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Blow Me Home

by Jack Getz about a month ago in Identity
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The misadventures of a broke college boy

Blow Me Home
Photo by Gleb Albovsky on Unsplash

In 1965, at the exciting age of eighteen, I enrolled as a legitimate college student. My Great Depression era parents were almost giddy with the thought that their youngest, C average high school graduate, was accepted, even if it was a junior college where everyone is welcome.

Unfortunately, my motivation to please them was tempered by the fact that my generation of young men were the prime targets of the government's increasing need for soldiers to fight in their operations in Southeast Asia. As ignoble as it sounds today, most young men my age did not fancy being shipped overseas to die before enjoying the delightful advantages of manhood and education was one way to stay safe.

No one wanted to see the communists overrun smaller countries, but that's what they did then, with impunity. But watching the death tolls mounting on the nightly news had a chilling effect on cowards like me. College as my answer, but others suddenly thought marriage was a good idea, and nurturing a semi-debilitating physical condition, like flat feet or a hernia, sure beat boot camp. Many contentiousness objectors felt strong enough to migrate, overnight, to Canada, and I swear that one clever friend practiced to fail the induction hearing test, which he amazingly did.

Initially I chose the student deferment route coming perilously close to losing my exemption my first semester. Adjusting to my new found almost adult freedoms, I repeated my typical high school-like grades, mostly C's and maybe a strong D or two. Upon opening my first grade report I was stunned to see a red word stamped across it: PROBATION. Being a smart guy, the next time I beefed up my swimming and music classes, where I had earned my only two A's to date, with geography and a fun class in Classical Mythology. But three hours of A did little to fool the omniscient Kansas City draft board. I needed fifteen credits with a minimum 2.5 point average to keep my academic exemption.

Despite all the pressure if that era, the best part of college for me had less to do with intellectual enlightenment, but almost everything to do with my social awareness through my new community. Admittedly, even gaining even C level perspectives in my humanities classes was exciting, but testing my biology and algebra wings was about as unsuccessful as Leonardo Di Vinci's poor lab assistant repeatedly jumping off cliffs using ol' Lenny's home-made canvas flappers.

My community college experience included such opportunities of taking a photo with the newly elected Miss Pumpkin, playing ping pong with the boys and learning the card game Hearts between classes. Uncharacteristically, I made one soirée to a local bar where I drank my soda while my brassy older teammates tipped their icy brews.

Junior College was a place to discover and develop my academic and social wings. Truthfully, at first I only excelled in group singing and doing trick dives in the pool. An added accomplishment that did not impress the draft board was obtaining my Water Safety Instructor certification, which landed me a dream summer lifeguard position in beautiful Wisconsin. It was there I meet Donna, a delightful dark-eyed farm girl from Missouri, who will appear presently.

It was in this close community where quickly maturing young people, with some help from their sagely instructors, transitioned from mostly irresponsible teenagers into slightly more confident young adults, something often wasted on our parents. Few, if any of us, were out to change the world. My goals were simple, keep trucking along and somehow protect my highly coveted 1A student exemption from Esther Lockwood, president of the local draft board.

As good as it had been to live the good life at home, after three years and twenty odd completed credits, it was time to venture out and expand my horizons. I wanted to take my shot at an actual college, with dorm mates, tougher classes, more students, and best of all, no parents. This bold step for an often insecure guy was only possible because my buddy Vern from Nebraska had a plan to escape his folks too. As highly hormonal twenty year olds, we chose Northeast Missouri State Teachers College in Kirksville because that's where the aforementioned Donna, my recent summer love, attended. While it seemed out of the limelight, we figured it was as good a place as any to avoid military conscription.

After settling into our new dorm room, full of every positive expectation, my lovely Donna quickly took me aside to talk. I could not wait to see her love filled eyes again, but that's not what happened. She looked at me with a quite serious face not unlike a surgeon delivering bad news to a family. "Jack, I hope you didn't come here for me because I have a boyfriend." Then came the most painful words a woman can speak to a heartsick man: "But we can still be friends." "Well, fat chance of that." I mumbled.

But not wanting to be a victim, I immediately started scouting out the means to restore my wounded mojo. NMSTC was good-sized college watering hole, most assuredly serving many other beautiful girls. Right? I knew I was right because I was already smitten by one completely out-of-my-league beauty who I clandestinely ogled in world history class. This girl was made more desirable because she was a varsity cheerleader, the kind that only starting quarterbacks would dare approach. During the football season she wore her comely uniform, complete with hair bows and black and white saddle oxford shoes. On those days especially, she was off the charts cool. (Actually she wasn't cool at all. She was sizzling hot and she knew it.)

