One Awkward Trip Down Memory Lane

So there’s this thing going around the literary world called National Novel Writing Month or, NaNoWriMo. You can read all about it here but basically it’s a program of sorts set up to inspire writers to write more, a lot, every day, for a month. The end goal: 50,000 words. Yowza! They say: “Because of the limited writing window, the ONLY thing that matters in NaNoWriMo is output. It’s all about quantity, not quality. This approach forces you to lower your expectations, take risks, and write on the fly.”  This, my friends is just the kick in the pants I’ve been looking for. You know I am prone to falling for distractions, like a magpie, except baited by stylish TV dramas instead of sparkly things. The latest in an endless string of televised obsessions: “Friday Night Lights.” Oh my gosh, y’all, (Tami Taylor voice) I haven’t wept this hard since the first time I saw “My Girl.” But now I have a reason to write! Not a novel, no duh, if it’s not about me who gives a whoop, but here! And maybe elsewhere!  To be more serious about my writing and maybe, just maybe, turn this into a real thing that I do. I am going to write 50,000 words before the end of November and you bitches get to read every. single. word.

I begin today, but I’m facing a new problem. In addition to my endless string of distractions and excuses I’ve just been boring! I don’t know what’s gotten into me. I haven’t fallen or farted or flashed or done anything cool for weeeeeeks. I’m boring! I’m a husk of my former self. I did break out the nude suit for Halloween once again, but at this point that’s pretty much my standard uniform, so no awkwardness ensued. What’s that you said? You want photographic proof? Fine!

Sadly this isn’t Nude Suit Wearing Month (NuSuWeMo) so vainly displaying faux-naked photos of myself does not bring me any closer to my 50,000 word goal. I must persevere. For myself! For my readers. For NaNoWriMo! It’s time to go back, to dig deep into the annals of my wildly humiliating history. To start using the word “annals” correctly, and not laugh every time I see it in print. Lower your expectations, take risks and fly with me! We’re going back, way back, to Elizabethtown, PA in June of 2001 to one of the defining afternoons in a lifetime of insane moments.

Here we go...

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It was the second day of summer vacation, we’d just finished tenth grade. I’d had my license for just over two months. It only took me three tries to pass the drivers’ test. This, my friends, is what we novelists like to call foreshadowing.

I was friends with these two gals I’ll call Jane and Linda. They were not friends with one another but did have one small (or maybe big, I never saw it!) thing in common: the penis of a boy I’ll call Tim. Tim was a regular rogue-about-town who was bf/gf with Jane while hooking up with Linda on the side. I was hooking up with exactly no one so I had pah-lenty of time and energy to concern myself with the sexploits of my more exciting friends.

Jane found out about Linda - cheating never works, kids! - and in a move ripped right from the “Laguna Beach” playbook, decided to discuss this teen aged  betrayal in person at our local playground. I went along as a neutral third party and also as Linda’s ride. I pushed myself in circles on the merry-go-round while they hashed out their Eskimo sister problems and then gave Linda a ride back to her house.

On my way home, I stopped at a one of the four Turkey Hill mini-marts in my thriving, exciting central Pennsylvania home town to re-fill the gas in my dad’s Isuzu Rodeo, which is what I was driving at the time. I meant to get $15 (back when I was your age that went a pretty long way) but spaced and went over, so had to get $16 because I don’t like when things aren’t right at the dollar. This is not a very important plot point but does give some evidence at how distracted I was in this moment. Just remember this! While pumping I read a very convincing advertisement proclaiming “It’s hot outside! Get yourself an ice-cold Slushie!”

“Don’t mind if I do”, I thought to myself. “Don’t mind if I do.”

Refuelled with $16 of gas and 24-oz of frozen Coca Cola I made my way for home. At this point I will now refer you to the diagram below, which provides a professional artist’s rendering of my childhood home and the scene of the story that is about to enfold:

I grew up on probably the third busiest street in town, across from the local university. We had a big driveway on the side of our house which was notoriously treacherous to turn into due to the placement of a telephone pole smack-dab in the right-side entrance of the drive, Exhibit A on your diagram. I was coming down the road in such a direction that I needed to make a left-hand turn to get into the driveway. A car was coming in the opposite direction, so I had to idle and wait for him to pass. Distracted, as I mentioned earlier, by the intense emotional discussions held that afternoon, I drove the littlest bit too far, forcing myself to turn at a pretty serious angle to get into the driveway without hitting the telephone pole.

