Ground Hog’s Day

August 22, 2006 at 4:02 PM | Posted in Riding In Cars With Pizza | 1 Comment
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  You would have had to have seen the movie “Ground Hog’s Day” to get this joke:
I’ve seen the movie “Ground Hog’s Day” only once, but it feels like I’ve seen it hundreds of times. . .
As I sat and watched my car burn to the fucking ground on that brisk February morn, I thought back to the events that led to this day.  If  everything happens for a reason, I was at a complete loss for the reason for this shit.  Irony?It was July, 1993.  Here in the Midwest, it was the year of the flood.  Lots of things happened, and remind me to come back to this and talk about how I ended up in the hospital after being bitten by a cat.  Anyway, *after* I had been bitten but *before* I ended up in the hospital, me and the wife and two other managers from Domino’s and their wives went on a float trip.  I guess I’ll talk about that in the hospital story.
We got back from the float trip on a Monday, and the next day the wife goes to work in the Celebrity, leaving behind the Cutlass Cierra.  I drive the Celebrity, unless the Cutlass won’t start, in which case the wife drives it, and leaves me to fend for myself.  This is only fair, she reasons, since she has the vagina and is in charge of the distribution of sex.  The Cutlass had a problem which was later found to be a bad wire going to the ECM–electronic control module–the “brain.”  It was sometimes just would not start.  No amount of coaxing, fingering, licking, sucking, buying it dinner or expensive jewelry would get it to go.  Let it sit for minutes, or hours, or days, and it would start.  It was a miracle the guy who fixed it found the problem, but that was later.
So, this morning when she had left for work, it wouldn’t start, so she took the Celebrity.  Yet later, oddly enough, it did.  I was off that day, and it was hot, so I stayed in the house in the AC.  They come home (wife and daughter, they worked together), and daughter says to me as I stand on the front porch, “Where’s the car?”  She seemed surprised that I was home.
I laughed and pointed at the neighbors bushes, around which I could not see.  But I had parked it there, and there it sat.  I thought.

