances. Although my foot was still on the accelerator, I felt us starting to slow down and I watched the speedometer needle go from 60 to 50 to 40. Uh-oh.
Praising my father’s “be prepared” talks, I put on my emergency flashes and tried to make my way to the shoulder. While drifting across the far right lane, a plume of grey smoke burst from under Bucket’s hood and we heard a “POOF!” sound. Goldie and I exchanged a grimace as the dashboard lit up; the car lost all power and coasted to the shoulder, before rolling to a stop. For a few seconds, we both just sat there in the silence, unsure of what to do. Remember, this is the winter of ’93 and a time when cell phones weren’t as plentiful as corner vendors with knock off Prada bags. I tried to turn the key in an attempt to re-start the car, but it just wheezed and whined. No dice. Goldie starts sniffing the air loudly before saying, “What’s that smell?”, which of course made me sniff too. I had no idea. We continued to sniff and analyze the odor. It was a little metallic mixed with a little hair spray type scent mixed with the faint smell of gas. Thank goodness I didn’t act as stupid as I’m sure we looked while sniffing. I said, “Get your bag man, let’s sit over there.”, pointing to a metal guard rail that was about 20 yards away.
I was asthmatic and I thought the fumes might make us dizzy or something. How about “or something?” We made it over to the guard rail and plopped down. Having no clue what to do, we sat there in stunned silence for about 45 seconds. Then I said, “I guess we should try to flag somebody down.” Goldie nodded and responded, “I guess. What else -“. She was interrupted by the loudest sound I’ve ever heard in my life. And then, right before our eyes, Bucket turned into this:
Stunned. Shocked. Scared. We kept looking back and forth from each other to the burning car that was way too close for comfort. The smoke was so thick, the car soon faded from view. Finally we had the good sense to move farther away from the fire bomb. And then, because I often have inappropriate reactions during stressful moments, I busted out laughing!! Goldie joined in before saying, “Damn! Maybe you did try to kill Squeaky a few months ago. Nobody is gonna believe this mess!” We laughed so hard that my side started hurting. And then reality began to set it. We had lied and no amount of fancy footwork was gonna get us out of this one. We were going to be busted. We were 15 miles in the opposite direction of where we were supposed to be. In another state. And my car was destroyed. I couldn’t even begin to fathom the punishment that would be delivered. Once a Maryland State Trooper found us a few minutes later, his offer to call our parents bought a fresh wave of panicky tears.
R.I.P BUCKET, JANUARY 1993 – the first car that I killed. And R.I.P. the rest of my senior year activities. You’re girl was on lock down for the next 4 months!! Damn! As with all big moments, they are much scarier at the time. Looking back now??? Pure comedy!! I haven’t talked to Goldie in a while, but we’re facebook friends, so let me go send her a link to this post for old times’ sake.
Ya’ll wreck any cars during your teenage years???