My grandfather is a retired mechanic. Retired for thirty years mind you, and seeing as he never had the good sense to take up golf or Sudoku or anything aside from shredding checks and building cat mobiles, he’s always itching for a good project.
The only problem with his projects is that they invariably involve a lecture, and a rather condescending lecture at that. He has very specific ideas about the way things should be done. For instance, you should not keep your vehicle registration card inside your vehicle because then if the car gets stolen and the thief finds himself in possession of both your vehicle and the registration card, you’ve got a real problem.
(“Real problems,” by the way, are the bane of my grandfather’s existence.)
When I took my grandfather’s car to Hoopers Island for the Annual Black Friday Martini Bar Soiree, I had to sign over my entire life’s saving and first born son in order to be entrusted with the vehicle registration.
“Get an envelope,” he told me, “because if this thing gets all bent out of whack, I’ve got a real problem on my hands.”
“There aren’t any envelopes down here,” I replied, anxious to get on the road. “I’ll put it in my wallet.”
“Your wallet? Nah… you’ve got too much stuff in there already.”
“Not in this compartment,” I offered, opening my wallet for inspection. “There is nothing in this compartment. It will be fine.”
He hemmed and hawed a while, then finally conceded to hand me the registration. But he wasn’t happy about it.
So I decided to take it one step further because, really, if you can’t have fun with your grandparents, you’re going to start thinking homicidal thoughts sooner or later.
I went up to my room and started digging through my desk. I have a hard time throwing things away and as a result, I’ve amassed a rather sizeable collection of plastic name tag holders, you know: the kind you wear for academic conferences or press previews at the art museum. I always throw the name tags away (half the time they spell my name incorrectly or screw up my title and I end up looking like a loser who didn’t RSVP on time even though I did) but I always keep the holders, especially the ones that have neck straps instead of pins, because you never know when you’re going to need one.
“Look, Abuelo,” I said. “Problem solved. Your registration card is nice and safe in this clear plastic envelope and the best part is you can wear it! This way if someone steals your car, they won’t be able to get their hands on your registration because you’ll be wearing it around your neck!”
I was just about to suggest that he wear his new vehicle registration necklace all day, every day (even in the shower, on account of its being plastic an all) when my dad walked in, rolled his eyes and muttered, “You are so bad…” under his breath.
But it solved the problem.
At least that problem.
I made the mistake about telling my grandfather about my little three-hour adventure on the Walt Whitman Bridge a few weeks ago. Not because I wanted to mind you, but because I was trying to be sociable and couldn’t think of anything else to talk about.
“That’s the problem with highways,” he replied. “If something happens, you’re stuck. That’s why it’s always better to take local roads. But you young people… you’re always in a rush. That’s why people go crazy and we have all these problems with nutjobs shooting up the schools.”
I wonder if President Obama knows this. In fact, I’m not really sure why the powers-that-be in Washington are even bothering with new gun control legislation. If only we had local roads that would enable folks to cross the river from New Jersey in Pennsylvania, school shootings would cease to exist.