I like to impress people. One of the easiest ways to do this is to flaunt how ghetto my possessions are. You know, that smug satisfaction you get when someone makes a big deal about how ugly your lime-green shag carpet is? Or the pride you feel when your guitar isn’t merely dinged up, but the most pitiful five-stringed object your friends have ever laid eyes on?
I thrive on such contempt and never pass up an opportunity to showcase my cheap and abused belongings. Sometimes, it works as planned – people still remember my old laptop held together by packing tape. But sometimes my attention-whoring works a little too well and I end up in a Fresno State parking lot with a handful of hardware that should still be attached to my car.
My parents loaned me their ’93 Jeep Grand Cherokee for the summer, hoping it would help me get a nanny job. I mean, who wouldn’t want their young children chauffeured in a SUV that handles turns by rocking back and forth, lunging unsteadily and groaning like a dying wildebeest? After all, Davis parents are so relaxed about everything.
Having mysteriously failed to pick up many babysitting gigs, I’ve been using my newfound powers of transportation for the good of humanity. Until now, I bummed rides off everyone else; finally, I’m the bum-ee. And when the Band-Uh! needed drivers for the football game at Fresno State, I jumped at the chance to repay my debt.
The first 184 miles were your average trip down Highway 99: rump-ugly landscape, slow trucks, fast cars and new insects Rorschached across your windshield every few exits. Things were going smoothly. But thanks to the City of Fresno’s hyperactive Orange Cone Brigade, mile 185 turned into five miles and 30 minutes of Etch-A-Sketch fun all over campus.
At long last, we pulled into the correct parking lot. I threw the car into park, cranked up the e-brake – and paused. I had to finish this trip with a dash of my special, fumbling brand of panache. Earlier, I had shown my passengers the neat trick of pulling the key out of the ignition while the car was still running; they had been duly impressed. I saw the scene play out in my head: I’d make as if to turn the car off, but instead of twisting the key, I’d “accidentally” pull it out of the ignition without shutting the engine down.
“Whoops!” I’d say, holding up the key. “Would you look at that!”
“Oh Beth, your car is crap!” they’d marvel in adoration. I’d smile sheepishly, stick the key back in, and put the shuddering beast to sleep.
Suppressing a grin, I set my plan into motion, tugging on the key.
And that’s about the time the entire ignition chamber fell out.
“Uhhhh…” I said, dangling the whole mess from my keyring.
“Uhhhh…” said my passengers.
I tried to play it off, but I couldn’t jam the cylinder back into the steering column. Meanwhile, the engine was still growling away. Like the homo sapien that I am, I attempted to use a tool to wedge the piece back in. As it turns out though, an ignition chamber plus a mechanical pencil is even less likely to fit in the ignition than just the chamber. The band was rallying the Aggie tailgaters in half an hour, and I was, shall we say, slightly reluctant to leave my running car behind anywhere in Fresno. I’d really done it this time. Yes, everyone was awed by my janky car, but this was coming at a price. Why did I have to be such a show-off?
Fortunately, my friend Andie was able to put my car back together within a few minutes. We rallied, watched the Aggies get destroyed, and went home. But in the preceding moments of panic and regret, I learned a valuable lesson: Attempts to make myself the center of attention are pretty pathetic, and I’m trying to relinquish my attention-seeking ways. I need constant reminders and accountability if I’m to succeed. But don’t text me about it – my phone is missing a critical button and I can’t open texts anymore without the aid of an unbent paperclip.
BETH SEKISHIRO loves her dad, who rescued her car from Oakland when its battery gave up the ghost this weekend. To donate some much-needed antifreeze, contact her at email@example.com.