Thursday, April 3, 2008

Shiny Side Up

These signs have been popping up everywhere lately...



It seems to be a campaign against reckless driving. Hmm. Pretty good. This one's even better; it implores the passengers to speak up against it.



Wonder how many teens would be better off if they had spoken up when their friends were driving like idiots.

Gone In 60 Seconds

One day, when I was just shy of 16, I rode my bicycle over my buddy Mario's house, who had turned 16, and just gotten his driver's permit. His parents were at work, and his dad's beloved Chevy Chevette was parked in the garage. As it turned out, it took very little convincing for me to find myself strapping into the passenger's seat, as Mario started up the little hatchback and carefully backed it out of the garage. The plan was just to take it for a quick spin around the block. Cool. Driving in a car, with no parents involved. The excitement began building from the turn of the key, and rapidly built up, as we slowly back out of the driveway. This was so wrong. Yet, so right. He quasi-expertly put the shifter in first gear. This is going to be so cool. The engine revved up, as he slowly let out the clutch and tried to find the spot where it kicked in...the engine shuddered, almost stalled, then a sudden jolt and tire spin, and we were off. A cloud of dust marked our launch into a brand new world of adventure. We were spreading our wings. We were driving.

The town hadn't gotten to paving the roads in Mario's neighborhood yet, as there were few houses in the area. The roads there were all compacted dirt and gravel. Though I hung my arm out the window and feigned coolness, my feet were jammed into the floorboard and my legs locked, in a bracing position. The back end of the little Chevette swerved a little left and right on the dirt path. We laughed and joked, gravel dust and small rocks kicking up behind us. Then, almost immediately, a sharp turn came up, but Mario handled it admirably. We had pretty much slid around the sharp turn at high speed, detective-show, car-chase style. We had all of half a second to confirm that we in fact Ruled The World, then it happened...

We were going much to fast, but neither of us realized it until Mario overcompensated coming out of the turn. Instantly there was a huge tree coming right at us. I think we yelled, or maybe screamed like little girls, I don't remember exactly, but Mario spun the wheel again, and instantly the Chevette was pointed at the other side of the dirt road, the side that dropped off into a ditch. The emotions went something like "Aaaaaeeyyaah!" -"whoa." -"Aaeeyyaaaaah!" in about a second. A brief glimpse of small trees and bushes in front of us, then Womp! Womp-BANG! The Chevette was airborne, and we plowed through brush and into a young tree. We hit it about 2 feet up from the ground, breaking it, and came to a sudden jarring halt right on top of it, the car leaning dangerously to one side...

We were both utterly stunned, and banged up. My knee hurt bad, and Mario was bleeding from his head and muttering something. The windshield was smashed and we couldn't see anything ahead. Adrenaline had immediately kicked in after the initial shock. We asked each other if we were all right, and stumbled out of the smoking car. We circled it several times trying to take in what just happened. There was no buffing this out; The front of the little red car had a huge V shape indentation, halfway down the front end, where we impacted the small tree. Two wheels were off the ground. We tried to rock it off the tree, in some bizarre hope of getting it back to his house somehow and make it at least look like less of a disaster. But there was no way...

We finally stumbled back to the house, which was not even 300 yards away. Mario was pretty distressed about what his dad would do to him. We tried in vain to concoct some wild story or excuse before he got home. There was none. The Chevette was demolished, and smoking in a ditch nearby. What could we do but wait for the inevitable. I stuck around for a little while after his dad got there, and tried to help Mario mollify the situation, but to little effect. I'd never seen his dad get angry enough to hit him before, and it wasn't pretty. Poor Mario took several random smacks to the back of his already hurting head, in between long cursings in Portuguese, as we led his dad back to the scene of the crime.

It all should have been avoided. I should have spoken up against reckless driving.


Back in the here and now; Reckless driving might be even more of a danger than drunk driving, as it's probably more widespread, though the two are often interconnected, by definition. After the fatal accident on the I-91 Chicopee curve, the very next day, another truck went off the road just a few miles north in Holyoke. Then just yesterday, directly across the bridge that was the site of Friday's disaster, this happened:





Yet another truck roll-over, the third in 5 days, and all within 5 miles of each other...


Renewal

On a lighter note and in keeping with the whole driving thing, I re-registered my motorcycle today. Oh. Happy Day. It was ready and there was enough time to head north on one of my favorite pastimes: Back roads to Noho for a coffee. It was just after sunset and beginning to get cold; I stopped up by Holyoke College and threw on another layer of clothing that was strapped to the back, And took a couple pics in the growing dusk:





That statue has part of Lincoln's famous Gettysburg Address etched in it:

"-from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they here, gave the last full measure of devotion -- that we here highly resolve these dead shall not have died in vain; that the nation, shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people by the people for the people, shall not perish from the earth."

Pressing on, by the time I got in Northampton, I was chilled to the bone. I grabbed a hot coffee and stopped in at Broadside Books, to warm up and browse. Particularly to look at this book that was in the window, about canoeing/kayaking the Connecticut river.



The Connecticut River Boating Guide. Pretty good. Sufficiently re-warmed, it was time to head back. I shot a quick video of the locals outside the Haymarket Cafe before leaving:




It seems the Haymarket is the center-cap, in the hub of downtown, in the wagon wheel of Northampton culture...

3 comments:

Mary E.Carey said...

Exhilarating post and we might have crossed paths again last night, as we ate a late dinner at Packards and passed Haymarket coming and going there. Your accident story reminds me of my brother's, who was either driving the family Chevette or Nova -- those were the two kinds of cars my Dad got for about 20 years, followed by Saturns. Eddie flipped the car over about 50 yards from our house and lived to tell about it. I was spared the finer points of the tale. I haven't seen those billboards yet, but they do look colorful enough to actually attract attention. BTW, I was thinking a little bit more about that scene in "American Beauty." I forgot to mention earlier that has occurred to me that that kid who took the video has what seems to be the sensibility of bloggers who focus on the little local things that might pass by otherwise unrecorded. What do you think?

Tony said...

That character's stuff would have made good blogger-fodder, now that you mention it. Blogging has been blowing up in popularity the past couple years, if they made that movie today, they could very well have cast him as one...

Those billboards are eye catching; and I didn't notice the first time, but the smiling 60's era guy in them is being propelled through the windshield of a crumpled car. That kind of sarcasm should resonate well with the disgruntled youth of today...

Tommy said...

Very cool.