grow up already

i would like to tell a story
July 26, 2007, 9:07 am
Filed under: tmi

Cause I just realized that I like telling stories. Ok, let’s see…story, story…ah! Got one. The time me and Diana borrowed someone’s car for the weekend and drove it to Los Angeles without telling them and then the car blew up.

Aundrea’s aunt had a Pontiac Firebird convertible she was trying to unload. Diana, the not-proud owner of a Dodge Neon, was thinking it was time for an upgrade maybe. So since Aundrea’s Aunt Valerie had known us for years, she offered up an extended weekend test drive. That Friday morning I woke up to Diana on the phone asking me if I wanted to go to Los Angeles. In a convertible. Why yes, yes I do.

So we packed up some shit (including a gray sweater and a giant bottle of diet pills- don’t ask me what the fuck I was doing with a bottle of diet pills) and hit the open road. Totally Thelma and Louise style right? Well sort of. On the way there I mentioned how cool it was that Valerie would let Di take the car all the way to LA. Diana said something along the lines of, “Um, she doesn’t exactly know about this but she said I could have it for the weekend.” Case closed.

By the way, can I just say that after the experience of being in a convertible for five hours, I will never own one. By the time we got to LA I felt like I hadn’t showered for seven days and my hair was on the corporate fast track to management- if by management you mean being dreads.

So we got to LA unharmed but quite dirty. I had noticed the car was sort of off while driving it aimlessly around Hollywood. You’d press on the gas and it’d sorta rev up before actually moving forward. Diana had noticed this too. Perhaps the car was a dud? We got a pizza, ate half, threw the rest in the backseat for later and decided to check out Beverly Hills. We drove past the Chateau Marmont and turned right on the first hilly street we saw. Mira Loma Boulevard or some shit. Mira Loma Drive…something. Alta Loma? Oh man don’t you hate it when that happens? Alta Loma Drive?

Anyway, we had the top down and just were starting to approach pay dirt: the omigod-do-you-think-a-celebrity-lives-there houses. Then a noise slowly came to our attention and silenced us, like how a ringing cell phone will slowly wake you up. For a few seconds there was only the sound of the engine, growing louder as the car got slower.

Then came a smell, which was the unmistakable smell of an engine overheating. To the uninitiated (us), it just smelled like “oh shit car bad smell.” We looked at each other and I said “Pull over! Pull over!” and we did, right under a low hanging eucalyptus tree, which was planted in the side yard of a multi-million dollar Better Homes & Gardens showstopper (although eucalyptus is soooo Oakland Hills fire). The engine got incredibly loud for a second and the tachometer was vibrating somewhere way past redline. I opened the door to get out and saw flames. Honest to god motherfucking flames. I yanked my feet back inside, shut the door, faced straight ahead, and didn’t say a word while that processed. Then,


We both used our convertible disaster survival instincts and jumped out Dukes of Hazzard style and ran across the street. Yeah it was definitely on fire. The entire bottom half of the engine compartment.

And it was still running. Amidst our screams, cuss words and hyperventilating, we determined that was probably not good, to have the engine running while it was on fire. Alright I don’t like to tell the next part normally but I will this time: Diana was brave and started to head towards the burning car to turn the ignition off. For a split second I watched. And then I ran to catch up, to be right there. No way was I going to sit there and like, live if something happened to Di. Now it’s kind of silly because it wasn’t a burning building, just a car. But both of us were convinced it would blow up any second. That’s the only time in my life I remember doing a thing like that.

The car was turned off. I believe a purse and a cell phone were also grabbed, because next thing I remember is trying to call 911. Nobody had really driven by yet, but a guy (someone’s gardener most likely) stopped and offered up his cell phone. What happened next is pretty fucking LA: me, Diana and dude standing in a circle, burning car behind us, all dialing our cell phones and saying things like, “Do you get service? I usually get service here…no, hold on…got a bar…think I’m getting through now.”

The fire was growing ever larger. I humbly withdrew my Nokia 5190 from the service contest and instead collapsed onto the sidewalk hyperventilating. The flames were several feet high, nearly touching that low-hanging eucalyptus planted on the side of a mansion. Little flaming balls of something were dripping onto the ground. Either Diana or the guy finally got through to 911 and he left.

Now I noticed people driving by and not stopping. Except two. The first was a well-heeled couple in a Mercedes SUV, who paused only long enough for the plastic surgery nightmare of a wife to roll down her window and say in a Russian (or maybe Transylvanian) accent, “Don’t go near it. It could explode at any time.” And roll up her window and drive off. Uh, do we look like we want to go near the car? I’m on the sidewalk having a panic attack and Di is sort of hopping around, alternating between swearing at the car and telling me to breathe, damnit. The next person to stop was some weird dude in a Toyota truck (you like how amidst all this I can recall exactly what kind of cars they were driving?) He ignored me and Diana and instead focused on the cheap thrill that is a burning vehicle. Like stopped right next to it and hung out the window as if he were ordering a big ‘ol burger with extra pickles in the drive-thru. Like this was a reeeeal good time. Right then, I kid you not, something inside the engine exploded and flames shot out from it sideways, licking the side of his truck. Karma? Carma? Or did the freakshow get a little too real for you, sir? Either way- my deepest apologies.

That was when we heard the sirens in the distance. If you’ve ever been in an emergency situation, the moment you hear sirens is the moment you start to calm down, just a little.

The Beverly Hills Fire Department put out our car. Much of what was in the backseat was salvageable, including the camera. They gallantly posed for pictures, which we still have.

Di joked that she would not in fact be purchasing this vehicle. I joked about not ordering a barbecued pizza. Someone joked about the name of the car- a Firebird. They called us a cab and a tow truck. The cabbie took us to Beverly Hills proper. You know- the flats. I learned that in Hollywood Wives. The Firebird went to a car graveyard and we were deposited at the nearest four fucking star hotel.

Remember how we dressed for a road trip and drove for five hours through Central California in a convertible with the top down? And then endured a roadside vehicular emergency? That’s how we looked when we walked up to the front desk. We looked like the most cluelessly haggard yet vaguely not-dykeish lesbians you’ve ever seen. Diana politely requested “whatever the cheapest room you have is.” Concerned about cost (I had had just quit my job with like, $130 to my name), I immediately added, “One bed.” $275 and lots of haggling over how much went on whose card later, we were lounging in the king sized bed of the most luxurious hotel room I’ve ever had the pleasure of paying for.

I never saw the diet pills or the gray sweater again. I still think about the sweater sometimes. Which is stupid as hell but I think, “Why did I bring that gray sweater to LA? Would I still have it if it hadn’t been in the Firebird? Yeah, I totally think I would….ok, I probably wouldn’t. Probably would’ve lost it by now. You lose everything! You’d lose your own head if it wasn’t attached. Oh god not funny.”

If you were wondering about Valerie and if she was mad about us almost-stealing her car and accidentally blowing it up, you can stop now because I’ll enlighten you: she was.


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