Last Rides Premium Selects: Getting The Boot
When I write these little features, I always follow a set of self-imposed rules:
Rule No. 1: The car is always the main character;
Rule No. 2: Avoid using the same personality profile as in a previous story;
Rule No. 3: Inject truth. Use real ownership experiences for each example, and plausible explanations for clues;
And, Rule No. 4: Avoid blanket, prepared or generic scenarios.
I’m going to bend that last one a little bit. I’ve found the right example to illustrate it.
After all, this scenario would certainly fall into the generic category. On this day, nearly 80 percent of the cars in this yard wore one of these. Must have been culling day at the pound.
The subframe of this 300C was dropped and its 5.7-liter V-8 harvested faster than an errant valve seat can make you throw out all of your “HEMI” apparel. I’m not sure if the peculiar two-tone painted stripe is exclusively a local thing around Chicago, but I’ve been seeing more and more of these jobs lately. Usually, it’ll be a blacked out section that has no harmony with the body lines of the car, and tapers down the trunk. Almost like a thong.
My goal with this shot was to get a line of ’05 Mopars all with Black Ice hanging in the breeze. But since I couldn’t power down the windows, the best I could manage was including the extremely clean fallen Caliber to the side.
Andre was hard.
Andre noticed the Lexus SUV had been sitting for over 45 seconds outside Terminal 2. This Merlin of moving peoples put his magic wand to work and approached the driver’s door, speaking through the glass. “I can’t have you sitting here, you need to move please.” He stood next to the door until the Asian woman drove off. Like herding stubborn sheep, he worked down the line, always vigilant. The scorn of inconvenience was apparent on the drivers’ faces, and Andre ate it up like candy. The sight of a job well done. “You know what tha fuck you doin’, playa,” he thought of the angry individual in the Benz, empowered. There were few things to like about working for the TSA in a place like O’Hare. It was a truly thankless position, and you had to find joy in the little things. That same Expedition was back again. Andre had levels to “this shit” for repeat offenders. First, he would be polite. Then, he would be forceful, and express his displeasure. Strike three would generate a dramatic increase in boiler pressure that brought about harsh language — and threats of a tow. That last response had some trade-craft in it, and was dependent on the profile of the offender. Most white folk would respond smartly to Andre’s threatening thuggish persona. He might even make up a few choice words to throw them off. When presented with incoherent pressure, fear was the result. A chummy, “Come on big guy, gimme a break”, coupled with putting hands on the vehicle, seemed to get the job done with most minorities. Mr. Expedition pointed to his party and Andre gave him a bye. Then the Lexus appeared again, and Andre strode jauntily toward it, his eyes like daggers. It was in gear before he could get out the words “AYE’ MAN!”
Andre punched out, shed his yellow vest and took the bus to go collect his ride. Under the glow of halide sat the Crentley. It was a castoff from his sister. A post-crash Three Double-Oh that was heavily keyed by her ex. She unloaded it fast and cheap. “Ain’t nuthin like family.” His go-to guy for automotive needs, Javier, had rapidly worked his magic. He fitted an Ebay “Bentley” grille, and $1,000 in harvested sounds. Rather than spend the money on a costly color-match and blend job, the “HOE” carved into the door was cleverly concealed with a black stripe over the damaged areas. This only cost Andre two-hundo, and four hours of his time perusing stolen stereos while Javier worked in the backyard. Andre’s gaze was drawn to the rust forming at the interface of the fender. “Gotta get that shit straight,” he told himself aloud in the parking lot. The tumor was growing. Got to be careful with rust in the Chii, it’s a car killer. This would cost about tree-fitty to black the new bumper, along with a swept back motif “like Batman” to extend aft on the fascia. Additionally, Javier would need the car for two days to smooth out the previous repair to Denise’s handiwork. That was a problem. “Tough to be without my baby that long.”, he thought.
