Here I go Again…

Having my driver’s license feels great! Freedom to go where I want, when I want! No longer under mom’s dictate. After all I’m 17 now and deserve the freedom to drive without “an adult over 21” watching my every move. If feels good to be free and not have anyone to depend on…

But with that freedom comes a big responsibility. Mom now has two drivers to make deliveries for her. And today, driving around lower Manhattan, I wish Daniel was here. This traffic is stressful & parking is impossible. I’ve circled around the block three times & just wasted 1/2 hour.

Danny would knows where I can unload. He’s made friends with the guys at the loading zone & they would call for him when the meter maids would come by. Sometimes, they would even make believe they are unloading his van so the meter maid would not give him a ticket.

Lincoln Tunnel
Image : Hannah Mishin –
Today, I am on my own & it’s my turn to be independent.

It’s past 2:30 & I am making my last drop-off. I can finally head out from the city and head back to the white picket fences of Carteret.

Ah, the Lincoln Tunnel is in sight now & its only 3:30! I love those white tile walls because at the half-way point, they will change into a blue-tile line advising me that I am back in New Jersey.

It’s funny how a simple line of demarcation can provide a mental sanctuary. Like the line between night & day, telling me the darkness of night is right over my shoulder, this line divides the safety of my home town from the craziness of this world. Don’t get me wrong, I love New York but its my first time driving there, alone…

Traffic is still heavy, but not as crazy as in the city. Funny, but I never imagined actually missing New Jersey & the New Jersey Turnpike – that familiar strip of highway that highlights my home with its own sign : Exit 12 – Carteret.

It’s now 4:35, I’m done with that traffic and I am getting my toll ticket home. Right under the Exit 16E sign the van skips & stutters. Almost as if was telling me how pooped out she is as well.

“Yes, girl its been a long day, what is wrong?” I question, yet I offer a word of comfort. “Your gonna make it…”

I accelerate & the van chokes. Damn, I’m gonna have to cross several lanes of traffic & pull over to the side. Choking & jumping, the van makes it and I pull onto the shoulder.

“Come on girl! start!” I implore in frustration.

But she won’t crank over. Looking out the window, I see that darkness coming & I start loosing hope that the van will respond with a spark before nightfall.

“Shit, I must be out of gas!” I yell out in disbelieve – that broken needle is finally telling the truth.

Do I walk back to the toll booth & see if anybody there can help me? what do I do? Ah! a blue highway sign ahead that I didn’t even notice : “Alexander Hamilton, Service Area – 1/2 mile”

I lock the doors of the van & start walking. It’s now 5:15 and the sun, disappearing in the horizon, is saying goodnight. The traffic, zooming by me looks like rockets shooting into space. The headlight streaking by like fire trails, swoosh by & I try not to get caught in that stream. Inching my way towards the plaza, the zooming traffic noise is deafening, but I have hope that its only a 1/2 mile ahead & I won’t freeze my butt off tonite.

Sun gone & in full darkness of night, I make it to the service plaza.

“Do you have a gas can I can borrow?” I ask the clerk.

“Five bucks deposit!” He replies. Not even looking up, he points to the cans in the corner. I grab one, pay the man & head to the pumps to fill ‘er up.

Walking back to the van, the air of the night is cold & bitter. The lights of the oncoming traffic highlights one of my great error of the day.

“Ok, come on baby, turn on…” She is stubborn, but eventually gives in & starts. I drive the 1/2 mile back to the gas pumps at the plaza.

The attendant asked “…regular?”

“Yeah, fill ‘er up while I go inside & return the gas can.”

“Ran out of gas on the highway?” he questions

I take this question to be of genuine concern and show my vulnerability. “Yeah, my gas gauge is broken so I didn’t notice I was out…” I didn’t realize then, but at that instant I gave away my stance and made my second mistake.

I come back to the pump & the guy is done pumping. It feels odd that he was done so quick, so I questioned him : “that was fast, bud?”

“yeah, the pumps are really smooth today…” was his reply.

“Wait a second! the pump only reads Five Bucks!?”

“Yeah, another car came up while you were inside. I had to take care of him, so I had to reset the pump.” he justified and I took it as a genuine answer.

But of course, my cynical side steps in… “I hope that’s all it was… If you shorted me, you will see my face again!”

Getting back into the van. I can’t even confirm that he gave me my twenty bucks worth. So feeling stupid, I just drive off. And this is where my third strike hits…

“Finally, on my way home…” My hopeful side steps in…

Or so I thought. within ten miles the van chokes and sputters again.

“Poor girl, here we go again – on our own!”

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