Being old enough to remember such things, there used to be something called a “Sunday drive.”
Providing my dad was somewhat sober and not doing his part to solidify the USSR economy by swilling cheap vodka, we didn’t know where we were going.
It honestly didn’t matter. My brothers and I looked forward to the action.
Sharp turns felt like we were at an amusement park, flying around like Tilt-A-Whirl riders. A sudden pounding on the brakes meant hurtling forward, using the front seat to brace ourselves,
Acceleration made the ride start over as we were slammed against the old Plymouth’s backseat.
We had no idea how close we had come to carnage, a whiplash and an ambulance ride.
Those of you old enough to experience that childhood memory, are not asking: “What about seatbelts?” There were no seatbelts. Years later, in cars that had them, the belts were optional, or better yet, a nuisance.
Gas was 25 cents and stations begged for your business in the form of free towels, laundry soap or drinking glasses.
Inevitably, there’d be stomachs growling so loud, it sounded like a rabid and ravished German Shepherd was in the back seat. While Mom and Dad fought over where we could eat, Pops shopped like crazy, trying to find a cheap place that served beer.
Finally, we found the Hobby Nobby. No, we weren’t fed felt and pushpins. This was a great place with hamburgers you could smell frying up from 10 blocks away. The fries were perfect. Milkshakes served in those big tin tumblers.
If dear sweet Dad tore ‘em up at the track, we could order carte blanche. It was easy to tell if things hadn’t gone too well. We split a burger three ways and drank water.
Mom didn’t eat. Neither did Dad. He was too busy focusing on the door. He never knew if his “accountant” would pick this Sunday to collect.
Before we entered, there was a stern warning about the consequences of bad behavior.
“You maniacs see that cop over there? Dad asked. The LA policeman apparently preferred cheeseburgers over donuts.
Looking straight at me he threatened: “That means no ketchup in the hair, salt in someone’s eyes, or spit wads, I’ll have that cop take all of you to jail.”
I thought to myself: “That’s not going to happen. I’d find Perry Mason and be home before bedtime.”
Dad saw the wheels in my head hatching a plot. He was way ahead of me.
“And don’t even think of hiring a guy like Perry Mason. Lawyers cost money and you can’t afford to pay attention.”
I figured it wasn’t a smart time to inquire how my piggy bank seemed to be getting lighter every time he read The Racing Form. So I went to plan B.
“I gotta go to the bathroom,” I announced, noticing LA’s finest was between me and the facilities.
After finishing my business, I sauntered over to the policeman and asked him how he liked his double cheeseburger, fries and milkshake? As expected, he was sated.
Within earshot of my parents, I asked if he arrested people who were mean to their kids. After saying yes, the cop asked: “Why?”
I told him my dad over there gets drunk and chases Mom and me around the house.
My dad heard the exchange and made a smart decision. He didn’t make a run for it. They went outside while I wondered if the burly officer was going to smack Pops with his nightstick. When both were inside, the cop gave Mom a card with instructions to call if there were any more tiffs at home.
Not sure of what was going to happen in the car as we drove home, I glanced out the window and asked: “Isn’t that the policeman who talked to you, Dad?”
Each time, this resulted in furious glances in the mirror. The ruse was all the better when a black-and-white drove next to us on the highway. I waved and said “Look, Dad!”
When we got home, I took refuge at a friend’s house. I’m pretty sure that was the end of our Sunday drives.
Mike Tasos’ column is published every other Sunday. Some columns are funny, some are sad. And some help provide answers why he thinks most drunk people are hilarious. Remember to thank a veteran tomorrow. Comments can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org. He is also on Facebook.