Tuesday, May 23, 2017

The Bill Comes Due

"You can expect a bill!" These were the words intended to strike fear into my heart. It didn't. I was far too amused at myself and pleased with my performance. Shakey's had just  closed, and I was walking out into the crisp autumn night with my friends from high school and those who still attended. One of my former classmates had reached his car ahead of us, and was warming up the engine. The parking lot was almost empty, and when I saw the reverse lights come on I had made up my mind about what to do next.
This guy's car was coming at us, backward, at a speed that gave me just a moment to get ready. When his rear bumper came to a stop just in front of us, I stepped up on it. Then I used the collective momentum of car and me to hop up onto the roof of the Honda station wagon. When I crawled to the front of the car, I rolled down off the windshield, then the hood, and off onto the parking lot once again. It was all over in a matter of seconds. I turned to face the laughter and applause from my friends still waiting on the threshold. We barely notice the Honda racing back across the parking lot, this time forward. He stopped under one of the big, pink sodium lights, popped out of the car with the motor still running, and began to inspect his vehicle for signs of mistreatment. My friends and I were still giggling as we strolled toward our own cars. That's when we heard him yell.
"You can expect a bill!"
I was still living at my parents' house, and when the phone rang just after I got home, my father answered it. When he hung up, he came to ask me what had happened. I described my little stunt, and defended it with the rationalization, "He was coming straight at me, dad." He pursed his lips and told me we would talk more in the morning. We did. We discussed how we might go ahead and pay for any little scratch I might have made on this guy's car. In the days that followed, we got the report from his dad: twelve hundred dollars. Twelve hundred dollars? They wanted to paint the whole car, trunk to hood. How were we going to pay for that?
Insurance. That meant that we would have to talk to our insurance agent, my cousin. That meant I would have to explain this matter one more time. At least it wasn't going to be a complete stranger. So here we were, a week after the fact, sitting in my cousin's office waiting to give my deposition. "We have to record these things," my cousin told us as he rummaged in his desk for a cassette. He loaded it up, positioned the microphone, and asked me to describe the events of that evening.
"Well," I began, "We were walking out of Shakey's and this car came roaring at us from across the parking lot." I went on to enumerate the action, step by step, concluding with, "And I rolled off the hood, kind of like Starsky and Hutch."
With this, my cousin began to snicker, and reached for the stop button. "Sorry," he said, pulling himself together, "We'll need to do that last part again." He backed up the tape and we ran over it once again. I didn't spare any details or the potential for my own recklessness. And I finished with the same Starsky and  Hutch coda. This time without the snickers.
The bill got paid, and the car may or may not have been painted. I never saw it again. I never saw that guy again. But I still smile every time I see a rerun of Starsky and Hutch.

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