Wednesday, January 12, 2011

"How I loved the Little Car Then": The Mini Chroncicles Part 3

         Continuing the story of my last day in London trying to sell my full race Paddy Hopkirk rally replica Mini Cooper before moving to California:

       Waiting for the light to change to cross the Kentish Town road, where everybody is always pissed off, carving each other up at 1 mile an hour to gain that all important extra half inch, and the little Mini, which had been idling at a screaming  75 MPH coughs tragically and dies.  By the next change of lights, encouraged by the singing of horns behind me I get it to run again on two cylinders and it ventures out into the middle of the Kentish town road, coughs and dies again in the middle of one of those yellow, cross-hatch, no-go bazooka zones.

        A lot of advice from my fellow motorists at this point.  I drag it across the intersection on the starter motor, the engine flailing around loose, the bonnet flapping up and down.  Eleven minutes to go before the poor hopeful guys from CCC show up at my house and wonder where WonderMini is.  

                 I can't parallel park it, all I can do is nose it in alongside a fruiter's market cart with its blue mini butt sticking out in traffic and its blue and white mini nose on the yellow line.  How I loved the little car then.

  I give the fruiterer twenty pounds, and I ask him to look after it for me, tell him I'll be back in an hour.  He looks doubtful.  Especially when I start running. 

     No chance of a taxi on the Kentish Town road but maybe my luck is changing because by sprinting, maybe I can just catch a  bus that is pulling out of a bus stop a block away.  I catch it at the next light, pound on the door and the driver lets me in.  The bus stops and we sit in traffic.  In a bus that is wall to wall with the sound of my gasping for air.  

               Finally the bus starts to move and it accelerates all the way up to seven maybe eight miles an hour.  Stopping at stops where there is no-one there.  Slowing way down at intersections in case the light hasn't had enough time to turn red.  

                 Alright, I tell myself, I'll be late, but they are coming up from Croydon, so they'll wait right?  Then I remember the UPS pickup for the computer I'm shipping to California is due at 3:30 and they don't do Saturday pickup and if I don't make it back by 3:30 I won't have a computer in California.  Everything, all of my books will be lost. I try to practise mind control.  There is nothing I can do.  I can't run the two miles uphill.  And I can't hitch a ride.  Brits are afraid of heavily sweating Americans over six feet tall with a crazed look.  Might as well enjoy the ride.

              Then bus stops and the driver fools around for awhile fumbling for change or something.  Then he switches the engine off AND GETS OUT OF THE BUS AND SHUTS THE DOOR.  AND HE WALKS AWAY.

              I am plastered against the back window watching him as he has a nice chat with another fellow.  I bang on the glass and they glance up but figure it's just another looney.  Lots of looneys on the bus these days.  The other chap has a story to tell. 

              He tells it.  And they laugh.  Then the other chap wanders over to the bus gets in and starts it up.  Apparently he is the other bus driver and he went to the same racing-bus school as the other bus driver.  Seven miles an hour tops.  Never missed a single red light. Any slower and we'd be going backwards. 

             Every stop takes forever. I never noticed before how  people talk among themselves, pausing for effect or trying to remember the next line as they get on an off the bus. I know now, the novel I'm halfway through on my computer is going to be lost.

               Valuable seconds slide by into minutes as a gentle lady of mild confusion looks around for a hand hold and considers her strategy for negotiating the first step.  

                It seems like hours but eventually we get to South End Green and I run the last quarter mile to my house only seventeen minutes late.  

(to be continued with final episode with a special guest appearance, tomorrow)

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