One morning while walking to the dorm after class my eye was drawn to a group of students craning their necks to read the popular campus community note-board. It was where the home-sick, losers or lonely hearts gang hoped to catch the latest news about promising school-related activities. Being tall I was able to see over the others, I spotted a tasteful notecard, not a scrap of notebook paper, written by a coed's dainty hand reading, "Looking for a ride to St. Louis this weekend. Will pay half." Well that being my home as well, but I had no desire to see my parents so soon after escaping them, this might be something to check out. I grabbed it to keep anyone else from horning in on my big hopes. Maybe this was the key that re-opened love's door, so recently slammed in my face.

I took the note back to the pay phone near our residence. Swallowing my fear and taking a deep breath to bolster my remedial courage, I called the unknown number to see what possibilities it held, if any. “Hi! This is Jack and I saw on the note board that you wanted to share a ride home this weekend.” We chatted pleasantly for a minute and planned a meeting in my dorm parking lot where my car waited in the shade.

The time arrived and I am certain we were both wondering what we had arranged. To my amazement, standing before me was the young beauty from my history class and my heart pounded to the beat of Carole King singing, "I feel, the earth move under my feet. I feel the sky tumbling down." Recalling her asking me on the phone if I would be willing to share a ride seemed preposterous. Willing? Really? I would willingly drive to New Jersey if it meant being alone with Susan for hours in my cool little MG Midget.

"Are you Jack?" asked the beautiful, tan, brunette varsity cheerleader. Struggling with a suddenly dry mouth, I said “yes”, as I recall. What had been a normal day on campus blossomed - no, it exploded - into an instant possibility-charged fantasy, a number one bucket list dream of unparalleled opportunity that was suddenly within reach. At this moment, seeing her right there smiling at me, I couldn't get my gum wet. I immediately realized I was completely out of my league, but I figured I might have a chance with her because of my cute convertible. That when added to my gentility - which was actually borderline comatose shock - my exceptionally good looks, humility and a strong A in history class, I was not simply alive, I was instantly transported into the stratosphere!

This was a door of unthinkable opportunity I could never fantasize opening on my own. Everything needed be perfect for just three hours. Then there would be a return trip Sunday afternoon. Despite my skyrocketing blood pressure I maintained a relatively cool demeanor, secretly spitting my dry gum out, then turning on my charm by taking her small suitcase, placing it behind the black leather-looking passenger seat and gallantly inviting her to join me inside. "Nice car!" she said, and with that, my recently damaged self-image quickened, leading me to believe she could easily learn to love me...not just to like me...to love me.

In this golden moment, eyes dazed by the searing light of this apparently divinely scripted moment, I forgot about the possibility that my ongoing dance with youthful irresponsibility would trip me up. And, as if written by the devil, that dangerous two-step with fate would soon become a hellish nightmare.

The delightful drive with this angel started out great, and I thought my attempts at wooing her were going well enough, despite the fact that easy conversation was drowned out by the decibels of my four cylinder engine eating up the miles. I depended on my newly washed and vacuumed sexy sports car to do most of the heavy lifting for me. Of course I was entertaining and insightful regarding world history, and she smiled occasionally, beautiful, classy and perfectly in control of herself, and me.

But lest you think we lived happily ever after, after two hours of bliss, my fairy tale journey ended when my failure to be a responsible car owner struck with a vengeance. The faulty fuel pump on my dream-mobile chose this time and place to quit pumping gasoline into the carburetor, and predictably, we coasted to an inglorious stop on the side of the road, far from help.

From several past experiences, I knew how to solve the problem, but with previous breakdowns I was always with a buddy, not a beauty. The only fix, other than having asked my dad to pay for a new one, was shimmying under the driver's side of the car, where the faulty pump was inconveniently located, disconnecting the rubber hose from the intake side and bleeding the air bubbles out by while someone simultaneously blew into the gas nozzle opening above. Simple enough, right?

