One of my heroes is crackpot filmmaker John Waters, and in one of his books (I forget which), he gives some very sage advice: if you have a quality that most people would consider a liability, the coolest thing in the world you can do is to call attention to it and turn it into an asset. The example he gives is that if you have bad skin, you should “rub a bag of potato chips on your face and start calling yourself ‘Pimples’.” I love that.
So today my daughter Lumpy Rock and I went to try to post some fliers advertising my book Ashes to Ashes, Oranges to Oranges at CCSU, Central Connecticut State University. It’s Sunday on a college campus, no longer football season, so it should be mostly deserted, right? Except that it wasn’t. There was this giant event going on, a car show, and there were tons of people milling around, mostly obnoxious college-age folks in fancy cars with motors revving. Even worse, the public parking lot was closed off, so we had to park in a lot that threatened to tow us away ( a warning I would have worried about more if there weren’t six low-riders parked in the same row we were).
Lumpy and I got out of the car and started scouring the campus for bulletin boards. We’d never been to this place before, and it seemed nice enough, but how did the students get their daily fix of current campus events? There didn’t seem to be any outdoor bulletin boards at all. We went a couple of blocks in one direction, then turned and went in another. Lumpy Rock was on the lookout for a playground, too. Finally, by the stadium entrance, we did see one outdoor bulletin board, but it was made out of metal (tape? I didn’t bring tape, I’ve got a stapler) and it was knocked over on its side anyway.
We walked a bit further and we were at the car show. It had just ended, and the whole place was dripping with “sure showed them” machismo. I was almost worried none of the cars that were leaving would even be cool enough to let us walk in front of them (eventually one of them did). Then there were a couple hundred people lined up against the fence on the far side of the parking lot. What were they all gawking at? We went over to see.
It was just the street. Everyone was watching the fancy cars “in action” as they left. There were a bunch of cop cars on hand to make sure no one’s display got too fancy, but all the cars sped down the street anyway, burning rubber and generally being assholes (can you tell I’m not much of a car guy?) to the oohs and aahs of the assembled crowd.
Since there weren’t any wooden bulletin boards to be found, we made our way back to our car. As we were pulling out of the parking lot, I heard someone yell, “That thing oughta be in the junkyard!” Then someone else laughed, and I realized they’re talking about our car. Of course, we’re in the only car we’ve got, our ’93 Corolla. It’s got 225,000 miles on it and has only been washed a handful of times since we moved to Connecticut back in ’06. I stuck my hand out the window with a single digit up, but it was my thumb. If we were indeed driving the crappiest car in a five mile radius (and it suddenly dawned on me that we were) that moron had just given me a terrific idea.
Thirty seconds later, we pulled out onto Rubberburner’s Row, beeping the horn and waving to the crowd. People went nuts, cheering us on like we had the best car on the lot (okay, third best). But I betcha a dollar that when people remember the specific cars that drove down that road today, our heap will be one of the ones they remember.
Car fan #1: “Remember that idiot in the dirty Civic?”
Car fan #2: “The white one? That was a Corolla.”
Car fan #1: “Oh yeah, I think you’re right.”
Both: “What an idiot.”
I am that idiot. Absolutely. I own it.