Stupid Human Tricks - 7/2/2011

When I was in high school, my dad bought a brand new 1968 Mercury Montego MX Brougham. It was bright orange with a black vinyl top. It was very sleek and sporty, very out of character for my dad, who was a pick-up man. On rare occasions, I was allowed to drive it to school. I had a 55 Chevy, but by then, it was pretty much a rust-bucket that spewed smoke and backfired at the most inappropriate time. I ended up driving it, unsuccessfully, in the demolition derby. The Montego was way cool. With anyone else behind the wheel, it would have been a babe magnet. For me, not so much.
When I drove to school (about 3 miles), I would wait until the school bus had entered Interstate 90 and whiz by it at a high rate of speed, honking my horn like a moron (actually, exactly like a moron). This maneuver was designed to impress a girl that I had a huge crush on, but whose parents, wisely, did not allow to ride to school with a miscreant such as me. Actually, I paraphrased. I am pretty sure the word miscreant has never been uttered in Smelterville, Idaho. I should add here that this particular girl was so far out of my league that she didn’t even know my league existed. That did not stop the ever-hopeful me from the futility of trying. Her parental excuse was just to spare my feelings, she would not have ridden with me if I had duct tape and chloroform.

I usually had a couple of fellow miscreants riding with me, even though my parents had strictly forbidden me from “running up and down the road” wasting nineteen cent per gallon gas. I was supposed to drive straight to and from school. In retrospect, I am sure that my dad realized that was never going to happen. On those days when I had the Montego, lunchtime was miscreant cruise time, sans girls. It was not like the lousy schools now with their closed campuses, metal detectors, and armed security. About the only controls put on us were that the teachers took roll sometimes.

One cold Idaho winter morning I set off chasing the school bus. Just as I accelerated past it I hit a patch of black ice. Many southern readers (as if I have many readers from any region)probably have no idea what the heck that is. Let me just say that once you have experienced it, you will never forget. A few hundred yards in front of the bus, I went into a flat spin. I did several 360s and miraculously stayed on the Interstate without hitting anything or rolling over. It was totally luck, as at 16, I had zero driving skills under normal conditions, let alone careening down the highway at 80 MPH, with two caterwauling passengers. Luckily there was no traffic other than the school bus.

When I had spun to a complete stop, so did the school bus. It had to stop relatively short in order to avoid t-boning me, as I was sideways in the road. There were 55 faces staring straight at me. I don’t think the girl was impressed, nor was the bus driver, who happened to be someone that knew both me and my parents well. Needless to say, I rode the bus every day for the rest of the school year.
The race-car driver of the day was a guy named Parnelli Jones, who had just won the Indianapolis 500. This was back when the Indy 500 was a big deal and everyone knew who won it (and could pronounce their names). I know it is hard for young people to believe, but once upon a time the Indy 500 was bigger than NASCAR. Now I am not even sure if it is televised. My reason for this diversion is that calling a driver Parnelli was like calling a total moron, Einstein. It was not a compliment. That was my moniker until the event was forgotten and I earned more permanent and vile nicknames, based on other stupid things I did later in my high school career.