A rusty old Dodge pickup and its driver are stranded at the corner of Olive and Melrose. Somehow the truck has been maneuvered onto the sidewalk and is backed up against a tree. The hood is propped open with a golf club and the driver is leaning against it, waiting. I walk past and nod hello. The stranded man asks, “Can you drive a stick?”
So we work out what we’re going to do: We’ll push the truck into the interchange. I’ll steer the car left onto Melrose. The truck will pick up momentum on Melrose. I’ll hop into the driver’s seat, push down on the clutch, turn the ignition, and the car will start.
I can see his confidence in me wane as we review what steps involved in starting the car. “Just as if I were starting the car like usual.” “That’s right.” He closes the hood and hands me the golf club. I move into position and drop my backpack and the golf club into the passenger seat.
We put in an effort through a couple of stop light cycles, but we’re not getting very far before we roll back toward the tree. So my new friend recruits a few more pedestrians for our venture. I offer up my place in the driver’s seat, but there are no takers. We wait for the green light and the traffic to go by and get moving. As we start taking the corner, I hop in and the car starts rolling on the slight downgrade.
The car won’t start. I try again, no good. A couple more tries, I’m losing momentum, the truck stops. I sit and wait for the driver. I can’t locate the parking break, so I sit there with my foot on the break pedal.
The driver follows me, allows traffic to maneuver around me, and comes up to the door. “You didn’t get it started?” “No. It wouldn’t start. It didn’t even make engine sounds.”
He’s growing more and more frustrated with me, he doesn’t trust me, maybe I did something wrong. I don’t know. I don’t think the car is going to start this way, but we give it another try. This time I push and he sits in the driver’s seat. (The other pedestrians have continued on their way.) We’re working toward different ends now: I want him to get the thing parked, but I think he’s sure he can make it go.
A huge pickup with a grid of bumpers on the front pulls up and the driver signals that he can help. I negotiate vague terms between the two drivers.
I stand on the sidewalk and watch the big truck push up against the little truck’s tailgate. Other things happen. At some point the driver of the big truck gets out to ask the driver of the little truck a question. I don’t know what’s going on anymore. I hesitate, wave at the driver (he doesn’t see, busy with other things), and leave.