Tag Archives: Drunks

Parking Lot, 1985

Dad has a Volkswagen Rabbit, and I hate it. I hate it because my grampa also has a Volkswagen Rabbit and dad’s compares unfavorably to his. Grampa’s Rabbit is green and has fuzzy, suede-like interior. Dad’s is brown and has sticky vinyl seats that burn you in the summer and sting you in the winter. Grampa’s has a hatchback with black rubber hinges attaching the door to the car, with a lid that conceals his golf clubs and spare tire, and this seems like to coolest thing in the world to me. Dad’s just has a dumb old trunk. Grampa’s still has the cute Rabbit logo on his hatchback. Dad’s has nothing but the outline of where the logo fell off years ago.

IMG_0690Grampa’s Rabbit has a backseat. So does Dad’s, technically, but it’s buried under a compost heap of old New York Times and crossword puzzle books and overdue library books and broken valises stuffed full of spent legal pads.

I hate Dad’s Rabbit because it’s a diesel. I don’t have strong feelings about fuel at age 8, but I do have strong feelings about every trip with Dad taking an extra 20 minutes because that’s how long it takes to get to the nearest gas station with diesel.

I hate Dad’s Rabbit because it’s a manual. I don’t have strong feelings about transmissions either, but the leathery turtleneck that surrounds the gear shift has these pockets that sag like a turkey’s wattle. All the ashes from Dad’s cigarettes collect in there and form a horrible tobacco-y slurry. It’s the most effective anti-smoking ad ever made.

I hate that Dad bought his Rabbit from this weird little German guy named Heinz, who has a Volkswagen farm on his lawn in a development near ours. Heinz buys late-70s VW’s that are on life support, then gets them running again in a state acceptable to guys like Dad, who don’t know anything about cars and are destined to run anything they drive into the ground.

But the biggest reason I hate Dad’s Rabbit is because he won’t let me honk the horn. Whenever I climb into Mom’s Chevy Caprice station wagon, she’ll let me give a quick toot on the horn before we pull out of the driveway. Dad will not allow this. He is vehement that none of us kids are to touch the horn under any circumstances. Even looking at the steering wheel for too long is pushing it.

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As the subway doors unlatch, someone shoves me in the back, hard. This is more than the usual L train jostle. It is especially aggressive even for the Union Square stop, where the “I’m ignoring your humanity to make my commute slightly easier” brush-by is standard operating procedure. This move must have sinister purpose behind it, I assume. And so I pivot from my 7:30 am perch on the overhead bar and turn to face my aggressor. I have nothing planned other than a dirty look. I do this all the time even though it’s a move with no upside whatsoever. At best, I will get to see the face of someone who regards me as little more than an insect. At worst, I will find myself in a fistfight.

When I turn, I see the man who shoved me. Shaved head, black windbreaker scuffed with sheetrock dust and eggshell paint. He has the lumbering gait of a drunk launching himself from one parking meter to the next on the long walk home. He may very well be drunk, for all I can tell. This wouldn’t be the first guy I’ve seen stewed to the gills at this early hour on the subway. Then he careens into a woman much smaller than him, his shoulder stooping to her height. It doesn’t look intentional. He’s fighting something, and losing. His knees buckle beneath him, and his head begins to twitch and jerk.

“He’s having a seizure!” a woman yells. It sounds like dialogue from a script that doesn’t trust its director to explain things visually. I almost laugh, and yet I understand the urge to yell out something the second it hits your brain at a weird moment like this one. The crowd parts around the man, and the sudden lack of bodies speeds his descent. However, he has enough control of his facilities to lower himself, first sitting, then prone as he continues to shake.

The train remains paused. Not to address the man’s condition, but to let out the large crowd of people who depart at Union Square. Some of those who remain stare, while others look away, embarrassed. No one is quite sure what to do. We’re all spooked, myself included. But I’m spooked for a different reason. This all feels too familiar to me.

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