Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Puppy cars and shattered ice cream dreams

The bank clerk is wearing a shirt that has a stiff high ruffled collar that might have been rejected by Carrie Nation for being too conservative. I am standing before her, flattening out the myriad one dollar bills I have collected from fellow martini drinkers to whom I had sold books the night before.

"May I see your debit card?" she says. "To verify the account number?" I stop shuffling the bills. As my eyes move from the cashier window to my purse, they flit by the bank's side window out of which I can see my beloved Mini Cooper.

A crystal blooms in the Petrie dish of my mind, to which I pay no attention.

I retrieve my debit card and hand it to the clerk, whose accompanying nameplate says "Debbie" and my eyes pass over the Mini again.

The alignment of the bank's windowpane--my frame of reference--has subtlety but definitely changed its alignment with respect to the location of the Mini and two or three more crystals bloom, verifying crystal number one, which despite the fact that not even a second has passed since my original dismissal of it, I no longer can deny. I turn my full attention to the Mini.

Crystals in Petrie Dish of Erin's Mind

1. The window of the bank with respect to the location of the Mini is somehow in flux.

2. The bank is not moving.

3. You (owner and primary operator of Mini) are not in said Mini.

Equation Resulting from Crystals in the Petrie Dish of Erin's Mind

1. 2,600 pounds of Mini Cooper + four percent gradient of parking lot + the earth's inescapable force of gravity + manual transmission left out of gear + idiotic owner of Mini forgetting to engage parking brake = motion.

"SHIT!" I bark.

Debbie gasps.

I scramble to collect the tattered bills and, much to the dismay of the dozen people waiting behind the velvet rope behind me as well as that of Debbie, I say, "Shit!" again and add, "Be right back!"

I fly out of the bank, which is located in the center of the parking lot of a strip mall. By now, the Mini is gaining speed and is headed straight for the plate glass window of an ice cream parlor, inside of which, a handful of ice-cream eaters are looking out the window and forming a few crystals of their own.

At this juncture, I must stop and comment on my relationship with my car. I don't just like my Mini Cooper, I love it. It is small and cute and it makes people happy.

It's like a puppy.

It is also fast and smart and it doesn't take any more than it needs, all of which are qualities for which I strive. I love my Mini Cooper.

Hence, you can understand that the culminating moment of Erin and Mini and plate glass and ice cream and unengaged gears is catastrophic in many ways.

The Mini's path en route to the plate glass window is free and clear, save for the hump of sidewalk that lines the strip mall. I stumble insanely across the lot, one-dollar bills flying in my wake as I realize that although I might have neglected to engage the parking brake, I did not neglect to lock the car. I frantically fish for my keys, find them, drop them, stumble and pick them up, say "SHIT!" again and press the unlock button on the remote.

The rolling Mini politely responds by unlocking the driver's side door and turning on the interior lights.

The four or five ice cream eaters have by now decided that the Mini is anything but puppy-like and are abandoning their seats in front of the window with panic.

There is now only a parking curb between Mini and Rocky Road Parfait disaster as I reach out and open the door. I fly into the seat just as the Mini overcomes the curb. I frantically pull the parking brake, entirely certain that I am too late. I squeeze my eyes shut and wait for the sound associated with Mini Cooper versus security glass.

The Mini comes to a stop, exactly two inches from the window. I slump onto the steering wheel with overwhelming relief and silently vow to never again wear purple, to begin attending church and to invite my in-laws for dinner.

When I finally recover, I raise my head to see the ice cream parlor patrons standing before me, clapping. I offer a beleaguered wave and put the car in reverse. Me and the Mini pay the price of a tiny scrape and I drive backwards over the curb.

I return to the bank. The patrons who were standing in line are snorking and laughing and shaking their heads. One comes forth, an older man who is wearing a suit he undoubtedly purchased in 1973 that still fits him to a tee. He hands me some crumpled bills. "You dropped these," he says.

"Thank you," I say.

The scrape on the bottom of the Mini's bumper was not significant. My subsequent deposit that day was only one dollar short. To whomever did pick up the wayward dollar I dropped in my frantic dash, I would advise you not to spend it, but to instead keep it as a good luck charm.

16 comments:

The Velvet Fog said...

I've been forgetting to put on the parking brake in my car a lot lately as well. Luckily, it hasn't rolled anywhere yet.

Would have been fun to see you running across the parking lot screaming though.

FLAMINGO1 said...

When I was very young (and we were very poor) my mother took me to a local fast food restaurant on an incline much like the one you describe and a very similar series of events unfolded...but instead of the ice cream store, it was a state run liquor store (Iowa had those at the time). Instead of Erin O'Brien it was my mom. Instead of a Mini, it was a 4 door 1957 Chevy Belair that was built like a tank. AND most importantly, instead of stopping the vehicle, the 1957 Chevy tore a hole in the side of said liquor store the size of a 1957 Chevy.

It bent one of the rear fins. That was it...just a bent fin. Meanwhile, cinderblocks and broken bottles of booze were everywhere.

What made this priceless is that my mother was/is a fundamental Christain type - the type who would never let one drop of alcohol pass her lips (I have since made up for her lack of consumption by doubling my own).

Sheer irony ensued. While disapproving of the liquor store, there was much regret in destroying it.

panthergirl said...

Oh my gawd!!!!!! Thanks so much for bringing me back here to read this... I LOVE my Mini! I would have died!!

Shelli said...

This gave me a laugh and a sigh of relief for you and your Mini. You must have nearly died.

You have a way of writing that makes me want to read the last sentence first so that you know it all turns out okay.

Thank you!

Anonymous said...

MUST.PROTECT.THE.MINI!!

Karen Rani said...

So glad the Mini is okay! Oh and you, of course....and the ice cream parlor. Gotta protect the ice cream. LOL!

just sayin' said...

That is hilarious. I wonder, were wearing your PF Flyers?

The Velvet Fog said...

All day and no new gospel from Erin.

Looks like I picked the wrong week to quit sniffing glue.

FLAMINGO1 said...

I know. I come over here hourly, drooling like one of Pavlov's dogs looking for my treat. Nothing.

Erin, c'mon, baby...daddy needs his medicine.

jayne d'Arcy said...

The parting shot of you in your mini, ends this remarkable tale well. So glad that everything came out just fine. And, no, I won't spend the dollar I found. ;-)

one tough summbitch said...

Leave her alone, Flamingo. She's probably getting ready for her interview to get her book on Oprah's Book Club.

Time to clutch some Benjamins, Erin. Let those George's fall to the ground. Not worth your time.

Who's your daddy?

jennifer starfall said...

that was awesome. i accidentally let my husband's brand new audi roll into a flimsy chain link fence once. i jumped inside and pulled the parking brake at the last possible second. the bumper gained a few scratches that he attributed to road debris.

he never found out that i almost lost his car into a ravine through which flows the most disgusting river in maryland.

Zazzy said...

I can see this happening - exactly - to me. It's one of those "please just let me get away with it once and I promise I'll never do anything quite this stupid again" moments. Thanks so much for the laughs. Glad you didn't smoosh the puppy car.

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