Friday, September 11, 2009

Chapter 10 - Eggsactly the Wrong Car

If I left my house and walked down Linglestown Road toward the river, I’d come to an old tunnel that cars had to drive through. Linglestown Road was a tiny country road, one lane in each direction, hilly and dangerous. It was the only road in the area that people could use to get to town, so there were always a lot of cars on it.

But the road was a super highway compared to the tunnel. These days, laws won’t allow such traffic hazards. It was dark, about 50 yards long, had a slight dog-leg curve to it so you couldn’t see all the way through it, and it leaked water from above down onto the roadway and the cars that drove through. We referred to it as “the underpass.”

If I wanted to walk to Siggy’s house, I had to negotiate this underpass. Walking through it was a real no-no. My father would say, “if I ever hear that you walked through there I’ll spank you so hard that you won’t be able to sit down for six months.” Truth be told, my father NEVER ever spanked me or hit me in any way. Never ever. But I knew what he meant when he said that. If you tried to walk on the roadway, you would be dead before you got to the other side.

First of all, everybody that drove through there honked their horn. You couldn’t tell if another car was coming toward your car because of the dog-leg, so people honked to let oncoming traffic know they were there. And the road was barely wide enough for two cars at the same time anyway, and the walls on both sides of the road were scarred where cars hit the sides all the time. If a mouse tried to walk through there the same time opposing cars drove through, he’s be a goner for sure.

So instead of walking through on the roadway, I’d climb up the side of the embankment and scurry up to the top where the Pennsylvania Railroad trains would travel on their way across the country. If I walked north on the tracks, I could get to the famous Rockville Bridge (the world’s longest stone arch bridge -- see Chapter 2) in about 30 minutes. If I walked south, I could get to Siggy’s house in about 20 minutes.

If I stayed right there on top of the overpass, I could look down at the cars entering and exiting the tunnel. I would lay down on the ground so the drivers couldn’t see me, and get as close to the edge as possible and look straight down. The train tracks were just far enough away from where we’d be laying that we didn’t have to get up and run when one would come past us. The noise was exhilarating, and the entire surface of the ground above the underpass would vibrate like an earthquake. We had never experienced an earthquake, but we were sure it had to be like that! And if the engineer driving the train saw us, he’s blow and blow and blow that train whistle and it would be 15 minutes until we could hear again.

Sometimes for boyish fun, Siggy or Mark or Steve and I would lie there, in ambush, waiting for a car to come out of the tunnel. We couldn’t see the car coming, but we could hear it, and we’d try to time it perfectly so that as soon as the car exited the tunnel, we could drop an egg down onto the car and hit it on its roof. Most of the time we missed, and the egg would splat on the road, or worse, someone’s windshield or back window.

Every now and then, we could hear the driver slam on his brakes and pull over. They’d get out of their car and look up toward where we’d be hiding and laughing, but they couldn’t see us.

On one occasion, a car stopped and three teenagers jumped out of their car. They looked up to where they figured the eggs came from, and they started to climb up to where we were. Fortunately for us, a train was coming, so we ran to the other side of the tracks and the train was between them and us before the three of them made it to the top. We ran down the other side and hid before they could get back into their car and drive back through the tunnel and find us.

On Halloween night in 1965, when I was 14, my mother dropped me off at my friend Mark’s house on her way to play bridge with some of her friends. I had a pillowcase to hold all my candy, and a not very scary Wolfman mask. Mark and I were going to spend the night being kids and getting free candy.

 We met up with our friend Siggy, and we started out like nice boys, going door to door as was the custom. Siggy’s house was in a neighborhood where the houses were all right next to each other, so we could hit about one house every minute or two. I had been doing this same Halloween “run” for years, and I knew I’d have a lot of candy quickly.

Within an hour or so, it was very dark, and we had all the goodies we felt like carrying. My pillowcase contained at least 20 pounds of LifeSavers, Lik-m-Aids, Pez, Milky Ways, Sugar Daddies and apples. We threw the apples away and hid everything else on the back porch at Siggy’s house, and then went out, in the dark, to do what teen age kids sometimes do on Halloween -- pranks.

Siggy was a brainiac and he was always into science experiments. In his pocket he had a bottle of powdered magnesium that he said was very dangerous, so he wouldn’t let me touch it. But he sprinkled a trail of it across a residential street, and we hid behind a big oak tree, waiting for the next car to come along. We didn’t have to wait long, and soon enough a car slowly approached the ribbon of magnesium. Siggy waited, giggling like a little girl, and when the car was just a few yards away, he lit his end of the powder trail. Within a nanosecond, the brightest flash of light that I have ever seen, even to this day, stretched all the way across the road. The driver of the car slammed his brakes on, and we took off running and laughing.

 We ran for a couple of blocks, and then saw my friend Phil. He had a four goose eggs he had taken from his next-door neighbor’s farm. He said he was going to go down to the underpass and drop his eggs on cars. 

Goose eggs are about three times the size of a chicken egg. If you throw one at somebody, it’s like hitting them with a baseball. Phil gave each of us an egg, and he kept one for himself, and the four of us walked over to the train tracks and followed those tracks for about 15 minutes until we arrived, front and center, above the underpass.

 It was now about 10 PM, and there were not many cars coming through the tunnel. Each of us had just one egg and only one chance to bomb a car, so we wanted to make sure our toss would not be in vain.

We had agreed that we would all drop our eggs on the same car, and we waited, the four of us lying prone on the ground, for the first available opportunity. Within a few minutes, we could hear that a car had entered the tunnel on the other side, and we held our eggs over the edge on our side, hoping our timing would be perfect. We’d splatter that car with four big goose eggs.

We waited for what seemed like forever, but in reality it was only about 10 seconds. Then Phil excitedly bellowed, “bombs away!” We all let our eggs go at the same time, and all four hit that car on top of the hood. The noise was much louder that I had expected, and it sounded like a car crash.

Instantly, the driver pulled over, probably thinking he hit something, and walked to the front of the car. In the headlights, we could see that it wasn’t a man, it was a lady. But not just any lady. It was my mother. We had just plastered my mother’s Lincoln Continental with four huge goose eggs.

We quietly watched her as she looked all over the front of the car. Seeing no damage, she got back into the car and drove off, headed toward home.
The four of us got up from our prone position and as if on cue, we all started to laugh like madmen. To this day, when I think of this event, I can’t help but laugh so hard that I cry.

I was supposed to sleep at Mark’s house that night, but I thought about it for about 30 seconds and decided to walk home. My parents were still up when I entered my house, and I kissed them both good-night and went upstairs to my bedroom. When I awoke the next morning, I made an excuse about having to get something from the garage. I made my way to my mother’s car, then excitedly ran back into the kitchen where my mother was cooking breakfast and I shouted, “Hey Mom!! It looks like someone egged your car last night!”

“WHAT??” she replied, and ran down to the garage to check out her car. I showed her what I had “discovered” and she was furious. She told me that after driving through the underpass on her way home after playing bridge last night, she heard a noise and thought she might have hit something. She said she was very upset at first, because she thought she may have hit a child who was out trick-or-treating. She related how she got out of her car and looked all around, but seeing nothing and no damage, she drove home, relieved that she hadn’t killed anyone.

My mother knew I was counting the days until I could get my driver’s license. I still had two years to go, and couldn’t stand waiting! Like all red-blooded American boys, I wanted to drive NOW. That morning I told her that if she would let me back her car out of the garage and put it in the driveway, I would wash her car for her. She agreed, and my sweet mother died 40 years later, never knowing that it was my friends and me who bombed her car that night.


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