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Art & Culture

various essays on, well, art and culture

Bookbinding & Conservation

lessons learned from this profession


ok, I'm not the guy from SNL,
but I still have a sense of humor

'Jim Downey' Stories

mostly true stories from my

Personal Essays

more "it's all about me"


Iím at -7.13/-7.33 on The Political Compass.  Where
are you?


Gun Violence
We Create the Meaning
The Secret to Success
Holy Writ & the Motion of the Sun
The Car
The Mayor of Main Street


take a trip with me

circa 1994

The Car

She was late to class, and new in town.  I recognized the symptoms when she pulled up, parked the car, got out, locked it, and strode into the flow of students with narry a glance back.  A single-minded set to her eyes.  The new backpack.  The glance at her watch as she blended into the crowd.

The sociology professor came out of his building, got into his car, and went to the entrance of his lot, only to find her car there across the driveway.  He honked his horn.  He got out, and walked around her car.  He came across the street to the espresso shop next door, figuring that maybe it was just a customer who stopped in for quick cup to go.  He came out of the espresso shop, walked back across the street, walked around The Car again, scratching his head.  The crowd of students had now melted away, class having begun, and there was virtually no one in sight.  He stood there for a minute or two, then went back into his building.

When he came out, there was one of the secretaries who worked in the building with him.  She figured that this was a great time to get a smoke, enjoy the sunshine, look at The Car blocking the driveway.  The two of them stood there, looking at The Car.  The Car did not move.  The owner of The Car did not come back to it.  Another car came up to the entrance to the lot from the street side, wanting to turn in.  This car honked.  The professor went over to the driver and explained about The Car blocking the driveway.  The driver of the second car got out, looked at The Car.  She went over to the door of The Car, tried to open it.  The driver's door was locked.

A passing student saw this, tried to open the other doors, which were all locked.  Another secretary came out, got a light and the outline of the story from the first secretary.  The professor went back inside the building.  He came out with another professor.  They stood chatting with the secretaries, all looking at The Car.  The passing student picked up his books and wandered away.  Traffic was starting to back up.

Other cars came and wanted to pull into the lot.  Someone from the small but growing knot watching The Car would go over and explain the situation.  Traffic moved by fits and starts, since even those who didn't want to pull into the lot were curious about what was going on.  Customers of the espresso shop started to bring their cups of steaming latte out onto the sidewalk, watching The Car and all that happened around it.  The professor went back inside his building a third time.  A few minutes after he came out again, a parking-enforcement officer for the University pulled up.  The parking-enforcement officer looked at The Car.  He talked with the professor, and the other professor, and the one secretary who was still there on a prolonged break.  A couple of the bystanders offered opinions and suggestions as well.

The parking-enforcement officer got on his radio, made a call.  Then he wrote out a ticket and slipped it under the windshield wiper of The Car.  He said something to the crowd, then got in his car and drove away.  The professor, and the other professor, came back across the street and got cups of espresso, talked with the people standing on the sidewalk.

After a while a University policeman pulled up.  He got out, looked at The Car.  He tried opening the doors.  He talked with the secretary, then the professor.  Some of the people finishing up their lattes wandered over and told him what they had seen.  The policeman walked around The Car again.  Then he had the professor get back in his car, and guided the professor over the curb, across the grass, and out onto the street.  There was a cheer from the crowd.

The policeman got on his radio, and a few minutes later the tow truck showed up.  The tow truck operator got out, talked with the policeman.  Then he walked around The Car, laughing and shaking his head.  He got down under The Car for a good look.  Then he got his trollies, and positioned them under the front end, one in front of the wheels, one behind.  He strapped them together, and hooked them up to the tow truck.  Since class was over, a bunch of students had started to gather around to watch the excitement.

Then she came back.  Not as distracted this time, she noticed the big crowd, stopped to see what they were watching.  As The Car was lifted up by the tow truck winch, she realized that it was her car, and screamed.  The tow truck operator stopped.  Everything was silent.  The policeman, and most of the crowd, turned to look at her.  After a moment, there was applause.

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all work © James T. Downey, 1993-2006
photos © Martha K. John, 1994-2006
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