Winston Churchill, a combat veteran of World War I, once said words to the effect that there is nothing quite so thrilling to a man as the experience of being shot at in war . . . . and missed! In third place, right behind the one most obvious to healthy hummin’ beans, I add: There is almost nothing else as thrilling as hurling through a busy intersection during evening rush hour after discovering you have almost no brakes and pushing so hard on the pedal you expect it to go through the floor . . . . . and being missed!
You are reading the words of a living criminal. If I had even nicked a fender of someone as I crashed though the light just turned RED! as I drove south on Dirksen Parkway at Sangamon last night, there is no doubt I would have been arrested and carted off to frikking JAIL! The charges: driving with defective brakes and being a menace to frikking society!
My Monday visit to Brahler’s excellent maintenance shop at Fifth at Laurel had been positive: crushing but positive. The fellow who had looked at my car told me as long as I stayed in town and didn’t drive fast, I’d be okay for another few months. Good news.
S o o o o o instead of taking a short span of highway to get to work and timing my transit to avoid rush hour traffic, I would go DURING rush hour on packed city streets. WHY? Because NOBODY dirves fast during our city’s famous “10 minute rush hours.” So what if it took me 25 minutes instead of 15? I’d be safe at those speeds. Logic like that is can get a philosopher pretty badly bent on a bad day.
It had rained Monday night, but things were bell-clear (clear like a bell if you dig similie) and it was cool outside. I was relieved that the horrendous grinding sounds that unnerved me Sunday had all but disappeared. The brakes worked as they have for the past two months: predictable and reasonably effective. All was fine until 300 yards from my parking spot. I had driven through a puddle of water maybe three inches deep in the road. When I began to tap the brakes to turn into the lot, almost nothing happened! I “stood on the pedal” and by the grace of God I slowed enough to make a rather swift right lutn. I figured the lost of brake power was because of wet brakes. DUMB! I learned when I was 17 that wet brakes “grab;” and don’t go limp.
Az I sed: DUMB!
After work, I postulated the brakes would be dry and all would be back to abnormal going home. There was almost no traffic as I entered the street from my place near “the edge of the world” (as I called it in an earlier posting), I was in no rush, so I didn’t go more than 35 in a 40 zone, and the lights were timed just right until I approached Sangamon Avenue. If I had cruised at the posted speed before getting close to that intersection, I would have missed even the yellow light. On the other hand, if I had been going faster and the light were not so well-timed, I’d be eating bread and water for dinner from a jail infirmary bed.
As I approached the intersection and I realized instantly that my brakes were seriously under-achieving I began looking for a place to turn to avoid the intersection. Everywhere along the right of the road was full of parked cars. A large open parking lot like one finds at JC Penney stores would have been perfect, but I was about 12 blocks too far north for such convenience. As I saw the light turn yellow, I prayed it would stay that way for another few seconds, but my prayer was answered in another way. I was probably 30 feet from the junction when it turned REDCHEESES! I don’t think I closed my eyes as I went through, but I might have. I know I felt my body tighten up and for a fraction of a second I lowered my head . . . . . . . I don’t know why; all I can think of as why is unadulterated SHAME. A split second later, and I was through it, and expecting to hear sirens from police cars rolling in behind me. There were no police cars and no one else behind me. As I said . . . .
It was a short rush hour on the outskirts of the edge of the world. I slowed to 25, stayed many yards behind whomever was in front and made the traffic that occasionally built up behind me think I was a sour old fart from the other side of 90 frikking years old. THREE TIMES I pulled off the street to let drivers pass through: once to the curb, once into a side street and once into the parking lot of Noonan’s True Value on North Grand. I would find the sleepiest streets in the heart of the city for the rest of the trip home.
Five blocks south on Seventh, approaching St. John’s Hospital I saw two Springfield Police patrol cars, one with lights on, on opposite sides of the one-way-south street, one perhaps eight parking places ahead of the other. I was blasting down the street at 25 miles an hour and worried briefly they would pull me for suspicious behavior: driving too slow. Then I saw the four-way stop sign. DANGIT!
I KNEW I had one brake light out! My pending arrest seemed inevitable, especially after I stopped, pulled away, and noticed one of the police cars had pulled out and was following in the same lane. If there was ONE TIME in my life NOT to behave like a drug-crazed evangelisto from the wrong side of the barrio, THIS was the time. Instead, I imitated a barnacle, which on some days, I am. We even stopped side-by-side at another four-way. And then he pulled ahead. Until he (could have been a female officer; there are several excellent patrolwomen on the force) was a full block ahead of me did I realize I had been lucky AGAIN.
Did I mention CHEEses!
The rest of the trip home was a cake walk. I soon dove into a tall glass of Lipton iced tea and counted my blessings. There’s no booze in the house, and I don’t want any booze in the house; not until I resolve the car business.
A local friend who says he’s a mechanic — I believe the fellow — promised to come over today and see if he can help. Everything else in my life is off the calendar.
I did renew my substitute teaching creditials over the phone and reserved a place at the refresher workshop slated for mid-August.
Count your blessings, friends, Romulans and countrypersons. And pray for more.
Live long . . . . . . . . and proper.
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