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Rated: E · Short Story · Contest Entry · #1785302
Yep, one of those bugs.
I cannot blame it on being young or old because I was still in my thirties when it happened back in the 1980s. I had an early morning appointment with the eye doctor so with only one vehicle in the family, I had to take my husband to work. Our daughter, a teenager, rode to school with a girlfriend. I happily waved goodbye as she went out the door leaving me plenty of time to drop off her dad.

Everything was going great, and even the day was bright and sunny. It was just a routine eye exam, and then I thought I might do some shopping since the doctor’s office was located in a shopping mall.

Being early in the day, I had no trouble finding a good parking spot and made a mental picture of the location. Inside the pleasant air-conditioned mall, I made my way to the doctor’s office where I was called in right away for my appointment. Finished in a flash, I was fitted for new glasses, informed when they could be picked up, and made my way out into the world of shoppers.

Having a good time, I completed several purchases, eventually getting tired and deciding to call it a day. Gathering up my many bags, I made my way out through the air-conditioned entrance and retraced my steps back to my parking spot. I had to set down my bags to look through my purse for my keys to unlock the car door. I usually threw them in randomly. Not finding them immediately, I walked to the hood of the car and began taking out things one by one to be able to peer inside. Soon, nothing remained in my purse, and I realized I had no keys. That little voice in my head that lets me know when I have done something stupid began to whisper to me, and I slowly moved down the side of the car to the window.

Just as the little voice implied, there were my keys laughing at me from the tan leather seat. Instead of dropping them into my purse, they must have slipped and dropped beside it instead. Back then, you locked the door by pushing down a little button by the window and slamming the door shut, no key or remote necessary. That terrible sinking feeling hit my stomach as I searched through my brain for possible solutions. My husband had no transportation so it was no use calling him. I kept a spare key at home in my jewelry box, but I would need to get to it to use it. Then, there was the matter of the door key lying on the car seat with the ignition key.

About ready to give up on my short list of answers, I happened to think of my daughter’s girlfriend, the one with the almost-ready-for-the-junkyard yellow Bug. However, it did have wheels and an engine. I threw all my junk back into my purse and headed toward the mall entrance in search of a pay phone, the kind you put money into first and then dial your number when you hear a dial tone. After looking up the number for the high school in the phonebook hanging from its chain, I got through to the school office and with embarrassment explained my desperate situation. The very kind secretary, without even laughing, offered to get Beth, my daughter’s friend, to drive over and help me out.

I trudged back to the car with all my bags and waited, and soon Beth came chugging up in her yellow Beetle. The only hitch was Beth had to get back to school for a test, and I would have to drive the “bug” home for my spare keys. Hardly ever having driven a stick shift, I thought to myself…how hard could it be if a sixteen year old could do it? I watched Beth with a hawk eye as I rode back to school with her, not mentioning my secret inadequacy of stick shift. When she got out and I walked around to get in on the driver’s side, she said not to worry about bringing it back. I could leave it at the mall and she would get a ride over after school to pick it up. I was to leave the key under the seat and lock the doors. Beth had a spare key in her locker.

I have to admit I had tried to drive a stick shift a couple of times before, but only for short distances. I did know about the clutch and that it had to be pushed to the floor to shift gears. I never was able to do it smoothly or without stalling. I started the engine and after several attempts finally found reverse and jerked out of the parking spot. I do not know how many gears that car had but that stick just wanted to slide right through all of them without much of an indication of any particular one. I felt like I was sitting on the floor boards in that little black vinyl seat because it was so close to the ground and had no padding. Being short, unlike tall, lanky Beth, I could barely see over the dash board.

Finally, hanging onto the steering wheel as if I was on the edge of a cliff and ready to fall over, I made it to the street with only a couple of stalls and lots of jerks. I lived about five miles from the school on a quiet road, but a road that I call rolly. In other words, it went up and down. I soon found out VW’s like to go down, but they hate to go up. I rolled down the hill at 50 MPH and struggled up the hill at 25 MPH. As I got close to my house, I began to smell oil, or was that gasoline? It worried me some at the time, but later I found out it was normal according to Beth.

At my house I faced my second dilemma – how to get in without a key. Lucky for me, I sometimes have the bad habit of raising the bathroom window and forgetting to close it. Finding it open and standing on a lawn chair, I was able to pull off the screen and wriggle through into the bathtub. I was much smaller in those days.

I retrieved my spare keys and the ride back to the mall went somewhat smoother. After all, I had some practice now and drove like an expert, almost. Either Beth forgot about my key fiasco, or maybe her mom locked up her keys all the time, but she never mentioned to my daughter anything about the loan of her car. Conveniently, I forgot to mention it to my husband when I picked him up later that afternoon. It has always been my philosophy to brag about your successes and keep your failures as quiet as possible…if you can.
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