Death in a Flying Tin Can.
I left my friends on the shores of Venice and hopped in my car, gunning it toward the Hawthorne Airport to meet Sal Shooter and the rest of the Pinnacle News documentary team. They were in town shooting a piece on a twenty-one year old female jet pilot, and at her special request, they were about to ascend into the skies with me—pseudo celebrity porn stud, Logan Pierce, as their guest of honor.
Suddenly my car broke down without any semblance of a warning, save for the flashing battery and brake lights which had just started sporadically flashing a few days earlier--something I didn't think much of at the time what with other parts of my car's computer system already in turmoil.
I drifted into the shoulder and threw on my hazards, parking along the 405 in front of the large green "Florence Ave" sign. I couldn't bear the thought of sitting in my now-lifeless hunk of steel as some drunken asshole swerved onto the shoulder, so I quickly killed the engine and trotted ten yards away. I found a small grassy knoll and sat on a tree stump surrounded by mulch, trash, weeds, and insects. My mouth was dry from the salty waters, my skin was simmering from the burning sun, and my body was hollow from the severe lack of food I hadn’t eaten. I was wearing Hurley board shorts, white flip-flops, and, in bold print, my graphic T-shirt bore the word, "Reckless.” Go figure.
Fifteen minutes later a tow truck arrived, but not the one my insurance said I should be expecting. This was a different truck, one that worked for the city and not for my insurance company, therefore, one that couldn’t do jack-shit for me. The driver came and said some of his coworkers passed and saw my car. Thinking it was abandoned because I was nowhere in sight, they called him and told him to come take a look.
“Yeah, it sounds like you got a busted alternator,” he said. “I feel bad. Wish I could help, I really do, but I’m sure your truck will probably come soon.” Then he walked off, leaving me alone with no food, no water, no money, and no hope.
I know the money wasn't exactly his doing, but still, I was broke and mad as all hell about it. What can I say? Sometimes the money would go almost as quickly as it came. And right now I was just another penniless porn star, drifting lower, so close my feet could almost touch bottom.
Soon enough my truck arrived. There were Triple-A decals strewn across the cabin doors. That should have been my first clue that something was amiss, but like most other overt foreshadowing in my life I overlooked it and regarded it as trivial.
"But, believe me, nothing is trivial."
The driver strapped up my car and we were off. En route, he got a phone call. It was his boss. Apparently, he just found out that I wasn't a Triple-A cardmember. Of course, this was something I knew all along, but I chose to keep my mouth shut and hope for the best. The result, he concluded, was that he would either have to charge me $150 for the tow, or I could call my insurance as a last ditch effort and try to figure out why they decided to call a members-only tow service.
I picked up the phone and dialed. Naturally, they couldn’t seem to do a goddamn thing for me. The only thing they could offer was the option to call another tow truck. Meanwhile the current driver's boss told him to just drop me off. So he did, leaving me in a strip-mall somewhere in Inglewood.
And there I sat in my metal coffin, stewing like a little bitch-boy, hating the world and everyone in it when a man wearing flip-flops, plaid capris, a lavender polo, and a black fedora barreled past my car and toward the communal bathrooms. Not reaching the door in time he suddenly spewed vomit, something putrid. It looked like jungle juice, treated red fluid and fruit chunks everywhere. Then he had the decency to recompose himself, spit one final loogie in the swamp, and saunter away as if nothing ever happened, leaving some poor unsuspecting employee with the dignified task of mopping it all up. Maybe bottom was further from me than I thought.
Eventually I was picked up, and as I sat in the truck's cabin I considered my options. I could have the driver take me back to my cottage in little Armenia and attempt to find a parking space big enough on the street for him to drop my car, or we could thread the truck through my shoestring driveway and then push it (in no less than five-points) into my glorified shed that served as a pathetic excuse for a garage. Of course, I could just have the driver bring me to the nearest shop and bite the bullet by unsheathing the credit card I had been desperately trying to pay off and taking care of the problem like a grown, mature adult. Decisions, decisions.
Admittedly, I knew less than dick about auto-garages so I called the nearest Pepboys. The voice on the other line informed me that a new alternator would cost an estimated $250 for both parts and labor. Ah, not so bad, I thought, all things considered. So we went straight to the garage.
There, the driver dropped my car in one of the assigned "waiting" spots with practiced precision. "Hey man, hope it works out," he said, honking his horn as he drove off.
I went inside and talked to an employee. He added my name to the list.
"How far down the list am I?" I asked.
"Well...if you want to wait around we could probably get to it tonight," he said. "But it would be toward the back end, like closing time."
"What time do you close?"
"Like nine, nine-thirty depending on how much work we got."
I looked at my phone. It was 5:30 pm. It would be ridiculous to taxi home and then taxi back later, I thought, so what choice did I have?
"Okay, I'll wait," I said, peering out the lobby window and spotting a McDonald's across the street, accepting my fate.
I left my keys with the Pepboys certified auto ambassador and meandered toward the hamburger haven where I ate a Big Mac with fries and a medium iced coffee. I wasted time scribbling in my notebook, people watching, and leafing through the current book I was reading, Portnoy's Complaint--Can't say it was a worthwhile read, but I did power through about a hundred pages that day. Not too bad. Closing time was soon on the horizon, and I bought two McDoubles and McChicken to go.
Back at Pepboys, a mechanic with stained hands told me my car wouldn’t be ready until the following afternoon--a bit of information that would've been helpful before I completely wasted what was left of my day. He also hit me with a quote different from the one I received over the phone. Now the going estimate for parts and the labor was $600. Peachy-fuckin-keen.
I taxied home, locked my door, and drew the blinds. I smoked a bowl of resin and hosted a pity party for myself. The last thing I did before falling asleep was eat my last McDouble in bed after jerking off to a crappy foreign porno where a man came on a woman's face, and oddly enough, she wasn't offended by the notion; in fact, she seemed rather smitten.
The following day I spoke to Sal on the phone. He told me their flight had been "a bit fucking turbulent.” Apparently, heavy clouds rolled in and forced the pilot to land prematurely. They attempted a second round but only lasted a few minutes in the air before descent was "absolutely fucking necessary." Sal said that for a moment he honestly thought the plane was going down.
"It was WILD, man, you should've been there."
"Yeah, I'm so sorry I missed it," I said, imagining just for a second what could've happened if I was there. Maybe my weight would’ve made all the difference. Maybe the plane would've lost altitude and plummeted. I wondered if my car breaking down on the highway was what allowed us to narrowly escape death in a flying tin can. Then I stopped because these aren't the types of things a person should think about.
But if it were true, that would be one hell of a silver lining.