At the time I was living in a one-room apartment in a somewhat scary part of the city, in Ohio. Down the street loomed a drug den and lawmen sirens were sonorously heard often through the night. I had a most beaten-in Dodge Valiant, but it ran (usually). It got me to university- that’s what mattered. I was living the life of Ramen noodles and had a gas stipend from Dad, and I wore his old, hand-me-down brown tweedy suits that were too short. Fabulous times.
I had just wrapped up my College Major of Technical Communication (one of several majors tried on, and then this one I kept- stupendous entry job ads on Prof’s door really helped!) and had now signed up for the so very few slots for a writer internship at university. Waited, waited.
Then, a call from the school; an internship position was afoot! But it was quite a depressingly long distance away to get to the mandatory interview before the joy of school-mentored employment might be bestowed upon me; Illinois of all places! I cajoled my rather stoic Mum to part with her immaculate white Buick Century sedan for the trip. How I was granted this favor I have no inkling. The Dodge heap was left to itself in Ohio.
Off I went across multiple states. It was so nice to have a smooth, suave car to traverse the miles of highway. But, time was short. Wee hour cruising was now a strict requirement to arrive in time to pull off this life-changing event.
I was an avid video gamer and darkened many an arcade in those times past. Pac-Man and the newly released MS-Pac-Man were the big stars around town. I was good at them both.
I was finding myself really dopey and drowsy as the miles clocked by heading West. I drifted into a rest stop, and lo and behold, Pac-Man was sitting jauntily inside, itching for my quarter. I felt so refreshed after playing and zoomed back to the interstate.
I kept this up for each rest stop to move the trip along through the night. About 3am I shimmied into another rest stop. I noticed a Handicapped Space sign, so parked to the left of the sign. In I went to the next MS Pac-Man in this sordid ritual of all-nighter driving.
As I ate the yellow dots and cavorted with the deadly multi-hued ghosties, or chomped them when they put on their blue uniforms, I gradually became aware of a presence that was not game-related. A shadow formed on the screen. For an instant, I thought it someone eager to play after I was done. I was annoyed, thinking who would be waiting to play at this hideous hour?
Presently, a raucous, loud, obnoxious voice trumpeted from above: “Are you crippled??” This was quite an odd request from a fellow gamer! I remained engrossed, ignoring this bizarre conversation. “ARE YOU CRIPPLED???” boomed the Voice.
I turned slightly and beheld a hulk with a midnight outfit, shiny badge and wide brimmed hat. A familiar curse resounded in my head and I cringed. “Are you crippled?” he huffed, as he had my attention. “No, you can see I am playing this game,” I stupidly said. I had no idea what this Bozo in the broad hat was driving at.
“Stop playing and come with me!” he rumbled. It was Game Over.
We traipsed out to my car. “Do you know what you have done?” he proclaimed. “No,” I dully mumbled. “You have no clue?!” accompanied with raised and knotted brow. His eyes looked black and oily in the gloom outside.
“Crawl under your car!” he commanded. With whirling head, I wondered What on Earth is this guy up to?? I shrank back. “I said, crawl under your car!!” he roared, pointing to the shadowy darkness beneath the Buick.
After a confused hesitation, I crept under the vehicle. “And what do you see?” came the caustic Voice drifting down from above.
After some time lying under there, I noticed a very faint outline of the classic wheelchair symbol nearly all worn off. In a thin tinplated voice, I squeaked “A wheelchair symbol.”
“YEEES!!” he said in a belittling drawl. “You are in a handicapped zone!” a brief pause, “Get your car moved now!”
I moved the car. It was queer, but only one of two slots that had the symbol had a Handicapped Sign in front of it. In my wild haste to fly to the next rest stop and imbibe the glories of Pac-Man, I sensed not the faint symbol triggering of such obnoxious antics as I stopped, skipped and rushed into the place to inhale the bluish glow of yet another game. My most expensive video game ever!
After that, I got out and a ticket was waiting for me. I held it, standing dazed, blinking in the dark and then he was no more. I briefly thought insanely of returning to MS Pac-Man, but cooler thoughts swiftly prevailed and I scooted back onto the road.
No more rest stops-I had had quite enough; soon ensconced in a cheap motel for a few moments of shut-eye, and then did a smashing interview-that got me the internship, launched my technical writing career that has stood as my vocation to the land of the present. It is possible if the officer had not intervened, I would have stayed up all night and bombed the very crucial interview and derailed my life.
May all have a Happy New Year and stop by often to share in my most ludicrous and my serious muses of Life.