Andre plunged into the leather with a emphatic “Ahhhh,” and pulled the door shut. The booming thrust from the Airbus overhead was immediately silenced. With a twist of the key, the exalted V8 produced a sublime “wooom” that fell into a soft cadence of warming cylinders. The gauges came alive, and glowed in the color of money. The 7-inch screen motored out of the Pioneer AVH-X7700BT, and the rattling from the subs in the trunk commenced.
“You’re listening to WGCI in The Chii…” (Reggae air horn)
Catch me rollin’ through the city
Ridin’ with the top off
Man, my whip so big when you in it
Fuck (censored) around and get lost
Told my bitch(censored) to let her hair down
What this shit(censored) cost
Andre sang along, even including the blanks that turned the track into a clumsy mess made fit for public consumption. The Three Double-Ohhh boomed past the suckers standing on the Metra platform next to the Kennedy. Andre dipped into the throttle slightly. The hemi belted out a subdued rasp, that echoed back into his ear. Like a rebound from your boy. The Black Ice twirled on the mirror, delivering it’s olfactory payload. “Have you ever seen ‘The world is yours’… from a blimp?” he yelled along. The yellow engine symbol suddenly illuminated. He paid it no mind, as it was a frequent anomaly. However, he did notice the Crentley was on “E” again. He exited and worked along the surface streets to find a place to feed the hungry hemi. After finding a Mobil, he pumped in only 3/4ths of a tank of high-priced Chicago fuel. This would prevent the stalling on left turns. As the buckled concrete clunked below, Andre blissfully rubbed the finely appointed steering wheel with his thumb. A 300c was an insanely tight ride when it was released. Nowadays it might even be considered “hood,” but Andre didn’t pay that any mind. His feelings were similar to witnessing a rainbow, appreciating the miracle of it all, and not caring about the how or why. The Chrysler pulled up to Andre’s apartment off Cicero Avenue, and he stuck his leg out the door over the blistered Chrysler emblem. With these wings, he could fly. The 300’s door clicked closed softly, and it’s loving owner glided up the sidewalk, singing “You nasty … oh oh … you nasty.”
Saturday morning came and went, with Andre trying to get as much sleep as possible before picking up “mad hours.” He was jostled from his slumber several times by the phone, which he ignored. It rang again and he looked at the screen before answering. “Dammmn man, what ‘chu want?” Chris replied only with laughter, and Andre was not amused. “Man, I ain’t got time for this shit.” Chris then got right to the point. “You look outside dog? Rahm got your ride booted. What ‘chu do?” Andre’s eyelids may as well had been connected to a dimmer switch that was throttling up upon hearing those words. “You best not be trippin’.”
In short order, Andre was standing in the street in only a dirty pair of basketball shorts, looking at something unbelievable. A bright yellow shackle had been applied over his chromes and an orange sticker on the window seared his retinas with its hue. First he tried to simply pull the boot off, which by design, did not happen. He brushed brake dust off his forearm and winced. Then he used the highest octave of his voice reserved only for the most injured formation of the words “Dammmn mannnn!” Neighbors heard him and stopped in their tracks. Eons ago, that sound might have been made right before someone got mauled by a lion. Nobody laughed at, nor mocked the half-naked man standing in the street. It was the sound of the onset of immense pain. The sound of getting a leg up, and having it kicked right out from under you. The sound of Chicago wanting more of your money.
Andre dialed the number listed on the sticker. “I’m showing here that you have four unpaid red light violations.” “Tha-fuuuu? Those camera things? I didn’t get none of those … ” Andre squealed, suddenly coming to the realization that the lack of forwarding service to his new address a year ago might have a part to play in this debacle. “Wait. How much that be?” The woman responded from her vampire lair, “It’s $100 for each violation, plus $100 for the boot fee.” Andre felt as if he had just been hit in the face with a brick. He didn’t have $500 just laying around. Then he asked in shock, “Where did I run these red lights at?” The woman entered this query into Cook County’s ENIAC to find that answer. The violations all came from one intersection at Cicero and Washington. He had definitely been through there many times on the way to the south side. After weighing his options over the phone about fighting the tickets, the woman’s tone changed to one of distaste. Andre took the cue and began discussing payment.
