NOT Gone With The Wind

I stopped at the grocery store this morning for some low-fat milk, mayonnaise, cranberry juice, and. . .well, it's not really critical to this story that you know all of those details. So I purchase my nameless groceries, and I go out to my car in the parking lot. This guy pulls in next to me with his somewhat older, somewhat rustier maroon Pontiac Grand Am. There are untold billions of old rusty Pontiac Grand Ams here in the Rust Belt. The guy gets out and goes into the store. He's sort of a generic late-20s or early-30s unshaven white male with baseball cap sort of Rust Belt guy. His name is probably Jeff or Al or Randy or something. So on the right side of Jeff's older rusty Grand Am is a spray pattern of dried puke that runs from the rear edge of the now-closed passenger window all the way back across the right rear door, the fuel door, and the right rear fender. Probably from a party last night. Ah, I remember those days. The dried spray is sort of yellow and sort of greenish and brown. Very possibly that fatal mix of Taco Bell "Fourth Meal" late night drive-thru food and one of the standard varieties of Budweiser or Miller. The spray can take on a reddish hue if you mix in tequila and a knife wound. But this was just your routine beer-and-fast-food chunk-hurling stuff. Been there, done that. I've been the frantic driver. I've been the helpless puker. You can't quite pull over before the action begins. You somehow hope that the window blowing on your drunken friend will make him or her (your barely conscious date or your stoned little sister) feel better and maybe settle their stomach. But it never works. You're driving, but you're drunk too, of course, and it all just makes sense. You hope your passenger's stomach contents will simply be gone with the wind, but it never quite works out that way. And, of course, it's worse if it's a white car or your dad's car or a convertible. It's also bad if you've borrowed somebody's car, done this awful thing to the whole right side of it, and then returned the car without really noticing the incriminating color change you've made. But Jeff and his rusty maroon Grand Am have probably been through this baptism a dozen times by now. Which may explain some of the rust. And I got into my un-puked-on grandpa car and thought of that dream date where you're doing 85 down Pacific Coast Highway at four in the morning while a barely dressed Scarlett O'Hara, her hair an insane tangle, her shoes in the back seat, leans out her side of your milk white Packard convertible and lets go with all the rum punch and Polynesian appetizers you bought her at Don The Beachcomber's. And you, filled with desire and tequila, think it's fine. Just fine. Life is good. As Ernest Gantt, the real Don the Beachcomber used to say, "If you can't come to Paradise, I'll bring Paradise to you." Things never quite work out that way here in the Rust Belt, but it's the thought that counts.

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