Chris was driving. I was sitting in the passenger seat. Another friend named Chris sat in the back of the car. We were returning from another town about 12 or 13 miles outside of the city. Just a simple excursion to escape and recapture the malaise that drove us into more metropolitan areas, before spitting ourselves back onto abrasive streets, passing El trains and inner-city anonymity.
Five minutes into the suburbs, we remembered all too well the foundations that had birthed our lives, thereby deciding, “OK, we’ve had enough. I think the city is good for us.” (At least right now anyway.) But we continued on anyway, doing what we used to do. The ‘This is what’s expected of you’ suburban routine; eat at Taco Bell, walk around a strip mall, destroy each other’s pride, smoke a cigarette, find a liquor store and think about new ways to embrace the night.
You can always tell the seasoned city dwellers from the kids that escaped the suburbs for a different take on life; the kids still want to drive around aimlessly, an activity that doesn’t happen easily inside of a city. The seasoned urbanites usually don’t have cars, usually don’t care about owning a car and usually do enough aimless wandering by foot to even think about getting behind the wheel of a car. They also have newspapers to read.
With the exception of liquor store and plans for the night, we had achieved a rough outline of what could be considered our non-descript suburban birthright, and our wandering state would soon come to pass. As we re-entered the outskirts of the city, we let out a collective sigh as the strip malls slowly disappeared from view in the rearview mirrors. Then a university appeared. “And oh wait, what’s that? Bulletproof glass on the windows of KFC? Wow, we must be close now,” I thought to myself. The street veered between ghetto and university property for several long miles. A toilet appeared in a vacant lot adjacent to a burned out house; the product of city kids having fun in the burned out skeletons of homes which litter the ghetto from season to season. My cross street was quickly approaching.
Suddenly, the car lifted up on the left front side. In a daze, Chris had veered head-on into an island of pavement which separated the two directions of traffic. Our heads hit the car ceiling as we were lifted from our seats. The impact bucked us forward and sideways. When we landed, the car sidled its way from the left lane of traffic to an empty parking space curbside.
“What happened?” we all asked each other. I thought we hit a person. Back seat Chris thought we were rear-ended by another car. But Chris the driver knew different. He simply pulled his hat off, covered his temples with both his hands and shook his head. His mind had wandered away enough that it tore a huge hole in the front left tire and forced us out of commission on a crowded city street. Without thinking, I went straight for the trunk, located the jack and tire iron while Chris fiddled around inside for the wheel lock nut. At this point, it was becoming slightly comical. I laughed. Chris said, “I need this weekend to end.”
We jacked the car up twice before we realized that the parking brake needed to be on to keep the car jacked up. Then we pulled the busted wheel off, replaced it with a spare and let the car down. The damage wasn’t substantial. About the only thing that fell victim to the mishap was the front tire. Chris’s ego would also become a victim next time we were together and trying to make fun of each other, but for now, it was safe.
We stood curbside and wondered aloud, “Is that construed an accident?” We all looked at each other and shrugged our shoulders.
“I think it was. We didn’t mean for this to happen,” said back seat Chris.