“Excuse my language,” said Danny the Subaru mechanic, “but sometimes you need to drive the shit out of this car. Cause you’re not really a driver, are you?”
I felt hurt. I drive! I drive a lot. I love driving!
“Just take it out and really put the pedal down – don’t, y’know, endanger yourself or anybody – and don’t tell the police I told you but – in a straightaway, just get it up there fast and really blow it out…”
I’m not a driver…I’m not a driver? I WANT to be a driver. I don’t want my car sputtering and gapping because I don’t have what it takes to be a DRIVER.
When I paid the bill, Danny’s wife Amy (our conversations are usually along the lines of “Hi Amy, it’s Amy. “ “What can I do for you Amy?”) said sweetly, “Just drive the shit out of it once a week.”
So I did. The first time I felt sheepish and found myself looking over my shoulder. I thought ‘this is a job for my husband.’ He’s always putting the pedal down and has the speeding tickets to prove it. I’m kind of cautious. Sure I’ll drive seventy-five on the highway, when everybody else is, but I don’t want to get in trouble. Not that I can’t be rash. But I felt like I was trying on a new personality the first time I shot up a road not too far from our house.
It felt good. And the car started driving better. I was telling it what to do. I started looking forward to the straightaways.
* * *
“I want to pick up my product,” the man said when I asked if I could help him. He stood by the register of the bookstore/bar towards the end of a quiet Wednesday shift.
“Your product? What kind of product – something you ordered?”
“My product,” he said, already sounding exasperated. I was worried he sought something requiring discretion – hair color, an aid for erectile dysfunction, lacy panties (not that we carry any of those things) so I aimed for discretion in return.
“Kelley the owner knows I was coming in for it,” he said. “It’s a product to sell in the store that you don’t want to carry. I’m picking it up.” He started moving around to the side of the register, craning his neck to look at the shelves.
“If you could tell me what I’m looking for- “
“A product – it could be in a bag, or envelope. It’s a product I made.” He was starting to get on my nerves. We sell books. And toys. And beer and cider. Art supplies Herbal remedies. Was it animal, liquid, vegetable or mineral?
“How big is it?” I didn’t think it was rude of me to ask. “Is it hard, or soft; round or flat? It would really help if I knew what I was looking for.” I told him I’d text the owner and see where his product was.
“You do that,” he said. As I was texting, he asked if she’d responded yet.
“I’m tired of this,” he said. “You people!” He started coming around the register – “I think I see it there, I want to get it.”
“You can’t come back here, I’m sorry, just tell me what you’re looking for!” He kept coming, moving behind the bar. “You have to stop!” I cried. “I’m patient with everybody, but you’re really trying my patience, now tell me what it is you want from back there and I will get it for you.”
“You’re an asshole!” he said.
Now I’ve been called some things (not a lot of things, but a few): a slut, a tramp, a bad mother and a dilettante. But I’ve never been called an asshole. I don’t know how to be an asshole. Except for writing songs and some impulsive decisions, I’ve lived like I drive. I wish I’d learned to get angry. Sometimes assholery is required.
It’s never too late to learn.
“NO – YOU’RE THE ASSHOLE,” I said. “I’ve been trying to help you, but you won’t tell me what you’re here for. You can’t come behind the counter. Now get away,” I said, as the bar patrons suddenly started looking on, interested. Blake my co-worker stopped his conversation and came over to see what the fuss was. He handed the man a stack of colored squares like post-it notes. I heard a woman saying he’d brought them into the restaurant where she tends bar too. $40 fridge magnets.
“This place is awful!” the man was shouting now. “It’s the worst. You’re awful. You’re all awful.”
“We’re all awful?”
“Yes, you’re terrible! You’re the worst!” He was grasping his product now and backing out of the store, shouting all the while. I remembered him coming in for art supplies on many occasions, how I went out of my way to be friendly to the jerk and never even got a polite nod out of him.
“You’re an asshole!” he had to say it again.
“NO, YOU’RE THE ASSHOLE.” So I had to say it again.
“I love you, Amy,” one of the regulars said as he pushed out the door hopefully never to return.
“Amy’s nice to everyone,” another customer said.
Somebody else came up to give me a hug.
At least I hadn’t started to cry. That’s the hardest thing – when instead of being mad, instead of righteous, productive anger, the tears come. Like the sputtering of a Subaru.
I clocked out and got in my car. I’d planned to stop off for some cheese and wine to bring home. But I needed to drive.
New album The Old Guys comes out February 23.