Wednesday, 20 February 2013 12:56

Uneasy Rider

Written by 
Prior to classes at CHS Vocational Lot in Spring 1979 Prior to classes at CHS Vocational Lot in Spring 1979 John NEiman

Pete bought a bought a Torino around 1977. He thought that car was a monster and my guess is he took in a weekly dose of Starsky and Hutch, therefore he was Starsky – or Hutch – whichever one drove the shiny red Ford with the white stripe. Imagine my excitement when he asked me to ride to school on the car's maiden voyage! After all, I didn’t own a car. We took off a little early and on the way I became a little concerned once he passed the normal route to the high school. Wondering if he was confused as how to get to school, his plans became apparent once we reached a residential stretch in town. At a stop sign on St. Claire Street his foot stomped on the gas and the dinged up hulk barreled down the road. Mid to late 1970s cars weren't known to leave one pressed back in the seat upon acceleration but that piece of crap hit 50 by the time we approached a curve. There the tires squalled and strained to stay on the pavement while my head bounced off the passenger window.  After the sharp turn, the road abruptly descended down a long hill. A few minutes later we managed to arrive in Collinsville High School's vocational parking lot where Pete continued his antics. The vocational parking lot was just right for the likes of Pete and his Torino.

The school had had two parking lots. One was the destination for the faculty and most of the students. That paved lot was located next to the gym and the main building. Our arrival was at a remote dirt and gravel clearing where kids tossed beer bottles, soda cans and emptied ashtrays between parked cars. On the roof of the main campus the school narc spied on the lot with binoculars. On any given morning he spotted smoke shrouded car interiors occupying that strange outpost. Occasional muffled coughs from those who toked on one-dollar joints rose above the sounds of KSHE. Some young entrepreneur sold the weed from car to car. When the temperatures dipped there was no mistaking who frequented the parking lot: stoners and misfits mingled with a few of the straight A students. Their coats were saturated with the distinct aroma throughout the school day. The narc - a avid jogger - always wore Raybans and a sweatsuit. Occasionally he gave chase to the kids hanging out in the lot. Jeans and long hair scattered in all directions as he ran after the offenders. No doubt he used those binoculars in advance to increase his odds and nab the slow ones.   

Back to Pete and his Torino. With a captive audience, he wanted to make sure everyone noticed his new ride. He floored the accelerator and roared around the circumference of the lot. Hitting the first turn, we slid sideways. The car abruptly stopped and he romped on the gas throwing gravel and dust at cars towards the end of the lot. Pete repeated the maneuver as he ran the circuit several times creating clouds of dust that blew over the remainder of the vehicles. Once in a while fights erupted prior to class, but somehow Pete managed to avoid getting his ass kicked. Perhaps the occupants in those cars had their stereos too loud, or maybe the kids were blitzed. I didn't ride in his car after that. I am sure I came up with some excuse not to join him in his insane desire to cheat death first thing in the morning. 

Pete's lunatic binge wasn't unusual at the vocational lot. One girl managed to roll her boyfriend's muscle car out there. As for my participation in the merriment at the lot during the morning rush, I gave that up after my semester report card arrived in the mail a few months later. The grades in my first two classes tanked. It is no wonder as parents we worry about our kids. A few of us have memories of how crazy those teen years were and marvel at how we ever made it through them. Whatever our kids do, we don't want them to follow in our footsteps.