Sometimes I make bad decisions. ~Heather Piper
It’s funny how a simple conversation with someone can bring back memories nearly forgotten. Throughout my life, I’ve found myself in unusual situations, putting it mildly. This story is certainly one of those but is one-hundred percent true. This stuff cannot be made up!
To this day, my parent’s have no idea, and I’d prefer not to bring it up at all, but to teach Kyle from my mistakes, I’m willing to share. In a way, I don’t want Kyle to know my stupidity as a teenager or young adult, but then again I do, so he learns from my errors and immaturity, and knows I’m not perfect.
I’m very proud to proclaim I’ve never lied to my parents, at least not in the traditional sense. However, at times, I’ve kept pertinent information from them that would have incriminated me. I know, I know, the same thing, but not. However, I’ve never looked them in the eyes and told a bold face lie, never!
As I’ve mentioned, my very First Car – My Very Own Days of Thunder was a 1976ish Buick Limited. A big black beast with red interior, nicknamed Black Beauty. I loved that car and so did my friends, one because I had wheels and two, because that car could seat a crowd. Perfect for transporting large groups of teenagers who didn’t have rides, which is synonymous with that age.r.
Being a Latrobe native, I never really ventured any further west than Greensburg, about 15 miles. East was a different story, my family is from Ligonier and I was familiar with the Laurel Mountains and the ridge. In all reality, my parents were comfortable with that direction, as opposed to Pittsburgh. Not that I was restricted by many rules, but one my parents reinforced was me traveling long distances, especially in my old car. Understandable. I really wasn’t permitted to go into Pittsburgh, about an hour and a half away, 40 miles or so. Guess what? That’s were I always wanted to explore, and I did. Did they know? They did, but mom and dad had the security of reinforcing my Cinderella license, when I had it.
Now that the stage is set, and the anticipation is built, here comes the most unbelievable night of my life. It’s been a little over two decades since this adventure, so the details are a bit fuzzy, but the major events are still crystal clear.
Another big no in our household was concerts. Really? Unfortunately yes. Mom and dad didn’t let us go to concerts, especially with friends. I would have been open to my parents taking me to a show, but alas it never happened. However, in this instance, I think I did tell them I was going to the show, since I paid for it myself. In my senior year of high school, I waitressed at Valley Dairy. I paid for my own gas, concert tickets, and associated expenses. Regardless of my employment status, I do know for a fact that I wasn’t allowed to take Black Beauty into Pittsburgh, especially traveling with friends. Yeah, I disregarded that rule. We needed a ride and I had one, priorities!
The night started with a live show from Porno for Pyros (now that I think about it, what a horrible name). Anyway, it was Perry Farrell’s band, the front man from Jane’s Addiction. It was August 20, 1993, I found my old ticket stub!
About five or six of my friends, including my good friend Maggie and I, made plans to stay at our friend Vanessa’s house. Everyone met at Vanessa’s and I drove our eclectic group to Station Square in Pittsburgh. To cut to the chase, we made it to the concert without incidence and it was a blast, but when it was time for us to simply exit stage right, we did, or so I thought.
Common sense would dictate that this story will take a hard right turn, especially since I was in charge of driving and maneuvering a group of teenagers from the suburbs into Pittsburgh and back out again. Did you forget how Directionally Challenged I am, and always have been?
That’s exactly what happened. I got us lost. Where? No clue, even to this day. Also keep in mind, there were no cell phones and no GPS systems to guide our way. We had to rely on road signs and verbal directions from locals. To add another element of challenge, my gas gauge was broken. I was instructed by my parents to record my mileage every time I got gas. Did I? Almost never. I would go on gut instincts when fueling up. Occasionally, I’d run out of gas and I’d have to walk to a house to call my brother, Ryan to rescue me. A little foreshadowing here.
Eventually, after driving around for what seemed like forever, we ended up at a convenience store in the ghettos of sorts. We stopped for two very important reasons, one, to get directions, and two, to stock up on snacks.
Did I mention I illegally parked the car too? I figured our stay would be short lived, so no worries. Well, that’s where it all went awry.
Please note, I’ve never and will never park in a handicap designated area. The spot where I temporarily left my car was indeed in a tow away zone, but there was no real reason why it was marked as such. There was additional access to the store from all angles. The lot was triangular in shape, and I was in the back corner. To me, a rule to be broken.
As we exited this dinky, dive store that sat on the corner among the shadows, we filed back in the car to find our way home. Did I also mention I left the keys in the car because I was used to doing so?
It didn’t matter anyway. Once I tried to turn over the engine, all I heard was click. It wasn’t like the starter was grinding and trying to start. Nope! There was nothing! No trying. No almost. Nothing. Oh crap! It was at that moment a sickness settled in the pit of my stomach nearly making me vomit. Then, visions of my angry dad popped in my head. YIKES! Now can you say Adventures in Babysitting?
Being slightly familiar with engines, meaning not really at all, I had to try something. I popped the hood to look inside. Of course, no one had a flashlight. Why would we? However, oddly enough, someone had candles and matches. Seriously? Yes! I didn’t question, I just rolled with it. We lit the candles to look inside to see if something stood out. Nothing. Keep in mind, the melted wax had to go somewhere, including dripping down into the engine. A side note for later.
Okay. Now what? We had to try and fix the situation. How? By accepting a ride from a homeless man to a local garage. Really? Yes. Who’s brilliant idea was that? I have no idea, but I was desperate. Almost immediately after coming to terms with a broken vehicle, this guy pulled up to the convenience store. Sefo (his real name was Matt) was talking to this stranger who seemed semi-normal and I believe we paid him ten bucks to take us to a nearby auto parts store to purchase a battery.
Keep in mind, at the time, we believed it was the battery that just died. Why didn’t we have someone jump the battery? We didn’t have jumper cables. Did I know how to give the car a jump anyway? You bet I did! But without cables, I couldn’t transfer juice from one battery to another simply by wishing it.
Our plan? Sefo, who was no bigger than me, would travel with me and this homeless man to the auto parts store, while the rest would stay with the car. Homeless? Yes, he converted his backseat into a closet, meaning I had to sit in the front seat between Sefo and this stranger.
Only when we began our trip, did I find out he had nearly no breaks. How did I know? When we approached a stop sign, the car sputtered and jerked because he had to use his emergency brake, before obviously admitting to the lack of break system. That wasn’t the worst part. Upon closer inspection, I saw all the wires from the dashboard strung up on the outside, and hanging down at our feet. It really looked like he stole the car! Scary! To be honest, I was still more afraid to tell my parents I took the car into Pittsburgh. Why didn’t someone else call one of their parents? I have no idea.
Somehow this man, who was somewhat pleasant drove us, recklessly through downtown Pittsburgh, bringing us an auto parts store, as promised. Sefo stayed with the stranger in the car, while I went in the store to purchase a battery. Luckily, I had a checking account and I had my checkbook with me, yes when we used checks and not Mac card or credit cards. I didn’t have either. Now for the trip back.
To be continued…