Part 10: Rear-Ended


My (temporary) new hometown: Huntington, Long Island (oooh, aaah).

Well, I filed for divorce — and then fled Jackson Heights for the sanctity of the suburbs, taking the Dodge Colt and its monthly payments with me.

One of the biggest changes was to my weekly commute. I went from walking five city blocks to driving thirty-miles, each way, to and from work.

The first one-third of my commute was the stuff of fantasies. Every morning at 7:30 a.m., I’d pass through the tranquil village of Cold Spring Harbor:


But that last two-thirds — beginning with the merge onto the Long Island Expressway  — was the ugh part, and looked like this:

LIE sm


For better or worse (where have I heard that before?), I vowed to stick it out. Because at night, I was attending school full-time, and during the day, working full-time. I could hardly find a moment to breath, let alone, find the energy to move again.

On top of all that, my boss had transferred me to a satellite dialysis unit that would soon open up in the So. Ozone Park section of Queens. It might as well have been Siberia.

Oh, the transfer wasn’t personal. It was just business. Right.

Yet, it was fitting, given my current mood, to be working in a place whose main objective was to drain the blood out of 90 percent of the people who passed through its doors.

My office — in fact, the entire building — lacked windows. For eight hours a day, I’d sit all by my lonesome bathed in a florescent glow, typing, answering phones, paying bills, and listening to the hum of the kidney machines.

The building was located in a 1980s, big-radio kind of ‘hood, and there was always something going on.

Which made me a little nervous about parking my car on the street.

For instance, my second day on the job, in broad daylight, in front of our building, I saw a kid whacking the hell out of a pay phone with a golf club — trying to get the money out.

About a month prior to opening for business, a greasy barbarian thug in filthy blue Dickies rang the bell. Warily, I buzzed him in.

“Can I help you?” I said, addressing the pocked-marked, scowling mug staring back at me.

“Say hello to your new sanitation company,” he said, crossing his arms.

“Um, but I need to get two more estimates before we can sign a contract with anyone,” I said, parroting my absentee boss.

“No problem, doll. I’ll take care of it,” he said, with a wink. “Have a nice day.”


There was nothing I could do. Challenging him would be like saying to John Gotti: “Your mother wears Army boots.”

One afternoon not long after that, the head nurse, upon returning from lunch, stopped by my office.

“Uh, I think something happened to your car,” she said.

“What do you mean?”

“Maybe it got hit,” she said.

I left my desk and ran outside. Maybe it got hit?

It had gone from this:


rotten tooth-smaller

to this.

The entire rear end was ripped off, as if it’d been hit by a truck — or ravaged by dental caries.

One of the techs drove me to the local police precinct so I could file a report. When I explained to a detective what had happened, he listened with a blank expression on his face. Then, he mimed playing the violin.

The most pathetic part of all was that the car still worked. Which meant I had to drive it like that — jaggedly open-air in the back, like a sideways convertible — all the way to Huntington.

You’d better believe that the other drivers on the Expressway — especially, teenagers in cars — thought it was all pretty damn hilarious.

State Farm Insurance provided me with a rental car while the Colt was being repaired. By the time June rolled around, the Colt was looking brand new, and I was about to graduate with a bachelors degree in Business Administration.

Buoyed by a sense of accomplishment, I was never more ready to get out of that blood bank.

Then, one afternoon, as I was sneakily typing a short story on my IBM Selectric, the telephone in my office started ringing.

When I picked it up, the person on the other end was about to make me a life-changing offer I couldn’t refuse.

What I Was Reading: Lake Wobegon Days (Keillor), The Accidental Tourist (Tyler), Smart Women, Foolish Choices (Cowan & Kinder), The Handmaid’s Tale (Atwood), Loving Each Other (Buscaglia), The Man Who Mistook His Wife For a Hat (Sacks), The Good Mother (Miller), The Garden of Eden (Hemmingway), Regrets Only (Quinn), The Mosquito Coast (Theroux).

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