Andre sat on the CTA bus on the way to work and wondered where he was going to find another $200. That was with being late on his rent and Comcast. Some undesirables came to mind briefly before he considered hitting up the more successful members of his family. They would rake him over the coals for sure on his superfluous expenditures. Every set of Bulls tickets over the past year would be scrutinized, every new pair of kicks. Down at Arrivals, he simply waved his wand at the idling traffic. His area in front of Southwest had become a parking lot, and Andre came out of his daze. They had taken advantage of his mental state, and now they were going to pay. There would be no levels of aggression today. Only screaming. “No stopping or standing! If your party ain’t here, get on!!!!” Andre was exhausted as he got off the bus, and walked the last block under the 2 am streetlights. He only spent a moment staring at the Crentley with its yellow buckle. Tomorrow, he would have to hustle.
Andre woke around noon and took stock of prized memorabilia that meant slightly less to him than his Chrysler. Then he remembered his subs. Laying in the trunk was some quick cash. Others didn’t have the connections to audio equipment that he had. He might even make a little extra on the sale. Andre went outside and started fishing the keys out of his pocket for the Three Dub … which … was not there. In fact, no cars were there. That’s when he noticed the lines left on the pavement from the Elgin Pelican. “Street cleaning today?! DAMN!” Andre sat on the curb, and rubbed his ‘fro. Where the hell was his ride now? How would he find out? He glanced wearily to where his car used to be, looking for the non-existent “Here is where we’ve taken your Chrysler” notice. He dialed the number from the day before to inquire on his missing automobile, reaching the dead end of “It must not be in our system yet.” It would take another four hours for the “system” to catch up. “I show one 2005 Chrysler being towed from that address. Did you not know there would be street cleaning today?” Andre didn’t even bother answering that one. “Looks like they brought it to Auto Pound No. 2.” Andre asked, “Yeah, where that be?”
The answer to that question was one bus ride, a ride on the El, a walk to Millennium Park, followed by a train ride to the south side. His journey ended with a long walk down 103rd Street, that he immediately regretted after the sidewalk ended, and the streetlights became inoperable. He couldn’t remember the last time he walked this far. “Dayyyum man! Should have taken a damn cab.” Finding a willing cab in this area so late at night would have been an impossible feat, however. Once he turned onto Doty Avenue, Andre knew he must be close. Half of the traffic was comprised of laden tow trucks. A silver Mustang hung backwards off one, its lower valance scraping the roadway as it passed. He followed the condemned up an entrance with no sign, and then stood in disbelief at the gate. The same Mustang he saw earlier roared by on a huge wheel loader, bouncing on ten foot-long forks, it’s front bumper distorted into a frown from sitting up against the attachment. The dust kicked up by the behemoth further totaled the interior of a nearby 5-series convertible. The vehicles here were shown the same level of care as a corpse during a plague. “This the junkyard?” he thought with uncertainty.
All the activity seemed to be centered at the nearby double-wide. Andre creaked up to the door, just as an irate couple was leaving, saying “Can’t even believe this! I wasn’t even parked on that street any damn way.” He entered the mysterious trailer. The first thing he saw was a young white woman quietly sobbing, clutching her cell. She was still dressed in clubbing attire, and her mascara was heavily smeared. “I wonder what that white girl be cryin’ ’bout?”, he thought to himself. This was bad. He approached the kiosk. Behind the glass partition sat “Lucinda”, who seemed annoyed merely by his appearance before her. She said nothing, so Andre started the exchange. “I was told my Chrysler was towed here.” Lucinda asked, “What’s the plate number?” Andre didn’t know his license plate number, not entirely anyway. “Yeh, it’s a silver 2005 300C.” Lucinda stomped her keyboard with sausages, and Andre noticed that only the little finger of her left hand had a 1 1/2-inch long dagger of nail shooting off of it. She furrowed her uni-brow, and said “MMMmmm, I … don’t … think it’s in my system yet …” Since Andre stood fast, she eventually found several 300c’s in her system. “Last name on the registration?” “Ellis.” he replied. “OK. It looks like you have some outstanding violations … so it’s $660 for that, and a $160 fee for the towing and one day storage.” Andre thought for sure she had the wrong damn 300. “I only got $500 in violations.” Lucinda corrected the law-breaking fiend, “You have one here that just happened for parking during street cleaning.” Andre was flabbergasted. “I didn’t even … couldn’t … DAMN MAN!” Then he whipped out his imaginary shiv and eviscerated the air. Lucinda was totally unphased by his display, and simply sat with a blank stare. She might even had been bored. If she was the hen that she resembled, she would have let out one single cluck. Andre left, finally arriving back at his apartment at 3 amwith only a form to fill out for an appeal.
