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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I’ll Drive You Home…

It’s going to be another long night at the factory. Today two ladies called in sick & the other two could not stay and work overtime.

My mother is a bit upset because she needs to finish this order! We have over 300 garments that need to be completed this weekend and some more that are still on the cutting table and have not even been counted yet!

Marga is feeling sick today. She was throwing up and today is not a good pregnant day for her. Daniel is out making deliveries and I’ve been at this machine since 3:00, when I got out of school.

Marga starts complaining “mom, I’m not feeling well & I think I’m gonna go home.” Sure enough Marga goes to the bathroom & throws up again.

“Go home and lay down, hopefully that would help.” my mother tells her.

Marga heads out the door & a few minutes later comes back in.

“What happened?” mom asks.

“I can’t even fit behind the steering wheel to drive myself home!” Marga replies.

“Well there is nobody here to drive you home!” Mom suggests “Can you stay & lay down on the sofa?”

“No mom, I am really sick & need to go home.” Marga replies.

Photo © 2010 Susie of Arabia
Photo © 2010 Susie of Arabia
Well… I’m sitting here listening to the whole conversation. And in my 14 year old mind everything is possible! I come up with this bright idea!

“I’ll drive you home!”

See I can’t stand being in the factory & sewing all evening is not what I want for myself tonight. So I will do whatever it takes to get out of here!

“But you don’t even have a license” Marga replies.

“so what! I’ve watch Danny drive the bug. I’m sure I can do it! It’s only three blocks anyway & you can’t very well walk home in your condition.”

See this was a good argument & I think I got both Mom & Marga convinced. Marga did not have a comeback. So off we go! I put it into gear & let go of the clutch. Bam! the car jerks as it stalls. Again I turn it on and Marga instructs me to let go of the clutch slowly. I drove down the street at 10MPH – the car hopping and tires chirping, but I’m heading out.

I don’t think I even made it up into third gear, but we were on our way.

I can see our street from here, so how much trouble can I get into in three short blocks. Sure enough, I turn onto Dawson St & head down towards our house in the middle of the street. I took the turn a little too quick & by this point I’m up to 20MPH.

“slow down, the driveway is coming up…” Marga tells me.

We reach the middle of the block. I slow down & start to turn into our driveway. I step on the break and…

And nothing!!! – the car isn’t stopping!!!

“Stop the car!” Marga yells

“I’m trying & nothing is happening! What do I do!!!”

Again Marga yells “Stop the caaaaar!”

We are heading right towards the chain link fence & I can see what is next…

My life flashed before my eyes! I don’t want to think about it, but I get the image of the bug parked on top of mom’s garden, the car with it’s ass sticking out of the front wall of the house.

I don’t think mom is gonna like this mess! I closed my eyes, braced for impact and prayed for the best. Suddenly, I hear the car screech and jolt to a halt! In an instant, Marga had reached for the emergency break & yanked it – 1″ from the edge of the fence!!!

PHEW! that was close. We look at each other with this face of amazement. Marga’s face is pale white & she starts doing her Lamaze breathing technique & me… I think I’m shitting in my pants in total disbelief.

We laughed so hard that my gut was hurting till the next day.

We never spoke of this to mom or anybody, but once in a while mom yells at Danny: “Why did you leave wild skid marks on the driveway.”

She smacks him in the head while he counters with “Mom, I didn’t do that!”

Anyway the secret is out now! and I’m sure glad I learned that, when stopping a car, it is important to apply pressure on the clutch as well…

Otherwise you will hit the fence!

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Catholic Girls Start Much Too Late

When I got home from school I went straight to mom’s factory. Mom is preparing an order that needs to be delivered today. Marga was feeling sick, so I had to sit at the blindstitch machine and finish off some hems.

BlindStitch MachinePatty was turning the belts inside out & as soon as I finish off these hems, the dresses go to Nancy. She trims off the excess threads that may be hanging and cleans the garment. From there Nancy will pass them off to dad for a steam ironing. Then Daniel will place them on a hanger & bag them.

We need to finish the last fifteen dresses and the order will be ready to go. The order is finalized by around 3:30 and Daniel needs to drive into the city – into Chinatown to deliver the order.

“No mom, I don’t have any homework! Can I go with Danny?” I lied to my mom so she can let me go.

We loaded up the bug and off we go. The car is so overloaded with garments that my seat on the passenger side is pushed so close to the front that my knees are hitting the dashboard.

We drive north on the New Jersey Turnpike. Get off on the Holland Tunnel Exit No 14 and cross into the City right before 5:45pm – right before they closed the receiving dock. This order was a test of 50 garments to see if mom would get the full order of 1000 garments. If we were to miss the deadline, she would not have gotten a chance at it, so luckily we made it in time. He goes upstairs to make the delivery, while I sit in the car keeping an eye on it.

Now we can drive back into New Jersey without a worry. Getting back in the car, we drive uptown and towards the Lincoln Tunnel.

“Daniel! where are we going?” I question.

“We have one more stop before we can go home.” Daniel tells me. “We need to drop off a sewing order to Sra. Garcia in West New York.”

I lay back – now that I have some leg room – and decide to take a nap. When I wake up, I hear Daniel playing some brand new songs from Billy Joel’s latest album, The Stranger. Sitting in traffic, we are enjoying the whole album

As we pull up to Sra. Garcia’s house, the song “Only the Good Die Young” comes on and I just realized why we drove north for an extra 1/2hr. This is where Maria lives!

There she is walking home in her Catholic School uniform. Daniel is so excited.

“Come out Virginia, don’t let me wait…”

“Pass me that bundle from the back seat!” Daniel asks me.

He puts the bundle on his lap and brushes his hair. I reach for the door handle & he stops me.

“No, I need you to wait here & keep an eye on the car.”

OK I guess I can use this time to actually get my homework done.

As Daniel goes into the house, I turn on the overhead light & the radio.

I go back to listening as Billy Joel continue…

You Catholic girls start much too late…

But sooner or later it comes down to fate.

I might as well be the one...”

I completed my homework & am still waiting. I’ve listened to the whole tape and its now repeating again.

Ice is forming on the windows, from the cold outside. Daniel is still not back and I’m starting to get pissed.

They say there’s a heaven for those who will wait
Some say it’s better but I say it ain’t
I’d rather laugh with the sinners than cry with the saints
the sinners are much more fun…

you know that only the good die young
that’s what i said
i tell ya
only the good die young…

“What is taking so long. It’s freezing in here!” I yell out loud in frustration…

I coverup with some of the fabrics and doze off for a bit. Then I am awaken by Daniel banging on the glass! I freak out not realizing it’s him banging. He walks in with a smile on his face. It looks like he might have gotten a kiss from Maria – but he’s not talking.

“She’s a nice girl!” I can’t kiss & tell.” He replies as he pulls out into the street.

Its now 9pm and away we go! We are heading home having accomplished more then we had originally planned.

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