Biff America: All’s well that ends well (column)
“What the heck were we thinking?”
That was the first thought that came to mind after revisiting an old photo of my buddy Keith and me (taken in the late ’70s) as we were leaving Colorado, to drive a borrowed car, to the Mexican border. We were two kids from south of Boston, both of us with accents like a poor Kennedy and dressed in clothing that could best be described as “cop magnets.”
Keith had long hair, wore faded overalls both patched and embroidered. I sported the Midnight Cowboy look — boots, bandana and a jean jacket, no shirt. As a concession to keeping a low profile I wore aviator sunglasses day and night.
I’m pretty sure drive-away cars are a thing of the past. Probably because people like Keith and I took advantage of the system. You used to be able to sign up with a company that transports vehicles from one place to the other. These vehicles were usually owned by folks who needed them delivered but did not want to drive them themselves. You put down a small deposit to be returned when you arrived at the required destination and you were allotted the necessary time to do just that. Using the equation that you would only drive about eight hours a day, you always had more time than you needed. So, let’s say you were driving a car from Colorado to Texas — you would need four days to do so. Theoretically.
Drive-away cars were how many of my friends and I got around the country for many years.
It all was totally legal except for the way Keith and I used to do it. For one thing, only those on the contract could be in the vehicle, driving or as a passenger. Also you had to drive the most direct route to your destination and surrender the vehicle as soon as you arrived.
Keith and I were drive-away car veterans yet never once did both of us seem to make it on the contract. The problem was that it was a lot easier for just one of us to hitchhike to Denver to pick up the car and sign the contract. Heck if we had a vehicle to get both of us to the Front Range, we would not need a drive-away car. And since both of us would be driving non-stop without sleep, we could make the trip in a third of the time and have a few days to tool around Texas in our cool outfits.
“What the heck were we thinking?”
As you might imagine, things did not go exactly as planned. I will say I have no complaints regarding the behavior of the two Texas highway patrolmen. And actually, they had a fairly good sense of humor, as did the judge who took most of my money, kept the vehicle and, after a night in jail, sent us on our way.
“Good luck getting a ride wearing those get-ups,” was what the policeman said as he opened the back door of the police cruiser to let us out on the highway the next morning as we attempted to hitchhike to Juarez.
When I look back on the multiple examples of foolish behavior in my life, it is amazing that things turned out as well as they did. I don’t think I’m alone in that. I’ll go out on a limb and say that, for most of us, the dumbest things we do in our lives is when we are young. It is a shame that when your body is tight, your skin smooth and your hair thick, your brain is as functioning as a trout’s.
I can only imagine how maddening it is to parents when they see their kids about to make the same mistakes that they made a couple decades before.
Certainly had I the perspective of an older and more experienced man, that Texas trip and many other events in my life would have gone differently. But in truth “all’s well that ends well.” Yes, I would have loved to go back and tell myself not to drive through Texas, with contraband, in a technically stolen car dressed like Easy Rider, but that advice probably would have fallen on deaf ears.
“If youth knew; if age could.” — Freud
It is not unusual for a young life to be directed and defined by poor choices. Certainly adults are not immune, but with years comes perspective, and that gives those of us with those years under our belts a leg up on cause and effect.
Personally, my own bad decisions did not begin nor end with that trip to Texas and Mexico. What doesn’t kill us (arrest us) makes us stronger. But I will say, with poor choices come adventures, great stories and bad outfits…
Jeffrey Bergeron, under the alias of Biff America, can be read in several newspapers and magazines. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Biff’s new book “Mind, Body, Soul.” is available at local shops and bookstores or Shop.HolPublications.com/products/biff-america-mind-body-soul
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