Sunday, May 12, 2013

Driving to endanger: A young mother's escapade

This happened a long time ago, but it seems like yesterday...

A 1971 canary-yellow Mustang coupe and my husband’s prized possession, the sports car was fast and sleek, with its eight-cylinder 302-horsepower engine, tapered body and black sports slats that angled the low rear window. A shiny chrome horse at a full gallop detailed the grill. Black vinyl bucket seats, a two-spoke steering wheel and black dash panel with an electric clock made up the interior.

Three years of savings were handed over to buy the car, but my husband got his money’s worth. Behind the wheel he felt 17 again; he revved up the engine, angled the mirrors and peeled out of the parking space with smoking tires.

Every day my husband drove our other car, a metallic-blue Ford Econoline van, to the factory, picking up passengers-for-pay along the way; and I was stuck with the sports car.

A new mother, each time I left the house I had to squeeze into the tight confines of the back seat to strap my daughter into her baby carrier. I did contortions to secure the black straps of the belt to the seat. When I went grocery shopping, I had to jam the bags into the pint-size trunk, wedge diapers and bags on both sides of my daughter in the back seat and secure one bag in the bucket seat on the passenger side.

I stayed home a lot.

One morning I decided to bolt to destination unknown. I knew it was dangerous, but I easily strapped the baby carrier to the front passenger seat. I cranked the engine and cruised down the main city thoroughfare toward the highway. This was what this car was made for. The dazzling yellow vehicle attracted admirers like bees to sunflowers, and I basked in their gaze at every stoplight.

Bearing onto a side street, I waited in traffic, braking constantly on the steep hill that led down to the highway extension. On my right was a housing project, and I noticed a young man running directly at my car.

Grabbing the latch of the passenger door, he pulled with all his might on the handle. The lock held, and my daughter continued to sleep peacefully on the seat. He ran around the car and tugged at my door with equal force to no avail, and he grew angrier.

I screamed at him, blew the horn, willed the cars to move out of my way; but I was hemmed in. That’s when he jumped on the back of the low sports car, hanging on to those damned black slats for balance.

The cars ahead of me began to inch forward, and without thinking, I hit the accelerator and quickly slammed the brakes. He tumbled off the roof of my car in slow motion, landing on his feet. I stomped on the accelerator, and the engine roared. The Mustang careened down the street, and I watched him in the side-view mirror disappear from sight.

That night I pleaded with my husband to trade in the sports car for a larger family-sized vehicle. Over and over I listed all the inconveniences I endured, including the ill-fitting baby seat, lack of grocery space and the obvious fact that the neon yellow, ground-hugging sports car had attracted an insane carjacker. But he wouldn’t listen. I was still stuck with the sports car.

I stayed home a lot.

Then one day backing up and having great difficulty as usual seeing out of the black-slatted rear window, I heard the sound of crunching metal as the front grill of a Cadillac became permanently affixed to my bumper.

My husband bought me a dark green SUV.

I went out a lot.

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