Once a few months earlier, while traveling with my friend Jim, the car sputtered, but fortunately we were able to coast and easily push the small car to a 24 hour truck stop garage. Once there, I pathetically begged a three foot piece of discarded garden hose and some all-purpose duct tape from a very gracious, greasy, mechanic. Inserting the hose into the tank, then making it air-tight with the tape, we snaked it under the canvas top into the luggage space behind the driver’s seat. Amazingly our Rube Goldberg solution to a faulty pump worked, and because Jim refused to be the blower, I jammed my lithe 6'2" frame in the three foot cavity behind the seats, positioned my mouth over the end of the hose and literally blew the car home.

Being who I was at the time, I foolishly failed to keep the repair equipment for future use. So, my dance with fate ended disastrously on Interstate 70 with the hottest girl in Missouri watching me squirming in the heat of the day. Trying to rescue the moment, my pragmatism kicked in, and with faux confidence, I told the princess the prognosis. "This is a real bummer." I mumbled. "But don't worry, it's an easy fix." knowing it was a lie. It was easy enough for two grody guys, but not for a queen and her jester driver. Remember, there were no cell phones then, so my future with lovely Susan depended on my ability to get her to play her disgusting part above while I foolishly slithered like a snake in the dirt under the ailing car.

Trying to avoid the inevitable I considered my pathetic options. I could gallantly leave her alone in the scorching Missouri sun while I hoofed it somewhere to find someone else to provide the necessary air power. Another idea was asking if she fancied a romantic stroll together toward some unknown destination up the Interstate. I aborted those ideas by looking at her standing there generating steam. For three seconds I wondered if she would consider using her very sexy cheerleader thumb to catch us a ride with a stranger? So, the only viable solution was plan A where she and I would work together and fix it. Maybe she would see it as a team building exercise?

Without any other option, and understanding that she could never figure out the under-car part, I asked her (wait for it) to place her goddess-like mouth on the MG Midget gas tank opening and blow hard while I bled the line below. Try and imagine the look she gave me at that moment, just before assuming her humiliating kneeling position in front of the open gas pipe. Her frigid stare lingers in my mind fifty years later, but with no better option, she begrudgingly knelt, and on my signal, started blowing.

Fortunately, everything worked exactly as I predicted, the car fired up and we completed an extremely tense, silent journey toward Clayton. Despite the breakdown, I hoped she liked me enough to embrace the old adage, "All's well that ends well." I held out a sliver of hope that with a weekend to think things over, she would see the humor in all the highway hijinx, and actually be enamored with my resourcefulness.

But, incredibly, none of that happened. Arriving at the first exit near her home, she broke her silence, demanding I drop her off at the next gas station and leave, immediately, without another word. I sheepishly obeyed, figuring a return trip to Kirksville would not be in the cards, even if I packed a hose and duct tape. I am certain she called her completely rational father to rescue her from the crazy history class guy.

Unable to show my face at school again, Ol’ Vern and I optimistically transferred to the University of Nebraska, his home in Lincoln, despite his parents being there. But unbelievably, ill fate struck me when my first night there he took me aside, "Jack, you need to know I joined the Marines this week." Once again, when called upon to be resourceful, I dutifully stayed behind to protect his pretty blonde girlfriend.

Fast forward a few months after my graduation from UNL, I still had no money to fix the faulty fuel pump. But amazingly it never got another chance to act up. My chick bait car had other plans to destroy my love life. Unthinkably, on another fateful road trip with a beautiful brunette who I hoped to marry, my little dream-mobile struck again. This time it was not the usual mechanical malady. It was far worse.

While I napped, Lisa was trucking along behind the wheel when a poorly tightened oil plug wiggled loose dropping somewhere on the highway. True story. She was not used to watching the gauges on dream-mobiles like mine that give warnings when things are not right under the hood. Naturally the engine froze up, or more accurately, burned up, and gave up the ghost, right there on the shoulder of Interstate 55, just outside Lincoln, Illinois.

Again, my well-honed roadside resourcefulness kicked in and I sold the dead car to another gracious, greasy auto mechanic for $50.00 scrap. I used the money to gallantly put my lady on a train to complete her trip to Milwaukee, where the guy she was about to dump me for thoughtfully picked her up at the station.

Even now, fifty years later I occasionally struggle for closure regarding these many unfortunate chapters in my Barney Fife love life. I see now that my flawed twenty year old worldview led to most of my romantic faux pas, yet while attempting to place the responsibility for my tragically short beautiful cheerleader relationship, I find a measure of consolation knowing that at least once, I wasn't the only one to blame. This time it was accurate to say that we both blew it.

Identity

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Jack Getz

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