9/01/99
 

The Saga of a Left-Foot Braker

I'm 55. Double Nickel. You can call me "double nickel" if you want. I won't be 55 very long so I don't give a shit what you call me.

When I was around 14, I heard an Ohio State Patrol officer mention something about left-foot braking during a guest visit at school. Of course, left-foot braking, according to him, shouldn't be applied to a gearshift and clutch vehicle unless you were really good at it; and shouldn'e be used at all until you become a seasoned driver. Four or five years he said. I couln't wait, and didn't. I wanted to be a left-foot braker.

Mom says that the first car I drove as kinda-mine was a '60 Chevy, with a 3 gear shifter on the column, and a clutch. Oh yeah, and reverse, too. How the hell did I get it in reverse? I think I pulled the gear shift toward me and pushed it up. I think.

I can't remember ever having an accident while driving that Chevy, going forward that is. I always thought going backwards was unnatural; and didn't get anywhere close to good at it until just a couple weeks ago. What a coward I have been! Feels good, though, to learn a new skill.

Why let your left foot dangle while your right foot had so much more to do and thus greater responsibility?

Right foot: accelerator, brake
Left foot: clutch, high-beams (remember that button on the floor?)

Life was simple. So was that Chevy. At that time left-foot braking just didn't fit into my life. I felt one-sided; a "right" kind of person. Almost everything on the left side of my body was underused. (Almost everything on the left side of my body is still underused. What kind of bullshit is that?)

What does all this have to do with drag queens and low-riders you ask?

She was red. All red, with skinny-white white-walls. Red seats, red carpet, red tail-lights, those '66 Chevy tail-lights.

I'm getting misty.

White top; white convertable top; white convertable top with a real glass rear window. Stand back and take in the "smart" '66 Chevy. Especially a red '66 Chevy with a white top named Alice.

K_ lost her virginity in that car (or she didn't), back seat, top down.

My thirtieth birthday was celebrated on an interstate somewhere in Arkansas. Alice didn't have cruise control in 1974 and I refuse to answer the question whether it's better with or without cruise control.

(It's better with).

Alice and I got arrested at least three times: I can only remember two and I'll tell you about one.

There was at least a foot high collection of beer cans on the floor in the back.

Me, three fraternity brothers in the back seat, and two in the front, left Athens Ohio for State College PA and some football game, drunk. The guy, I think, in the middle of the back seat, was from Pittsburgh and he wanted us to stop by to see his Mother. He told me that it was ok to go through a red light in PA if you stopped first.

So I did.

Then he said, I was supposed to turn right, not go straight.

After getting through the intersection I made a U-turn and ran the same light from the opposite direction and turned left.

He said "Follow that white car". The white car turned into an alley; I followed the white car. The white car stopped; two guys emerged with badges showing.

The cop on my side sauntered, stolled, shuffled toward me, his eyeballs glued to mine, a smile on his face (no smile on Alfred's face), and said: "When you ran the red light at such-and-such we thought we'd let you go. But when you ran it again and followed us up this alley ..."

When the cops told us all to get out of Alice, the doors opened and a virtual sea of empty beer cans spilled upon the pavement. I swear I can hear them now.

Alice was impounded and I went to jail.

But we made the game.

Alice and I coasted into gas stations, empty, non-functional a number of times ... I am amazed that Alice always ran out of gas uphill from a gas station! No shit!

Athens to Ft. Lauderdale. Twice. Athens to Texas to San Jose to Newfoundland down through Boston and New York City to Troy Ohio. Troy to Wimberly Texas in 1973.

Then I got smart. I had her cruise-controlled!

She was set on 55 from Troy to San Jose and passed 3 vehicles on the way. 1977. Great gas mileage. Everybody was passing us. We were on 55 and not gonna change.

The glass rear window had an MIT decal exactly where all college kide put their decals. For all I know that decal may still be there. The tops deteriorated and were replaced. The window remained, and thus, the decal, and my Phi Delta Theta decal too. Decals don't die.

Alice was the machine. Her plates, California "Alice 66" registered last in 1989 hang in my memory and especially in my bathroom, as I ponder to this day, her brake pedal.

She had the rubber cover on her brake pedal replaced twice. Guess where they were worn to the metal? On the left side.

Gramma loaned me the money to buy her, and I think she loved that car as much as I did.