Life Lessons in Stupidity

This is a memory of one of the stupidest nights I took part in. Only the names of people and places are changed. The events unfortunately are true. 

One snowy Saturday night, my cousin Jenny and I were hanging out at her house. Her mother, my aunt Teri, had decided that since there was such bad weather it was a perfect time for a house party. Of course my parents had no idea of the get together and were not invited, or I wouldn’t have been allowed to sleep over. The loud group of adults primarily stood around in the kitchen drinking, playing cards and filling the house with cigarette smoke. We lounged on the brown velour couch for a couple of hours and watched t.v but soon were bored out of our sculls. It was late, and there was a North Dakota snow storm going on outside, so there was nothing to do.

We could hear Teri in the other room laughing, joking, and being obviously drunk.  Jenny said, “I got an idea”, jumped off the couch and told me to get my coat. Jenny was always a little bossy. I put up with it because I generally had fun with her and she’s my cousin.

We stood in the door to the kitchen and her mom called her over, “Come here baby..” she slurred. “Isnn my girl so priddy.”  Jenny ignored her comments and picked up her mom’s car keys. “Mom were bored. Can we go for a short drive, just down the street?”

I was surprised that Jenny would even ask and even more surprised when her mom said, “Yeah… but go shlow and put on your seat belt.” I’m sure my jaw dropped. We were only thirteen, had never driven before, it was nighttime, there was a snow storm. So many reasons why we should not be cruising around in a car. But of course we ran out the door before she could change her mind. Like I said, I was thirteen.

The tiny community of Leehorn had only three hundred people and the nearest store was in Glinsy, twenty miles away. So it wasn’t like we were driving around L.A., but we felt like complete bad-asses. We took turns driving the automatic Ford sedan.

It was really fun, at least until Jenny took a slick corner a little too fast and the back-end slid into a snow bank and got stuck. I was the one who had to go out into the freezing weather and push her out. The whole time I was terrified that someone would see me and think to tell my father. I pushed and we got out pretty easily. No harm was done to Teri’s car, but we thought we had better head back so we didn’t get into trouble. Also, there was snow packed into the top of my boots.

We parked and walked into the warm, smokey house and Teri immediately yelled, “Where were you!” I thought, great! she doesn’t remember and now were going to be in trouble. But nope, I guess they ran out of beer and someone needed to go get some from town. Every one of them were smashed. Teri was trying to talk some of the younger guys into taking her car and picking up the beer but they said they might be arrested if they were caught driving again with no licence. So Jenny speaks up, “I’ll take them into Glinsy to get it.”

Again, I thought, no way is her mom going to go along with this, it’s eleven p.m., it’s crazy. And to her credit it took some convincing to get Teri to agree. But she did.

So off we go,  Jenny and I in the front and two men I didn’t know in the back. It worried me a little but Jenny seemed to know who they were. It took a long while getting to town because my cousin had to go slow; inexperience and low visibility. The men in the back tried chatting with Jenny but she yelled “Shut up so I don’t wreck us!” Even at thirteen she didn’t mess around. They shut up. It was pretty awkward.

We were only a couple of miles from Glinsy and the car started to lurch horribly. My stomach dropped. When it stopped rolling and we had to pull off into a snow bank, I was terrified. Now if it were 2016, I would just call my mom to come get us. But this was the early nineties and I was poor. No one had cell phones. We were stranded.

I thought ok, these guys in the backseat are going to save us. I still had that stupid confidence in all adults that kids tend to have. They told us that they would run into town and find us a ride. Great, we were as good as saved. Plan made. We were to stay with the car and keep warm.

It was around eleven thirty and there weren’t many people on the road. We kept the car off and huddled into our jackets. Thankfully the engine would still turn over, so we would run it once in a while to keep the worst of the cold out. We didn’t know how long it would be before the guys came back with a ride.

We watched the dash clock hit midnight, then one a.m. I can’t tell you how much I imagined them finding us frozen solid the next morning and what my parents were going to think. The guys still didn’t show. We worried that something may have happened to them.

Finally at one thirty in the morning one of Teri’s friends recognized the car and stopped. The woman had come into town to pick up her daughter from a sleep over that went badly and was headed home. We hitched a ride back to Leehorn. She cursed Teri the whole way and we heard an earful also.

When we walked through the door to Jenny’s house it was two a.m. Wouldn’t you know, those same two men were sitting at the kitchen table drinking with the group.

I was flabbergasted. Those assholes had gotten more beer and came back to Leehorn. Leaving us with the car. Their defense was that they looked in the car as they drove past and it didn’t look like we were there. So they figured we had hitched a ride. Teri was passed out in her room, totally oblivious.

Jenny screamed that the men were useless assholes and how they were lucky that we weren’t dead or abducted. They didn’t care. Jenny went into her mom’s room and shoved her awake, “Your cars broke down on the side of the road outside of Glinsy. You better get it in the morning, don’t wake me up. I’m going to bed.” She tossed the keys on the bedside table and we locked ourselves in her room and slept till noon. It says something of your home life if you have a deadbolt on the inside of your bedroom door.

Teri got her car towed the next day and it turned out that the transmission was shot. When I heard that I wondered if maybe my cousin had been driving in the wrong gear, but I really didn’t care. That night I was more thankful I had stable parents than I have ever been.

They never heard of it, I wasn’t going to say anything and Teri sure as hell wouldn’t. I figured I didn’t get away with anything though, the experience itself was all the punishment I needed.




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