Monday, February 22, 2016

The Incident At A Lonely Diner, 2AM



2AM.  The phone rings.  That usually means someone died or is in trouble.  I don't react like they do in the movies.  I don't peel one bleary eye open, I bolt upright bracing for horrifying news.  It's Collins which means it isn't anyone in my immediate family.  

"What happened?" I ask.

"How do you know something happened?"

"Because you wouldn't be waking me up at 2am for a pizza run."

"Maybe I missed you."

"But you don't so what happened?"

"I'm in a jam, I crashed my girlfriend's car.  It's really messed up.  I can't even drive it.  She's so gonna kill me.  I really need your help, T."  He was stuttering and agitated.  He wasn't drinking. He stopped for a late night cheeseburger at a diner, he said. 

"Are you okay?"

"Me? Oh, yeah, all square."

"Good.  I hate you.  I'll be right there. Not to worry ", I said and hung up.  He doesn't usually sound this bad.  

I got his location, threw on my clothes and headed out, tool box and stale coffee in hand.   That's the funny thing, isn't it?  A friend calls, no matter the time or circumstance and you go.  I may utter a complaint or two but I always go.  Could be nothing or it could be serious but my old man taught me to always be the one to go.  So I went.  Once I got a call from Harry at 4:30 on a cold winter morning to drive him downtown in a snowstorm to get his car out of the impound.  All I can remember is forgetting my coat and driving a van with no heat in a t shirt and jeans at 2 miles an hour in blinding snow all because he parked in the wrong spot. 
When I pulled up, Collins was pacing around the car pulling on his cigarette like an expectant father.  It didn't look so bad to me.  I expected crunched metal, a bent frame, broken glass, an engine hemorrhaging antifreeze and transmission fluid but it looked fine.  He looked rather pale and ruffled though, pacing and puffing. 

"Oh great, your here.  Look, look at this! Oh God, she's gonna have my head."  He led me to the rear driver's side fender where there was a small but ugly dent, a cracked and bent bumper and the plastic innards of the wheel well smooshed into the tire. 

Puzzled, I asked, "This is what you dragged me out of bed for?  A dent? Where's the glass, the shards of metal, the blood and where the hell is the other car?"

"What other car?"

"The car you wrecked with!"

"I didn't get into an accident like that," he said.  He saw the look of confused anger on my face and continued.  "I uh, I uh, sort of backed into that pole over there.  Really hard.  Really."

"You what?"

"Well it was dark and I was pulling out and I didn't see it."  

"A pole.  You backed into a pole.   

"It came out of nowhere, Tommy I swear!"

"A pole just materialized from the ether!  Right behind you.  Out of nowhere!  Are you sure a road crew didn't just put it there while you were inside because that happens all the time."

He missed the sarcasm for a second.  "Look, you gotta help me, I'm really screwed here.  I can't drive it because that plastic stuff is rubbing on the tire and when she sees this, oh boy, oh boy."  He bent to fiddle with the mangled plastic with all the skill and dexterity of an elephant on roller skates.  

And that's when it happened. 
 
Between the being tired and the coffee and the cold I laughed.  And laughed and laughed until I coughed, spit coffee and dropped my tools in the street.  

"It's not funny!  How am I gonna fix this?"  

Charlie Collins has this girl, see?  She's very sweet and he loves her like diabetics love chocolate but her car is her baby and she rarely lets him drive it.  However, his car is on a lift in some shop somewhere so he begged and begged until she let him have it.  And now she's really gonna let him have it.  

Still laughing I got on my back under the car and pushed the hanging bumper out and pulled the wheel well innards back under the lip of the bumper and cleared it away from the tire.  Took about 45 seconds.  I stood up and there was Collins looking bewildered, still twitchy and nervous.   

"How'd you do that?  I tried that first and nothing happened.  I swear I did!"

"I have a degree in bumper mechanics, dope.  It's actually all in the wrist", I said.

"Damn, I'm sorry I woke you up for - stop laughing it isn't funny!"

Coughing again, I said, "Oh it is, my nostrils are flaring and everything. It's very funny and I can't wait to see her face, hoo boy!"

Collins went pale again and almost stumbled.  I could see him trying to figure out what to tell her.  Clearly backing into a pole you didn't see isn't going to be as funny to her as it was to me.  I stood there thinking a minute.   

"I don't suppose she's gonna believe you were carjacked or abducted."    I scratched my head while Collins finished the rest of my stale coffee and said, "Tell you what, we'll tell her I did it."

"She's not gonna go for that, Tommy.  How do we explain you driving it when she doesn't even want me driving it?" 

"Simple," I said.  "Tell her you had a few and you called me to bring you home and I didn't see the pole.  This way you look all responsible and whatnot and I look like a clod for a change.  What's she gonna do, yell at me?"

"Yeah, maybe.  But better you than me.  Thanks for this.  I owe you one."

"You don't owe me nothing," I said. "Except fries. I think I want some fries and since we're already at the diner..."  He loosened up and smiled.  "After you then," he said, bowing like a waiter.  

We strolled in from the cold, sat at the counter and wondered just how bad she was going to let me have it.  

And that's what you do when you get the call at 2AM.  You go. 

5 comments:

  1. I'm that friend too! And yes we will work for fries well....rum punch more or less for me but fries can work too! lol

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  3. oooo, that 2am call. We all dread it! Great story.

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    1. The dread sometimes gives way to a strange sort of happiness. Thank you for reading and commenting!

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