Late one Friday afternoon, at the end of a particularly exhausting week filled with two cantankerous toddlers, fully engrossed in phases of the psychosocial crisis that throw entire families into upheaval for at least three years, I pull my car into the driveway and sit in the driver’s seat, staring blankly at the garage door. I am feeling exactly ninety six and one half years old, and at least five hundred and ninety six and one half pounds. Therefore, instead of moving, I sit and fantasize about sleeping in my car and easier ways to make a living. I wonder if I might enjoy selling shoes? The hum of a small engine interrupts my rumination, just as I am conjuring a vision of measuring the cast of “Duck Dynasty’s” naked, hairy feet (thank God).
A tiny motorized vehicle enters my driveway and parks behind my car. I know this child. His house sits across the caul de sac, directly opposite mine. I frequently see his parents sitting in beach chairs on the front lawn, as their son drives his little truck around the circle, greeting people as they return home from work. He is a smart little fellow, about four years of age, but with a vocabulary larger than many adults I know. Somewhere near the top of this chap’s talents, is his ability to identify the make, model and approximate year of every car on the road. During this particular time, his parents are in the process of purchasing a new van, so his vehicle fetish is at an all time high. He now greets neighbors, not by name, but by car make and model. So, in my case, it’s…”Hi Nanny, you have a Toyota Camry LE, four door. Is it a four, or six cylinder?”
I am not sure what a cylinder is…much less how many I own. In fact, today, I’m not sure I know my own name. I step out of the car and stutter a bit.
“I am…I don’t…”
Thankfully, the tot’s father interrupts the painful moment. “Why don’t you say goodnight to Nanny.” He says to the boy.
“Goodnight.” He says casually, as he backs his truck easily out of the driveway with one hand.
Suddenly he stops the miniature vehicle. He slides his “Lightning McQueen” sunglasses down his nose, points at me with his forefinger and says…”You got a nice tail pipe.”
With that, the tot returns his sunglasses to their correct position, and pulls forward with a jump and a slight squeal of miniature tires. I believe he even sprays me with a pebble or two, leaving me in a mini dust cloud with my mouth still hanging slightly open. This, I have learned since, Is a toddler peel out…and he does it with style.
Yes…he has style. I, however…I’ve got a nice tail pipe! A bright smile spreads across my face. I suddenly feel so light and energetic! “So, I’ve been thrown up on twice today. Who cares if I have peas in my hair and poop on my shirt. I’ve got a nice tail pipe! I swing my nice pipe around and swish it toward the house with great enthusiasm.
“Hey kid!” I shout, turning to look at the tot. I pull my sunglasses down, looking over them, and strike my coolest movie star pose. He stops the car and awaits my response. “Catch ya on the flip side.” I quip, holding one thumb up, seventies style.
“Huh?” he asks with a wrinkled nose, clearly confused.
I sigh, my movie star moment lost on youth…”Never mind, see you tomorrow cutie.”
“See ya.” He says, steering his truck with one hand, waving with the other. How is it that this kid is so much cooler than I, and a better driver?
I decide, I don’t have to be cool…I’ve got a nice tail pipe. Again I smile, swinging and bouncing my nice tail pipe into the house, hoping as many neighbors as possible had the chance to witness the scenery for themselves. I love that kid. I love my job. What a great day!
By the way…I apparently own six cylinders. The cool kid must have done some research. He informed me during a later encounter.