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Main | I Wouldn't Be Caught Dead In Black: Part Two »

Getting Out of Neutral: Part One 

This is what happens when you age. You have to watch yourself every step of the way. Any minute you could get dizzy. Your blood pressure could drop. You’ll have to wait, drink water and then resume your activity. For me, what I like to do best is to keep cutting away my dead weight. Anything that gives me a stomach ache, I'm not doing. That's why I stop driving. I discover looking straight ahead bores me. There's too little stimulus. My eyes roam.  The driving instructor, when he notices, goes ballistic.  “Use your mirrors. No turning around. You could lose control of a killing machine.”   

That makes me uncomfortable. The skills that are demanded are outside my ken."     

Here I am the day of the test. There’s the examiner opening the curbside door. He has papers on a clipboard. I try to read even one of them. I can't. His hands are shaking. I ask, “What’s wrong?” He says, “I’ve the jitters. You’re my first. I’m new at the job. To be able to discern who's a menace. That's a responsibility." He looks at me.  I say, “I've to concentrate. Then I get sleepy. All I want is a nap. There are too many rules. I'm constricted. How do other people do it? I’m listening to Honky Tonk Woman, tapping out the beat with the gas pedal. I go through a red light. I shock myself. I had no idea."            

He says, “You are who you are and sooner or later it catches up to you. Or you'll get sick. I'd say stop that lock-step you have with the crowd. Get out of neutral. From all appearances, you're more colorful my dear."  

Really? I say to myself. All I want is a license and buy a car to get to my job, teaching high school social studies. When I pass, I get busy. I'm taking my new red 1966 six-cylinder Chevelle out of the dealership. I'm sitting up tall. I see a stop sign ahead. I put my foot on the brake and I keep rolling. I try it again. Same result. Which mystifies me. I'm doing everything right and everything's coming out wrong.  

I pull over. Up goes the emergency lever; out I go to give that salesman a piece of my mind. "There's zero mileage on the odometer. What gives?" He says, "You need brake fluid. That's it. Relax." 

Relax. He's a madman. I could have caused a vehicular homicide; or my own extinction. I'm a nervous wreck inside a car I could wreck; a negative double whammy. Every time my key goes into the ignition, blood oozes out from between my lips. The tip of my tongue searches for shards of glass. I'm doing a dry run for an inevitability.  My head could go through the windshield.  

My first accident, I take my right hand off the wheel. I wave to a friend. My left one keeps steering. I hit a parked car. There’s a man’s inside reading Newsday drinking coffee from a Styrofoam cup. Then comes the fuss. I can't figure out why. Since I've vacated my body assuming a bystander pose, I take no responsibility. It's that woman who looks like me. She's the one. Yet it's me he addresses. "There's something wrong with you. Oblivious to where you're going, yet you insist on being on the run."    

What I want is to be in a collision. Be rid of myself at last. His words sting. I pick my car up from the fix-it shop. For a couple of months I've relief; until the day I think I get lucky. I find a parking spot across the street from the entrance of my apartment house. The next morning, I'm leaving, my doorman approaches. He tells me someone rammed into the front of my car. Fled the scene. He's got their license plate number.  

I'm stunned. Feel violated. Cry.  

Then there's the snowstorm incident. I'm waiting to get onto the 59th Street bridge. A taxi slides into my trunk. I get out. The snow's blinding. I wipe away a few flakes. See nothing. Wave him on. Later it melts. I've a big hole. I didn't look carefully. Getting me to my last mishap. I'm driving at an appropriate speed when a woman cuts in front of me and scrapes my door.

That's it. I'm out of here. I quit my job. To force myself to sell my car. It's lopsided logic, but I'm aware; I like teaching on Monday. As the week progresses, I like it less. By Friday, I'm smoking for want of something else to do. Thus,  I change direction. Using the subway map, I'm all over the place. Finding work near stations, I'm now on the G train.  Positively giddy. It's my first ride ever. July 26, 2019. It's for a job, where no remuneration is offered. Our currency is fun.

It involves Caroline, 34 and Catharina, 31. They're videographers waiting for me in Feng Sway, a vintage emporium in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. We're continuing our shopping spree; looking for what suits me and complements our mission. That is a two-minute video showing the fall collection of handcrafted Lucite jewelry made by their friend Corey, who's 30 and lives in Canada. I'm the model. I'm 75.

Initially, I see myself participating in an absurdist comedy. There is an illogical juxtaposition. I'm inching towards the exit while reclaiming my prime. I call this a hallucinatory effect created by intergenerational communion. Though I do say, "I'm not wearing this baggy blue jeans. I'm too old." They differ. "You rock. You push the envelope naturally."

They repeat that as I'm pulling down a green and black reptilian pattern spandex top ending above my navel. In full view is fibrous tissue; part of my emergency appendectomy scar. My brush with peritonitis. Inside Wickersham Hospital, somewhere between the 5th to 11th floors, in an office building weeks before New York State shuts it down for medical malpractice. Later, a wrecker's ball obliterates the entire structure. 

But I have to lay claim I'm still here. I put a photo of me in that scanty set-up on Instagram and Facebook. Overexposure to some. For me, I'm getting started.           

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Reader Comments (7)

Oh, too funny, Jane. I'm sending your teaching thoughts to my niece who teaches high school English. So glad our paths crossed long ago.

September 12, 2019 | Unregistered Commenterlaurel johnson

From neutral to high gear ! Keep on the move !

September 12, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterJoe

A sense of self emerges when you reside inside your own skin.

September 13, 2019 | Registered Commenterjane

So much truth
So much fun
So much you.
Thank you so much!!

September 14, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterTerry

Getting to your own point takes decades.

September 15, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterJane

Your life travels and experiences bring a smile to me and others. Keep on moving Jane you are a true beauty.

September 16, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterJudy

Ha I think it’s literally 3 strikes and done with the driving... for all our sakes, the universe listened!
I love the idea of ‘our currency is fun xxx

September 16, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterFizulu

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