"Lucy" the Margate Elephant
(Remember...an elephant never forgets.)
This is a story about a very high strung girl, two cars, and a lesson not forgotten.
Many years ago I had acquired a Citroen SM. It was an odd car with the hydraulics making it go up and down, steering it, and helping with the breaking. While it will probably be my most awesome car I ever had (people would stop what they were doing and stare; new recruits at Fort Dix Army Base...would stop exercising and stare - they probably got into trouble, but that didn't stop them), it was also a car no mechanic would touch.
Chances are, if you are going to buy a car, make sure someone in the general vicinity of your house will fix it...otherwise you are screwed.
Enter the next car I bought because somehow the hydraulics got messed up in my Citroen SM and I couldn't drive it; it wouldn't even lift off the ground...and when it sat on the ground...it basically sat ON THE GROUND. This next car was a Chevy Monza with a silly spider on the hood. It was an okay car as far as cars go, but I've always been a foreign car lover...and foreign this was not.
This car had its share of problems as well...like when it would decide to "die" in the middle of the road, during a turn, in Philadelphia, when four lanes of traffic were barreling toward me. And like each time I would park, I'd have to stay gone long enough for the "solenoids" to cool down so I could start it again. To this day I don't know what a solenoid is...all I know is that I don't like them...especially when I can't start my car because they are too hot.
I hated this car. You never knew when it was just going to stop. Stop and just leave you there to die...cars coming at you...trucks coming at you...on the side of the road, in the middle of it, in malls at midnite, at work during lunch, at work after work. It was totally unpredictable - one, if one were so inclined, would say the best thing about this car was the time I drove it Absecon, New Jersey, to talk to the specialized mechanic about my Citroen SM.
I never made it there.
My car died about six times en route. One of the last times it decided to just conk out, it was at some produce stand in some town on the way.
My mother was in the car with me, as I took my mother everywhere with me. She was a good sport who undoubtedly didn't have much of a life as she tagged along to anywhere I wanted to go. She was my best friend...and without her there I think I would have been a huge basket case.
As it was, I was a small hand-basket case.
And I'm sure I looked the picture of composure, too. Stomping back and forth, yelling at the car, trying to start it over and over, lifting up the hood, staring at it, packing back and forth, looking at my watch, throwing my arms up in the air...and probably just looking like a mime on meth to anyone in their silent bubbles driving past.
It was about this time when someone from the produce stand approached us. He was calm, he was logical, he was older...in fact, he was everything I wasn't.
I told him my predicament...and he introduced himself as the owner of the stand...and the Mayor of Margate, New Jersey. He called up a mechanic friend of his and they got my car working again all for the price of a lesson.
A lesson I promised to follow.
He asked me if I had ever left something at the house and I had to go back and get it. Naturally, I had.
He asked if it had ever gotten me really upset because I would end up being late. Again, of course.
Then he asked if I had ever driven past an accident where you tell yourself, "Wow...if I hadn't forgot my purse and had to go back home...that might have been me."
Again, yes...but what was he driving at?
He continued that perhaps, just perhaps, it was God's way of looking out for me. Perhaps if I hadn't gone back - I would have been really late...perhaps if I had continued, the accident I saw would have been much worse for those involved...and maybe I would have been the one involved instead. Perhaps there would have been an accident where there wasn't...and maybe I wouldn't have made it to my destination. Or maybe it would have been my final destination.
So, while I sometimes get a little bent out of shape when I have to turn around...I never once let it bother me like it used to all those years before. I have never once forgotten those words...so thanks to an accidental chance meeting with the Mayor of Margate (circa 1980)...my entire life changed.
(I never did make it to Absecon...my beautiful Citroen SM...the one whose ride was unlike any car I'd been in since...was basically sold to some guy willing to get it off my parents' property. Perhaps...that's the way it was meant to be.)