Man, you people are demanding. So I start a little story and then don’t finish it right off. You’d think I had invaded Kuwait or something.
The drive between D.C. and Pennsylvania was fairly uneventful from that point on, if not a bit smelly. Spud has this picture from that time that he still threatens me with on occasion, and in it I’m less than attractive looking. I realize that’s hard to believe, but it’s true. I’ll have to message him some time and see if he has a digital version of it I can post on the site. We were in good spirits, though. The fact that we weren’t going to have any money when we got to Lancaster didn’t seem to phase us at all. Our luck had been golden on this trip so far (from a “getting out of bad situations” persepective, anyway), and it didn’t seem like finding another fifty bucks for the gas on the way home was going to be difficult at all.
Oy. Hindsight is a wonderful thing.
The next stop on our trip was in Philadelphia to see our friend Nicki. Now I had never been this far north of the Mason-Dixon line before, so this whole experience was something new to me. This whole experience being driving in a really big fucking city. Where they ignore things like, oh, OTHER CARS. In one instance, I was in the far right lane approaching a bridge. I was blocked into that lane by cars to the left of me, and as we got near the bridge an on-ramp merged with the interstate. There was a tractor trailer on that on-ramp. Driving very, very fast. I know he saw me. I made eye contact with the guy (perhaps I should say he saw my eyes shoot open in panic when I realized what he was going to do). I was directly in his path and he didn’t slow down. At all. In fact, he started merging before the on-ramp was even finished. Right towards me! I had to literally slam on the brakes to avoid finding out exactly how much damage a tractor trailer would suffer in a collision with a 1984 Plymouth Reliant (the answer, of course, is “None At All”).
We arrived at Nicki’s house in one piece (how, I’m still not sure), and I got my first taste of a real city. She lived in a brownstone! There were tall buildings everywhere! It was really, really cool. It was also kinda cold, which was weird because this was in July, but I suppose that is what happens when you’re not in the deep, dark south.
While we were at Nicki’s we called back to the Blain residence. I had a message there for me from my Mother.
Mom and I had a little falling out before this trip, you see. I had called her to tell her I was going to Pennsylvania, and she had given me this big speech about it being an irresponsible action and that I couldn’t afford it. How my car wasn’t in any shape to make that kind of trip, and what I really needed to do was get a job. I guess she thought I had acutally listened to her or something, because apparently the fact that I went was a bit of a shock to her. I was told that I needed to call her, and that she was pretty pissed.
Which pissed me off.
In what has proven to be one of the most ludicrous moments of feigned independence I have ever displayed in my life, I called my Mom’s house in a rage. Fortunately (for me) she was not home at the time, and I left this really scathing message on her answering machine. “I’m an adult now, Mom!” (yep, I actually said it), I yelled into the phone. “You have no right to dictate to me what to do or when to do it. I don’t live with you, I don’t take any of your money, and you don’t have to see me if you don’t want to. So if you aren’t going to accept the things I decide to do with my life you should just butt out of it.”
No no, Mike. Don’t burn the bridge. Blow the fucking thing up.
As I have said time and time again, the sheer fact that my Mother still speaks to me at this point is a testimony to the fact that she should be canonized. Remind me to tell you all sometime about how I used to steal her car and credit cards.
We left Philadelphia and set out for Lancaster. Now, from the directions we had received, we were supposed to look for a highway and take that highway straight to Lancaster. No turns or exits or anything, the road ran smack dab into the city. Those are my kind of directions. We got back on the interstate, and in a few minutes we saw the highway. Following our wonderful directions, we got off the interstate and merged with this highway.
What our intrepid guide did NOT tell us was that we were supposed to get on to this highway on the OTHER SIDE of Philadelphia.
So that night, Spud and I got to see pretty much all of the city. All of the BAD parts that is.
This road ran right through some of the hairest parts of Philadephia, and believe you me some of those parts are pretty damned hairy. They are also the type of areas where two caucasian fellows in a Plymouth Reliant with Florida plates are looked at with suspicion or downright hostility. This highway twisted and turned all throughout the city, and we had to make u-turns on several occasions to get back on it after having missed a turn. Tack on to that the fact that it was raining and the street lines in Philadelphia are barely noticable in the daytime when there is sun in the sky, and you have one hell of a frightening driving experience.
About half way through Philadelphia, I looked down at the fuel gauge.
It was on empty.
In fact, it wasn’t ON empty. It was PAST empty. I had never seen the fuel gauge get this low in my car, and I figure we probably had a matter of blocks before we ran out of gas in the depressed section of a major U.S. city. Not what I’d call a fun way to spend the evening. I informed Spud of our dire situation, and we came to the logical conclusion that stopping to get gas would probably be a good idea.
We came across a gas station a few blocks later. It was big, and well lit, but those were about the only comforts in the situation. Now I KNOW that JUST because we are the only “white guys” for miles we are not going to automatically be singled out for beatings about the head and shoulders. I know this. Intellectually. Didn’t mean that I was any less convinced that it was going to happen that night. There seemed to be a small party going on outside of the gas station, and the party died the minute we pulled up and they saw us in the car. I turn and look at Spud. He’s dressed in all black. Combat boots. He has no hair.
He looks like a skinhead.
I look back at the crowd in front of the gas station.
I look back at Spud.
“You go pay.”
“What?” he sputtered. “Me? You want me to fucking get killed?”
I turned back to him and practically snarled in his face. “Look. This trip was your idea. These directions came from your friends. This is YOUR fault. YOU get out and pay for the fucking gas.”
Realizing that this was one of the few times that Spud wasn’t going to be able to talk me into doing what he wanted me to, Spud stomped out of the car and into the store.
Of course, it turns out that other than a few dirty looks, nothing untoward happened to us at the gas station.
Which isn’t the most exciting way to end this particular little leg of the journey, but shit people? What did you want? We were supposed to fight out way out of Philadelphia, using only our wits as weapons?
Because if that was the case, we’d have been two dead fuckers.