My career as a precocious driver didn’t end with my trip to the grocery store. I only tell you these stories as a cautionary tale. Do as I say (get your license first) and not as I do – or did! Now that I’m older and wiser I can see the folly of my ways.
One night there wasn’t a licensed driver to be found and I had such a taste for a milk shake from the local diner. I decided to chance it. But not before stopping by to pick up my best friend Kay. She was Thelma to my Louise.
It was a nice summer night and we had the top down as we cruised into Diney’s. Life didn’t get any better. That was until a police cruiser pulled in next to us and decided to order a bite to eat.
There were no drive thrus in those days. Back in the 50s you pulled up, parked the car and the waitresses, sometimes on roller skates, came out to take your order. And then she would hang an aluminum tray on your door.
The police looked over and nodded a greeting to us. I gave them my biggest smile and nodded back. I had hoped they were only stopping by for Cokes. But no dice, they both ordered a meal.
“What are you doing?” Kay elbowed me. “You’re not supposed to call attention to us.”
“Then they’re really think we’ve got something to hide,” I hissed through a tight smile.
“Now what?” She asked.
And that’s exactly what we did. We went through another two milk shakes before the police pulled away. And just for good measure, we waited for at least another two other cars to eat before we left the parking lot. We must have set a Guinness World Book record that night for longest time in a diner parking lot.
Once I got my license I became the designated driver for friends. I preferred driving to anything else.
I recall one Christmas Eve; I celebrated with my friend Kay and her parents into the late hours of the evening. Kay’s dad, Charlie, retired early for the night. Meanwhile Kay, her mom and I kept talking when the conversation turned to topic of Midnight Mass.
“And sure wouldn’t it be a good idea to go to Mass now,” Kay’s mom said.
But neither she nor Kay drove and I didn’t have my car. Still that didn’t pose any problem for mother and daughter. It was decided that I would drive their family car. The only complication was they didn’t want to wake Charlie.
“I know what we’ll do,” Kay’s mom said cheerfully. “We’ll push the car out of the driveway.”
I could feel my brows arch and my eyes grow big in my head. It was a big old Mercury. Between the two of them I think they had one to many glasses of sherry.
I started to speak but they cut me off in mid sentence.
“How in God’s name?” I asked…
“Precisely.” Kay’s mom said. “Just don’t be taken’ it in vain.”
I’m not sure if it was thanks to the Almighty so much as the driveway was on an incline and icy. I put the car into neutral and the two women in their Christmas finery gave it a push with their tushes. It rolled silently down the driveway and into the street. It was a Christmas miracle. It was a cold silent night indeed.
Once the car hit the street, I turned over the ignition and off we went to the Cathedral for what proved to be the longest Midnight Mass in history. By the time we got home it was 2:00 a.m.
Before they could object I pulled into the driveway and killed the engine as quickly as I could. We all stared at the house…it remained silent and dark. It was a sure sign that Charlie was still asleep.
It was 3:00 a.m. and a couple of glasses of wine before visions of sugar plums began to dance in my head and I nodded off to sleep.
But it wasn’t long before all the lights came back on, the radio began playing Christmas songs and Charlie woke up all of his girls to attend 8:00 a.m. Mass.
So off we went, back to Mass – bleary eyed, hung over, and tired. But hey, better another Mass than a confession.