I should also mention, at this point, that I was driving one-handed. The Isuzu Rodeo did not yet come standard with cup-holders, so I had to hold my XL frozen beverage in one hand while steering with the other. I chose to use my dominant right hand to hold this cup while steering a moving motor vehicle with my weak left arm. Good decisions abound throughout this story. The oncoming car passed me and I cut hard on the wheel with my left arm, hit the gas and gunned it for the driveway.

I honestly can’t recall how fast I was going at the time, but I’m willing to bet it was a slightly higher speed than one needs to gently turn into their own driveway, and as I pulled in, I realized I’d cut too far and was now about to run over my mother’s gorgeous flower bed, which is Exhibit B on the map. Instead of a) hitting the break or b) hitting the break I decided to c) attempt to reroute myself and get back onto the driveway. A fatal mistake.

Right next to said flower bed is Exhibit C, a low stone wall running along the left side of my driveway. The wall was just the right height and width to fit underneath an Isuzu Rodeo. I heard the grinding sound of metal on stone as the undercarriage of the car tore along the top of the stone wall and panic set in. I attempted to just put the car in reverse and back off the wall the way I came, but oh no, we were stuck. In hysterics I leaped out of the car, onto a bush, spilling my delicious Slushie all down the front of the orange halter top I’d recently purchased from the Alloy catalogue (2 for 1 deal with a neon-pink one shouldered tank top, I was pretty hot shit back in the day) and my family rushed out of the house, where they’d been eating dinner at the kitchen table, an Norman Rockwell moment ruined by an idiot daughter.

The next hours are a blur of shame. We called a tow-truck to come remove the clearly dead car from atop the wall. When he arrived he discovered it was more than a one-man job. Exhibit D on the diagram represents the gas main to our house which was now resting right next to the crashed car. He was nervous he might spark something and cause the car and gas-main to both ignite, blowing up our entire neighborhood and lord, in that moment, I wished he would. Death by gas explosion would have been much more preferable to what came next.

He called on a second tow-truck for assistance and also, due to said risk of explosion, brought in the fire department to be on hand just in case.  As I mentioned earlier, I lived on a very busy street in town a street which was now shut down for one full block in order to accommodate the fleet of emergency vehicles needed to deal with this situation. Parked outside my house were:

Two tow trucks A fire truck Some kind of fire van A police car A small medic van

A crowd gathered across the street. Neighbors and friends called, concerned our house was on fire, or that someone was injured or dead. Oh no, nothing like that. Liz just wrecked the car on our property and now might blow up the house. Nothing major.

I laid in my bed, in the dark, weeping.  Which is actually what I did all weekend watching FNL, but I digress.

After the wreckage was towed, we had to deal with the insurance company. My mom talked to them first and then I got on the line to tell my story. I held it together pretty well until the end...

“I have to ask you,” she said, “had you been drinking?”

“Yeeeeeehhhhhhhssssss” I sputtered, blubbering,  and wracked with guilt. “I had a Slushie!”

Such a guilt-ridden, goodie two-shoes was I that I legitimately thought she was asking if I was holding a cup, not if I’d been boozing.

The car was totalled, in case you’re curious, and I spent the rest of the summer walking a mile up hill both ways! to my job at the local movie theater and putting up with merciless teasing from my friends. I’d like to tell you this was the last time I ever drove a car, but that would be a lie. I drove many more times, resulting in several near death experiences, at least two instances of getting on an exit ramp in the wrong direction and one minor fender bender in college that I never told my mom about.

Hi mom!!

But now I live in a big city with ample public transportation, where my lack of grace is no longer an insurance liability.

The Jane/Linda/Tim love triangle continued for a while before taking a wild turn when I entered the mix, losing my virginity to Tim on the same merri-go-round I sat whilst his two other lovers had their dramatic confrontation. But that is another story for another time.

It is also not true.

(Just 48,185 words to go!)