I don’t know how old I was. I was more than 18 because I didn’t get my license until then, after the unfortunate garage door incident several years earlier. (Which I really shouldn’t have been blamed for, but that’s a story for another day.) At any rate, my license did not come with a new car so I was dependent on borrowing my father’s. Mom was an extremist about not letting me touch hers. It was an interesting philosophy given that she herself drove like an irritable Mr. Magoo. Every time she pulled into the garage, the hole in the wall gaped a little deeper, the hanging ball in front of it serving more as a monument to damage than a deterrent.
By then, my father had moved up from his beloved string of Buicks to an enormous white boat of a Cadillac that some of us secretly called the Guido Mobile. He loved that car. Being the complete opposite of nervous and irritable, he let me borrow it whenever I wanted as long as he didn’t need it. He trusted I would always remember what he said the first time he gave me the keys, when he dangled them before me and delivered his one condition as carefully as Vito Corleone.
He only had one rule for pretty much all of life and as a card-carrying pacifist it was rare that he got truly angry. But god dammit, when he got in the car next, the keys better be in the console and the driver seat pushed all the way back to the rear bumper where he liked it. I guess I just wanted to see what would happen. It couldn’t be that I didn’t care what might happen. That would be terrible.
What happened was I came home late one night and decided not to make the effort. The next morning he was traveling, so I had to get up early to take him to the airport if I wanted the car while he was gone. I must have thought he’d probably be too tired to say much anyway. But nope – that was me.
Strange, the random minutiae you remember. It was cold, gray, drizzling. Dad was proceeding with his business like he was unaware of these conditions. He got behind the wheel and reached for the keys that I had at least left in the console. He extended them toward the ignition. He stopped. The seat was not where he had left it. The seat was much closer than where he had left it. There was no yelling, no revoking of driving privileges, he didn’t even stay mad that long. But while he was mad, my father said to me, “Jesus Christ, Pammy, you drive with your snatch.”