Editor's note: This is the second in what will probably be several instalments. You may view part one here.
I was a teenage smoker. I began at the age of 15 and finally quit for good (Well ok, I will occasionally light them for people now, but I never smoke a whole one) when I was 28. All my friends smoked, and we were constantly finding excuses to sneak off to feed our addiction. Ironically, I was also a singer of sorts. I sang in choir, jazz choir, and madrigals at school in addition to church choir and was in a smattering of musicals as well. Thus, I took advantage of the autonomy rehearsals gave me away from my family to sneak the occasional ‘cancer stick’ as we called them. My parents were only too happy to lend me the car in lieu of driving me to rehearsals once I had my driver’s license. The combination of my adolescent addiction to nicotine and my car curse was a recipe for disaster.
My first mishap due to this combination was relatively minor. I lied to my parents and told them that I had offered to help set up before a concert so that they would lend me to the car. I had a solo in this concert, so my parents had every intention of attending but would come later. I was involved in so many groups at that time that my parents had to choose the more important concerts to attend so as not to neglect my brother’s sports. A concert where I had a solo, therefore, was a must see for them.
Instead of going to set up, I picked up my friend, Paul, and we went to a park to smoke. I figured that I had just enough time to have a quick cig with him and then make it just in time for the warm up. Now, Paul had this really bad habit of not locking the door when he got out of it. I was constantly nagging him about it every time he would forget. That mild Spring eve was the one time he didn’t forget. As I heard the passenger-side door of my parent’s 2-door orange Buick Skylark shut, I turned in horror and yelped, “Wait!” He looked at me confused. “Did you lock the door?” I asked dreading the answer.
“Of course, you’re always bugging me to do that, so this time I finally did.”
“Shit,” I whispered under my breath and pressed my forehead against the driver-side window. There were the keys still in the ignition and both doors of the car were now locked.
First, we flagged down a cop. He said there was nothing he could do and told us to go call a locksmith. So, we went up to the nearest house, which ended up being a group home for developmentally delayed adults. A locksmith was called and arrived forty-five very long minutes later. He was able to break into the car without doing any damage, aside from the fifty dollars Paul had to pay him. I sped off to the concert, which was well underway at this point.
I snuck in the side door and said a prayer for my parents to be sitting in the balcony as I practically crawled down the aisle to where our choir was seated. The group before ours was on and our director kept looking nervously around the audience. I caught his eye and mouthed, “I’m so sorry.” Our group went on, and I sang perfectly. After the concert ended, I explained to our director what I had done. Then turned to receive congratulation hugs from my parents, who had come down from the balcony where they had been seated (thank God). When both my parents and my director were finally out of earshot, a friend of mine told me I stank of cigarettes.
Since I had been able to escape disastrous consequences from my first fib about setting up before a concert, I figured there was no harm in trying it again. This time, however, my lie was that I was going to help take down the bleachers after the concert. I was not. I was off to meet my friends at Yesterdog, a unique hotdog establishment in Grand Rapids and a favourite hang out place for my teenage smoking friends and myself. Its hotdogs are famous. As a vegetarian I was a big fan of the Veggie Dog, which they still have. My parents, not being able to attend the concert and trusting me implicitly, had lent me their new car. It was a luxury sedan of some sort, but I’m ashamed to say that I’ve forgotten its make. I do, however, remember it being a sweet ride. At the time of my choral concert, we had owned it about 3 days.
So, I drove to Yesterdog. My friends Scott and Brenda had gone on ahead of me and were standing on the side of the road in front of the restaurant (smoking) as I approached. I indicated and slowed down to turn when—BAM. I was jolted forward suddenly by the car that had just rear-ended me. The entire back bumper of the car was dented and barely attached to the car. The driver got out and accused me of backing into him!!!???? My friends, as I mentioned earlier, were there and witnessed the entire thing. They watched as I followed the offending car into the car park…er I mean parking lot, so we could exchange details. Then as I parked my parents’ new and now and damaged automobile, they continued to watch in amazement as the car that had just hit me drove off.
In the end the fact that it was a hit and run worked in my favour. My father didn’t have to pay the deductible on getting the bumper replaced since it was classified as a hit-and-run. I, however, was not allowed to borrow either of my parents’ cars for a month and was told off for lying by my mother.
These incidents are minor in comparison of the other tales I have to tell. The curse only got worse as I grew older. Stay tuned for the next episode…