Sunday, April 25, 2004

the sort of thing you're asking for when you decide you need to go to campus at 1am on the weekend to fetch your stata manuals

About two weeks ago, I came out of the RV one morning to see birdshit on my new car.* I thought I should compose some kind of morose blog post about this, how it was effectively the end of innocence for my largest capital purchase to date. A rite of passage that automobiles go through on their way to losing their novelty.

But I thought this would be a little melodramatic, and, anyway, I had my car washed before I could take my digital camera out and get the snapshot of said birdshit that would really be requisite for writing a post. Besides, I thought, who knows what further adventures await that I could file under the heading of breaking in my new car.

Tonight, I'm working in the RV around 1AM and decide I really need the Stata Graphics Manual that is in my office. Really, I think, I need to bring all my Stata manuals back to the RV, and while I'm at it I should also move some other books from the RV to my office. So I lug the books out to my car--discovering that it is raining quite earnestly--and throw them into the backseat and head up to campus. It ends up being a convoluted route to campus because Charter St. has been blocked off for construction.

When I get there, I park in the closest spot to the social science building, and I start bounding toward the building when I realize that I've forgotten the books in my backseat. I walk back to get them, and I see this couple are walking slowly up the sidewalk maybe 20 yards from my car. Freshmen, maybe; sophomores, tops. As I get to my car, the guy calls out "Excuse me, sir."

I turn. "Um," he says, "Is there any way you could give us a ride home? She's kinda sick." I walk toward them and look at her. She's kinda drunk is what she is. At sort of the middling-woozy-walk-very-slowly level of drunkenness.

"[street name]. It's on the other side of the stadium." Meaning that, at their pace, it would have taken them probably forty-five minutes to get home. In the rain. So, of course:
"Yeah, sure," I say. I deliberate whether there is any way I could tell them to wait in my car while I run in and get my freaking Stata manuals, so I don't have to turn around and drive back up here. I decide not. She gets in the backseat, he gets in front. They had the lovely-overpowering-smoke-and-beer smell that is the badge of a night spent in Madison bars.

As soon as I pull out of the parking lot, she starts to make the kinda-coughing-kinda-gurgling sound a drunk person makes when they are on the precipice of puking. Dear God, I think, she is going to upchuck all over the upholstery. I drive them toward the stadium with some haste. When I stop at the red light on University just past Luther's blues, the gurgling gets more immediate and I realize that the arrival of Ralph Malph is at hand. She opens the door and leans out and starts retching onto the street. She does this again. The car behind us blinks their headlights at us, for who knows what reason. Perhaps some expression of collegiate solidarity, or maybe just taunting.

She closes the door. The light turns green. She says she's okay, and so I continue on our way. I turn the corner at Breese and start going by the sidestreets by the stadium.

"Where's the turn?"
"You can, uh, just drop us here. We'll be fine."
"Why don't we just get you where you need to go?" This ends up being only a couple blocks off Breese.

The guy tries to hand me like three one-dollar bills for gas, which I wave off. The girl actually seems to have revived as a result of having thrown up from (in? on?) my backseat. "Thanks," she says, "I was good." I'm hoping by that she means she managed to expel all her vomit outside my vehicle.

I drove back to campus and got my manuals and threw them in my frontseat, and then I drove home. I didn't even want to look in the backseat to see if there was any vomit back there, as I didn't want to deal with it if there was. I'll do that tomorrow. It didn't smell like puke as I was driving home, which I took as a good sign.

* Normally, I use the term feces to refer to feces, finding "shit" a little too coarse and "poop" a little too puerile. But, with birdshit, you pretty much have to call it for what it is.

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