Bump in the night

By driving Emmet


I blame it all on my inordinate love of Bumper Cars at Nantasket Beach.  Forget the Tilt-a-Whirl and the roller coaster and all those rides. Most of them made me sick. (I always thought they should pay us to go on those damn things). I was a Bumper Car guy. I would spend my last dollar (saving enough for a hot dog and root beer) smashing into other riders, especially those who were not looking.

Unresolved anger issues, I suppose, but a much better method than shooting up a mall with an automatic weapon.

I must admit I was partial to the demolition derby as well. I went once to a Norwood, Mass.  raceway to see a demolition derby live, then watched them on television religiously on Wide World of Sports on Saturday afternoon. The derbies were broadcast from Islip, Long Island, wherever that is.

I believe taking it to the streets started with my late, great and good pal, Harrigan from Rhode Island. We met as reporters for the Gloucester Times and there was a zaniest competition from the start. Later when I went to visit him in Providence, he was at a red light in front of me. I pulled up on his bumper and started pushing him through the light, just to see the look on his face. He loved it, of course. Later that evening we were both in the same car when we approached another red light. Harrigan started pushing some guy through the red light, just to see the look on his face…in Providence, where even school children pack a weapon of some sort.

Later, when no gunfire erupted, we had a great laugh and the Bumper Cars routine was established.

Danny C. lived at my Martinsville house for a while. Naturally we both had dilapidated cars. If I saw Danny parked somewhere, I would (gently) tap his bumper. Once he was parked at a red light at Route 90 in Rockport. My three lovely daughters (totally corrupted by then) said in unison “Hit him! Hit him!” So of course I did, gently.

We all thought it was terrible amusing, until the blue lights came on. I told the Rockport police officer that it was all a family joke. Ha, ha. I got a long lecture about children and driving safety.  He didn’t see the humor in it all.

I did.

Teacher Phyllis was another favorite target. Whenever I saw her car in Rockland I would maneuver behind her and give her a little tap. She hated it, of course. She decided to get even when she saw my car parked at Lake Chickawaukie one summer afternoon. She roared into the parking lot and slammed into my car, much too hard. One problem. It wasn’t my car. Poor Phyllis had to explain that her “friend” was always slamming into her car and she was getting revenge. “Some friend,” said the startled driver.

I tried to get Blue Eyes to play Bumper Cars but she always refused. Smart woman. We left Conte’s on the Rockland waterfront one night and found Jefferson Phil’s car ahead of us at the red light. “Tap him!” I said again and again. Blue Eyes did not even consider it. When the car drove off, we found out it wasn’t Phil after all, just a car that looked like his.

You might think that would have cured me. No way.

We all trooped down to Larry O’s fifteenth wedding in Portland many years ago. Once again, I found a target at red light. It was the Rockland Police Chief. (No names, please.) Blue Eyes begged me to stop. But I had to do it. I gave him a little tap and he leaped out of his bucket seat. I found out later that he replaced the entire bumper of his prissy Saab because I left a little scratch on it. Blue Eyes said that was quite enough, especially when she was in the car.

I never “tapped” Grima’s assortment of jalopies because I was afraid they would fall apart in the middle of the street.  I have given up playing Bumper Cars now. It is not because I have matured, certainly. It’s not because I wised up.

It’s just that I am too tired.

But if I see Jefferson Phil sitting at red light I might start up again and give him a little tap, just to see the look on his face…after I make damn sure it’s really him.