“Can you drive?” Paul hesitated before getting my VW bug for the ride to BU.
“Of course I can drive.” I had been driving since I was 16 and only had 7 accidents. Most of them weren’t my fault. At least the way I told it.
"Are you sure?" Paul didn’t trust me behind the wheel. We had hitchhiked across America in 1971. A carload of drunks had begged me to drive their Riviera from Reno to San Francisco. Paul had sat in the back, while I had pretended to be Dean Moriaty and drank warm whiskey driving through the Sierras.
"I'm cool." Our three friends were yelling for him not to be such a pussy.
"Just don't drive crazy." Paul sat in the front with me. He turned on WMEX. The DJ was playing LAYLA. The boys in the back seat sang along with the Derek and the Dominos' song.
"Are you sure you're okay?" Peter buckled up his seat belt. No one in 1971 wore one. We had all seen too many films where the passengers burn in their cars, thanks to a defective seat belt.
"I'm fine." Something about his question bothered me and I said, "To go you how fine I'm to run every red light to Kenmore Square."
“Don’t do that.” Paul's hand pulled on the door to get out, but I rammed the stickshift into first, then second, and finally third. "Like I said I'm cool."
Paul shouted to 'slow down'. while my other passengers cheered me on, then again they weren't in the suicide seat.
I blew the light at the BU dorms and then another by the Boston Club. The traffic was light, however the Charles River Bridge was a much busier intersection.
“Don’t.” Everyone cried out with good reason with wide eyes.
A Ford Mustang was speeding through a yellow light.
I swerved to the right, but a little too late to avoid tapping the back of a Mustang. I braked to a screeching halt.
"We're alive," one of the passengers in the rear sighed of relief.
“Asshole.” Peter was pissed at me.
“Are you hurt?” The buzz from the 'lude was temporarily stalled by the rush of a near-death experience.
“No.” He unbuckled his seatbelt and got of the car.
"Sorry." I realized too late what an asshole I had been for endangering his life.
"Save your sorry." He pointed to the Mustang. It was stuck in the intersection. The driver was checking the damge to his rear.
"Shit." I joined Paul outside and examined the damage to both vehicles. My fender was bent. Maybe $200 worth, but the Mustang bore a major dent. Maybe $1000, which was a lot of money. The driver took one look at me and then keeled over and puked on the sidewalk. He wiped his mouth and said, “Sorry, for running that light. Are you okay?”
The drunk thought the crash was his fault and he offered money to pay for the damages. His Mustang had a few more dents from fender benders. "I don't want any trouble with my insurance company."
"No worries." I took a hundred and twenty dollars. Paul shook his head and grabbed my keys. "I'm driving."
"That's a good idea."
"It was better five minutes ago."
"Better now than never."
Paul drove to the concert like a nun.
"You're still an asshole."
Paul wasn't going to forgive me soon. The concert was fantastic. We brought two coeds back to the Hi-Hat. I bought everyone drinks. After two beers we laughed about the crash and and Paul called me, “Boston’s worst driver.”
Maybe I was that evening, but then again I had competition.
Back then there was always a drunk driving hour and no one loves a drunk better than another drunk.