Borrowing a Car

Stealing, and getting people out of jail.

It reminded me of another person I used to know, a salesman at a company where I'd worked, who told two of the funniest stories I've ever heard. In the first, he was the victim of standard fraternity hazing - he and some friends had been thrown in various car trunks and dropped together, in their pajamas, in the middle of some town they didn't know, miles from the fraternity house.

“So, you know,” he said, “it was really quiet, Sunday morning, so I hotwired a car.”

I stared at him. He went on, “And we got arrested in about three minutes. Someone saw the whole thing.”

After a few hours in jail, he had to go before the judge in his pajamas, his unpledged brothers sitting behind him in the courtroom.

“This is the single most stupid thing I have ever seen in my 18 years of adjudication. You are the single most stupid man I have ever sentenced,” said the judge. “You are wearing pajamas in my courtroom.”

“Yes, your honor, I truly am a moron,” said my friend, and he meant it. They got off with a fine, and their fraternity brothers picked them up cheering, beers already open.

He and I shared a connection with southeastern Pennsylvania - he had lived in Philadelphia - and he told me another story, which took place near Bryn Mawr a few years after he'd been married, when he was 28 or so. One night, he went to a party and had too much to drink, and became ravenous. He was a big man, broad, about 6'1", a former college football player. So he ran two miles to the Wawa (a convenience store named after an Indian word for goose) as fast as he could. He arrived drenched in sweat, all the way through his suit jacket. “Even my tie was sweaty,” he said. It was late, around midnight, and the sandwich counter was closed, and a sole pimply teenager stood at the register.

“Give me a turkey sandwich,” said my friend.

“The deli is closed,” said the cashier.

They argued about this, until my friend sensed that he could not persuade the clerk to re-open the deli using diplomatic means - and thus he wasn't going to get his sandwich. So he picked up the cashier, lifted him up over the refrigerated-glass counter, and dropped him on the other side. Then he ran around behind the counter and said:

“We are going to make a fucking sandwich.” He proceeded to muscle the kid into pulling out a hero roll, pepper turkey, mustard, and so forth, turned on the slicer, and began to cut turkey himself with one arm still around the kid's neck. 5 cops walked in. My friend ducked behind the counter, and let go of the kid, who ran out into the store yelling, “you son of a bitch!”

“What the hell is this?” asked one of the cops, who'd entered expecting to buy coffee and Tasty-Klair pies. My friend stood up slowly behind the counter and sighed. The clerk explained what had happened, pointing to my friend, whose shoulders and damp head rose from behind the stainless steel container of meats, framed by clip-racks of Herr's potato chips.

“This true?” asked a cop.

“I was really hungry,” said my friend.

“So I had to call my wife,” he told me, miming a phone call. “How's the party? Yeah, well, I'll tell you where I am in a moment. Well, I'm not far away. Yeah. Well, you need to go get the checkbook -”

She began screaming. “The cops are laughing so hard at me, I'm there in my sweaty suit, I'm six foot one getting bawled out so loud by my wife that it can be heard all around the station coming out of the phone. One of the cops had tears running down his face from laughing. He could barely put the handcuffs back on me after the phone call.”




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About the author: I've been running this website from 1997. For a living I write stories and essays, program computers, edit things, and help people launch online publications. (LinkedIn). I wrote a novel. I was an editor at Harper's Magazine for five years; then I was a Contributing Editor; now I am a free agent. I was also on NPR's All Things Considered for a while. I still write for The Morning News, and some other places.

If you have any questions for me, I am very accessible by email. You can email me at ford@ftrain.com and ask me things and I will try to answer. Especially if you want to clarify something or write something critical. I am glad to clarify things so that you can disagree more effectively.


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© 1974-2011 Paul Ford


@20, by Paul Ford. Not any kind of eulogy, thanks. And no header image, either. (October 15)

Recent Offsite Work: Code and Prose. As a hobby I write. (January 14)

Rotary Dial. (August 21)

10 Timeframes. (June 20)

Facebook and Instagram: When Your Favorite App Sells Out. (April 10)

Why I Am Leaving the People of the Red Valley. (April 7)

Welcome to the Company. (September 21)

“Facebook and the Epiphanator: An End to Endings?”. Forgot to tell you about this. (July 20)

“The Age of Mechanical Reproduction”. An essay for TheMorningNews.org. (July 11)

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