It started innocently enough – a carpool to tour the men’s shelter that our church supports. We divvied up the eleven participants, with Jan, Sue, and Linda making the fateful choice to ride with me in my aging van.
We had our tour of the place, which is so much more than just a men’s shelter – food pantry, job center, financial counseling, spiritual help, medical appointments and more. One last stop outside to see the container gardens they hoped to be planting soon, and then we were on our way back north. Since I organized the tour, I stuck around to thank the director. By the time we were getting in my car, everybody else had left the scene.
|Outside the shelter, beautiful art work, worn
by the extreme winter. Faith, hope, and love
will get us through a lot of things, including
some car rides.
Linda, Sue, and Jan got back into the van. Jan went to close the sliding side door. It slid just so far, and then stopped, half-way open. Unholy words entered my head, but I thought if I just pushed it with my hip (strengthened in recent months by extra Jazzercise classes) that it would close.
Well, no. I did everything I could think of – felt around for foreign objects, cursed, pushed the door, pulled the door. It would open all the way, but refused to close all the way. I even pushed the door button on my key fob, but that had no effect. Non-church-lady words exited my mouth – also no effect.
Jan, who was sitting in that seat next to the partially open door, bravely volunteered to ride home with it like that. Not knowing what else to do, I acquiesced, and got into the driver’s seat.
We drove a few blocks, and then stopped at a red light. Linda said, “Look, we’re right next to the police station. I hope they don’t notice us.” My anxiety rose a notch.
My three friends counseled me to not take the highway home, as we didn’t want Jan rolling out the open door at 65 mph. “Take Federal Street!” they said. “Turn left!” So I did, heading up the hill.
Federal Street, like most streets in Pittsburgh, is curvy, narrow, and steep. I tried to drive more slowly than usual. If the road curved to the left, my passengers yelled, “Take it easy on those curves!” to remind me that centrifugal force could fling Jan out of the car. Otherwise they kept up a cheerfulness I did not quite feel. They pointed out Northside landmarks, while I tried not to be nervous.
We headed up and around bends. Then we heard it. “Woop woop!” Police siren. My first thought was, “Who, me?” I figured the police thought I was driving too slowly and wanted to get past me. So I started to drive up a side street to the right. My friends all yelled, “Not that way!” So I swerved back to the left, just like a drunk driver might do, and pulled to the curb on the main road.
The police car pulled up next to me. You should know that at that moment, the neighborhood we were in might have had someone driving around with the car door open, for the purpose of quickly delivering illicit substances to paying customers. Perhaps that is what the police officer was expecting before he actually saw that we were, in fact, four renegade church ladies.
The conversation went something like this (tones of voice are: Policeman, stern. Me: quaking).
Police: Do you realize your door is open?
Me: Yes, sir.
Police: You can’t drive around like that with the door open!
Me: No, sir.
Police: That’s a severe violation. Do you have any children in the car?
Me: Oh, no sir!
[From the back seat someone muttered, “Do we look like kids?!”]
Police: I should write you up and have the car towed.
Me: The door got stuck. I didn’t know what else to do. Sir.
Police: I’m going to let you go with a verbal warning, but you need to get that fixed right away.
Me: Yes, sir. Thank you, sir.
The only time I have used the word “Sir” more often was when I was 22 years old and was stopped for speeding in Shrewsbury, PA, while I was driving a carpool of college friends back to college. That was a very expensive carpool trip.
The police car drove off ahead of us. I gathered my wits and gingerly pulled away from the curb. There was little traffic, so we were actually right behind the cop car for several more blocks. I was very nervous that the police officer would change his mind and cart me off to jail.
Sue said, “What did he mean, ‘Are there any children?’ Did he even look at us?! Our combined age must be over 200 years!”
Soon, Linda remarked, “Okay, this is the city line here. That officer has no jurisdiction beyond this point.” This did not make me very relaxed. I exclaimed, “You know, my brother drives around all the time with the car door open, and the police never stopped him!” I do not think this improved my friends’ opinion of my extended family’s driving and car maintenance habits.
Jan was still hanging on and remaining remarkably joyful. Perhaps she felt lucky just to be alive.
Someone said, “Do you think you should avoid driving right past the police station in this township?” Um, yes! All three said, “Okay. Go that way!” I pulled ahead to get through the intersection and found myself at the top of a precipitous hill, makred “10 MPH”. “Slow down!” my passengers cried in unison.
The road you take to avoid the police station in this township was curvy, narrow, and cliff-like, just the thing for a person with acrophobia (me). But all I could say was, “What does it mean that all of you know how to avoid the local police station?”
Another mile and we were in more familiar territory. I realized that getting to church really would feel like salvation. I pulled up to the next red light, emotionally ready to turn onto our church’s street. We were almost there! The chorus: “STOP! Don’t turn right on red here!”
The light stayed red for an eternity, during which I expected another police car to appear. Finally, the light changed. I turned, and within a minute we were back in the church parking lot. Sue got out, probably wishing she had gone to visit her husband in the hospital instead. Linda said, “Carolyn, just try that door button on your dashboard.”
I had not thought of the dashboard button until we were on the road, and then I was afraid to press it, lest it open the door all the way. Now that we were safe in the church parking lot, I tried it.
The door closed.
The shouts of irony from all us church ladies could be heard a long way off, probably even as far as the township police station.
I believe that all three church ladies are still friends with me, but I will not be surprised if they prefer to ride with someone else for the next church field trip.
I made an appointment to get the door fixed, vowing not to use the right-side door until I was parked at the car dealer for my appointment. When I got there, I tried the door. It closed successfully about 20 times. It was mocking me.
The dealer determined that the “rollers” on both doors were worn. But they only had parts for the left door. In a last bout of irony, I paid $250 to fix the door that wasn’t truly broken. The right-side door remains unfixed.
Wait, more irony! I am driving a carpool to our next church board meeting. To the people in my car pool: you have been warned.