  Melissa says, “Yeah, very funny.  Where’s the car?”  I walk out into the hot afternoon sun to view around the bushes and see the spot where the car had been but was no longer.  A tell-tale pile of broken glass lay in the street.
Moth.  Er.  Fuck.  Er… .Shit.
The car had been stolen.  In broad daylight, no less, because they had left at seven AM.  I called the Jennings police (we lived in Jennings–look up “hood” in the dictionary) and they would send someone right out, since it was daylight.  We filled out a report, and the police officer very politely told us that there was no way in hell we were going to get any help on this.  Not really, but he might as well have said it.
  After that I ended up in the hospital because of the cat bite, and we were having problems with the phone.  When I got out of the hospital, I had to rewire the junction box in the basement for the phone service coming in.  But what it meant was we had intermittent to non-existant phone service for a while.
The wife would call the police station every day, using all the charms available to her (???), and inquire about the car.  It was paid for, and we were poor, so we only had liability on it.  We kind of needed to get it back.  Jennings police were award-winningly unhelpful.  They continued to dismiss what she said, and said they would call if they found out something.  Have we called you yet?  Then don’t call us.
That’s what we are trying to explain to you, you can’t call us; the phone is out.
Oh–Oh, okay.  We understand now.  If we hear something, we’ll call you.
We knew we needed another car, and began looking.
In September, or maybe October, I get a call from a towing company in Maplewood.  The guy says, “Hey, yo, I got dis car a yers, ya know?  I had da ting for tree friggin mundts.  So, youse gonna come an get it, or what?”
I said, “What?”
He starts to repeat himself.  I say, “Whoa, there, duder.  You’ve had my car all this time?”
“Yup.”
I have to go to the Maplewood police station, show them proof of ownership, get the release, and take it to the tow yard.  The car has accrued 25 bucks per day for three or four months for storage, plus the 58 for the tow.  He’ll let me have the car for a hundred clams.  Okay, then.
But when I get to the Maplewood police station, the cop shows me the report, which I read carefully.  Stolen car recovered in Maplewood.  Reported stolen in Jennings.
Maplewood contacts Jennings, says we have recoved this vehicle, do you want to process it?
Jennings police said no.
Oh, it gets better than that.  It was recovered the SAME GODDAMN DAY IT WAS STOLEN!
The only good thing to come out of this was that since we only had liability, there was nothing to pay back to the insurance company for getting the car back.  So there we are with three cars.  As a bonus, the Cutlass will start without a key.  We get the Cierra fixed, we get an alarm on it, get a new steering column AND a steering column collar–kind of an after-market afterthought on GM’s part, where they realized there might be a problem if a 9 year old can hot wire their cars–and a new window.
This was early December by the time it was fixed.  By January 2nd, I had a window broken out of the car two more times, in addition to a window broken out of my daughter’s boyfriend’s car.  It was time to move, and we did, and that is another story as well.  We moved to Florissant, a decidedly better neighborhood.  In the meantime, I was driving the Cutlass Cierra, and we found someone to fix the intermittent starting.  The wife drove the new Cutlass Supreme, and we gave the Celebrity to our son Michael.  So–this was 94?  Yeah.
Christmas of 94, I got a stereo for my car for Christmas, a present from the wife.  I had it installed in the middle of January.  The car had a different problem now, where it would occasionally run funny.  I wasn’t really sure what the problem was.  It would barely run, like it needed a tune-up, and then all of the sudden it would kick in, and just run like normal.  It didn’t do it very often.  Someone told me that it might be related to some sensor or other equipment on the exhaust manifold.
The car ran funny once in a while, but who cares?  I had a bitchen new stereo!
On February second I was taking my son to school–kindergarten.  Wow.  It doesn’t seem that long ago. . .I could shine my car with all the nostalgia I wax.  Anyway, I start the car up, and once again it is running really rough, really bad.  But it is only a few blocks to school, so  I figure I can get him there and get back, and then look at it.  And this time I mean it.  Ever so slowly, it gets down the road.  It might be making some noise, but I have the stereo on, with one of my favorite discs in the CD player:  Talking Heads, Stop Making Sense.  Kind of an Anthem for me, if anything.
“Some things–sure can–sweep me off my feet!
“Burnin down the house!
“Here’s your ticket, pack your bags, time for jumpin overboard–”
I drop my little boy off at school, and then I leave.  The school is in the back of a small grouping of houses, too small to be called a subdivision.  The street we were on was a direct line from the main drag to the school, with a few short streets off of it.  I stop at the light, and the car dies.
I try to restart it.  No go, but I am hopeful that the smoke is a good sign.
Other cars pull around me, conveniently not making eye contact as they rush around me, leaving me stranded like a guy on a camel in the middle of the desert in a bad joke.
I let the car roll backwards and turn it onto the side street.  Meanwhile, more smoke rolls out from under the hood.  I turn the key off, which turns the stereo off as well.
“Buring down the house!–”
Thinking quickly–yeah, honestly, I was–I knocked on several doors.  No one home, no one home, no one home–
One lady answers the door.  “Excuse me, I was wondering if you might have a fire extinguisher I could borrow?”
Around me she peers cautiously at the smoke, now billowing out from under the hood like a Kansas City Barbeque.  “Uh–why don’t I call the fire department?”
Well, okay.  I mean, if you think it’s a good idea.  It seems a bit drastic to me.  Are sure I just can’t have a cup of water or something to throw on it?  She looks at me, then looks at the car behind me in the background barely visible in the cloud of smoke.  She disappears quickly into the house.
Soon, it’s a party.  A county cop stops by, and I inform him that I am the proud owner, and that the fire department is on the way.  He gets my information, and I thought I was going to get a ticket for having an unauthorized bonfire.  Meanwhile the fire department comes along and douses it with a variety of chemicals and so forth.  People gather in the street to watch my one-car stationary parade.  I throw some candy to the spectators.  A hotdog vendor from the streets of Manhatten arrives, obviously lost.  The mime may have been a bit much.
The cop takes me home, and I arrange for a tow truck to tow it home.  Why?  Didn’t I just have it towed away?  These are the questions my regular tow truck driver asks me.  Yeah, some people have regular doctors, or a lawyer on retainer.  I have a tow
truck driver.
The stereo was fried.  My expensive JVC stereo with all the bells and whistles was toast.  It looked fine, but the heat got to it.  There were smoke marks on it, and it would power up but that’s about it.  My CD ejected, and the last four tracks wouldn’t play.
I had a long go-around with both Best Buy and the credit card company.  Warranty-wise, I was screwed.  The credit card company would cover it, except it was an auto accessory.  Best Buy would have covered it, except for the fire, so they took turns
dropping me on my head.And this–this is why I believe in balance in the universe.  There is only so much happiness I am allowed to have.  New stereo?  No, you can’t have it.  Not for long, anyway.  And so many things in my life have been like that.  If I fix one thing, another thing breaks.  If I don’t fix it, things stay the same, balanced, pivoting me on a spike between moderate happiness and moderate frustration.  I’m not being superstitious–I have tracked this conspiracy against me.  I know.  *I know!*  Things go my way just enough to keep me from going postal, and they go the opposite way just enough to keep me from…what?  Keep me from what?
Complete bliss?  Complete happiness?  Complete heaven?  I can have some, but obstacles must be thrown in my way first.
And it scares me.  What must I lose, to gain happiness?  What next will be taken from my grasp?
The image plays over and over again, in my mind.  My car, burning to the ground, because I sought a small amount of joy.

I kept the burned up car in the driveway for over a year–a trophy, a cautionary tale–until the city made me get rid it.

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  1. I think you both are getting what you rightfully deserve!  Happiness.  Just enjoy it and don\’t think it will ever be taken away.  Positive thoughts…always positive. 


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