The old Chevy sat out in the middle of the horse pasture. I had let slip to a customer that I had a 1962 Impala that I was going to restore, and he immediately volunteered the information that he owned the same make and model and would be willing to sell it. I didn’t need another car and started to move on in the conversation, but he steered it right back. “No, I would sell it for parts.” I asked him if the car was complete and he replied, “Right down to the hubcaps.” I didn’t need any hubcaps, but there was one thing I knew I would have to have before the restoration was complete on my car. “Is the windshield good?” I probed. The answer came back immediately, “Perfect. Not a single crack or star.” I knew that a new windshield would cost me a hundred and fifty dollars if I installed it myself, so I made an offer.
“I’ll buy the car for a hundred dollars, on one condition.” He wasn’t impressed with my offer, but wanted to know what the condition was. “I’m going to take all the parts off that I want and leave the rest of it where it is.” It wasn’t much of a proposal and I really didn’t expect him to jump at the opportunity to be used as a salvage yard, but his wife was a few feet away, nodding her head vigorously. He accepted my offer.
A week or so later, my little girl and I made our way through the rickety gate back to where the old flivver sat; a derelict in the middle of the overgrown field, with a few wildflowers scattered around and three or four horses grazing at the back fence. The car really was in too good a condition to be cannibalized, but I was fixing up my Grandpa’s old car, not some other vehicle with an unknown history. The little girl played nearby, as I started removing trim inside the passenger compartment. I really wasn’t worried about her, but I thought I was keeping an eye peeled for trouble. Evidently it wasn’t good enough, because all of the sudden she screamed and ran for the car where I was. It seems that horses are just as curious as humans, and they weren’t sure what to make of this miniature person invading their bailiwick. They had gotten fairly close before she noticed the movement and looked up to see a giant creature towering over her. In the safety of Dad’s presence and the car’s interior, she calmed down quickly and was soon chattering on about the beautiful animals and whether she would ever be brave enough to ride one or not. I finished removing the trim from around the windshield and then decided that the last step of the removal process needed two adults, so we picked up the small parts I was taking and headed out. The horses escorted us out, so the young lady elected to be carried to the gate, a rare occurrence with that one.
In another day or two, I returned, sans daughter, but with a brother-in-law to assist. We cut the gasket around the glass and pushed gently on the upper edge of the windshield inside the car. It gave a healthy amount, so we worked together, the Lovely Lady’s brother outside with his fingertips in between the rim of the glass and the channel in which it normally laid, and me pushing a moderate amount at about the same place as he was pulling, only from the opposite side of the glass. The process was much slower and more difficult than we anticipated, and we were winded well before we had progressed a fourth of the way across the top side. We took a breather and talked it over. “Why don’t we use a little more pressure on the inside, this next go-round,” the brother-in-law suggested. I was just as eager to be done with the job as he and wondered aloud if it would hurt to use my feet. The soft rubber soles of my Converse sneakers could do no harm, surely.
Those, as my mother would say, were “famous last words”. We returned to work and he grasped the glass from the outside once more and this time I placed my size 10 1/2s on the interior side and pressed gently. Okay, maybe it wasn’t so gently. The disastrous result was an instantaneous “POP!” and just as rapidly, a crack appeared from top to bottom of the precious windshield, about ten inches over from where we had applied the pressure. The only thing I needed from that car was ruined! My razor-sharp bargaining skills had netted me nothing but a few hours work and a huge disappointment, to say nothing about the hundred dollar-sized hole in my pocket! I pried the hubcaps off the car and left.
I laughed on the way home, though. Somehow my mind seldom leaps to similar situations before I get myself into trouble, but on the road back to the shop, I recalled that fateful Sunday afternoon a few years prior, when my good friend and I were trying our hand at replacing one of the flat windshields in the old church bus. Easy-Smeazy, right? Flat piece of glass, new rubber gasket…What could go wrong? We had set the gasket and glass almost into place and were just popping the final inch or so of glass into the place where it would be perfectly flush all the way around. The large glass was reluctant to settle into place, but, hey! The rubber gasket would give some around the edges wouldn’t it? That’s what rubber does, right? We forced the glass into place the last sixteenth of an inch and the job was complete. Both my friend and I stepped back to admire our workmanship. It was whisper-quiet, but we both heard it…the tiniest “zzzzzip” reached our ears and we searched for its source. There. Right in the middle and at the bottom edge of the three-foot tall glass panel, a crack about 1/4 of an inch in length was showing. No…It was 3/8ths of an inch long now…then 5/8ths, creeping its way from the very bottom of the glass inexorably toward the top. “Drill a hole! That will stop it!” he suggested excitedly. The only problem with his solution was that we were out in the country and had no power tools at all. We jumped in his truck and tore down the dirt road, three miles cross country and three miles back with the drill, to find that the time it had taken to get the drill was just exactly the amount of time it took the crack to traverse the pane of glass. We watched in dismay as it disappeared under the lower edge of the rubber gasket across the top. When the church sold that bus ten years later, it went to its new owner with a cracked windshield on the passenger side.
Is there any lesson to be drawn from these two episodes? Not really. Oh, I guess you could work out something really deep from it, but I actually only mention them in the hopes that they are as funny to you now in the light of day, as they have been to me, squirreled away in the secret vault of my memory. While they were happening…Disaster! But we get over these mini-disasters and faux-catastrophes in time and then, looking back, see them for what they are, just good memories of spending time with friends and learning a lesson or two along the way. If I had the power of the Doctor in that quirky Brit Sci-Fi series, “Dr. Who?”, and was able to travel back in time, I wouldn’t change a thing about either event. I’m grateful for friendship and companionship along the way, sharing in my ineptitude, as well as in my accomplishments.
I read daily in the social media of friends who are having horrible days. I hope that recording them in a public forum now, doesn’t preclude these times from becoming just more amusing and educational memories years down the road. We all need the opportunity to laugh at ourselves and enjoy life, with all its bumpiness, for what it is…an adventure not to be traded for any perfect fairy-tale ever imagined.
Today is yet another chance for us to fashion more good memories on the road to our final destination. Why don’t we settle in, ignore the cracks, and enjoy the trip!
“…The most dreadful of all Bilbo’s experiences, and the one which at the time he hated most – which is to say it was the one he was most proud of, and most fond of recalling long afterwards…”
(Excerpt from “The Hobbit”~J.R.R. Tolkien~British author~1892-1973)
“Try not to have a good time…This is supposed to be educational!”
(Peanuts character Lucy Van Pelt~created by Charles M Schulz~American cartoonist~1922-2000)