The following Wednesday, Andre could barely move his magic wand. Not only was he exhausted from a sleepless night and early bus ride, but he was mentally defeated. He developed a plan to spring the Crentley. He would leave work early, and go grab $1,000 cash. “Thanks man, I owe you one.” he said, stepping out of Chris’ Neon into the parking lot of the Payday Loan store. The Neon buzzed down to the south side. The pound was even more incredible of a sight in the daylight. “Damn man, there must be a thousand cars here.” Chris said. The two men creaked floorboards into the hot trailer office. There was a line this time, and the air was thick with anger. The words of one man caused Andre some concern. His business attire was soiled in a tan dusty tinge and he attempted to rub some grime from his hands. “Your guy put a huge hole in my oil pan. How am I supposed to drive out of here with no oil?” he boomed. The clerk handed the man a “discrepancy form” while lightly conversing with a co-worker and gave the man a suggestion to grab a tow from one of the trucks waiting outside for this purpose. Condolences were not offered. “Thanks a lot!” the gentleman said, whooshing out the rickety door. The next contestant was a young man, who stood at the counter for only thirty seconds. The clerk told him he needed something from a notary. The kid laughed loudly and jetted out the door. A woman waiting nearby with an armful of papers said “This is ridiculous” under her breath. Andre joined in, “I work for the TSA, and I ain’t never seen no red tape like this before.” It was his turn next. The clerk resembled a ninth grade math teacher from 1982. After pulling the info for the 300, he asked for Andre’s registration. “Oh, you need that?” The clerk responded with an “Mmmhmm.” Then, Andre spotted the form with the description of his vehicle. On it, it read, “CD player missing.” His blood began to boil. “I got the registration in my glovebox. Can I go to my car and go get it?” The stiff man shot him a glance as if to insinuate lack of responsibility. Then he keyed a handheld radio.
Andre waited outside in the hot dust for the ferryman. A filthy, battered Caravan pulled up. Andre opened the sliding door and stepped onto the dried mud floor. The driver was jubilant, and lifted his spirits somewhat. At least somebody here still had their humanity. The Caravan drove past miles of forlorn cars, all a dirt tan color. “They get you all squared away in there?”, the driver asked. “Naw, man.” Andre replied. “Don’t worry.” the driver reassured him, “You’ll get your ride. Is it a 300C or 300M?” Andre answered “300C.” The driver continued, “Awww straight, the Hemi?” Andre was distracted by the sliding door rattling to smithereens on the rough lot. He imagined a family somewhere still trying to get their Caravan back. Suddenly, he caught a glint of a familiar black stripe. “There it is dog. On the other side.” The van pulled around and Andre exited into a cloud. “That’s dope man.” said the driver. But things were certainly not dope. The prized Bentley grille was hanging by its one remaining attachment point, and the front bumper was popped from the fender. A tire was also flattened. Andre flung his arms down in despair. He went to check the rear of the car. Audio wires hung out over the bumper. He grabbed the door handle, and was surprised to find it wasn’t locked. “Naw mannnn. NAW.”, he said in disbelief of what he was looking at. The familiar stench of Black Ice told him it was real. Lack of AVH-X7700BT confirmed. The trunk was also emptied of all hifi components. “DAMN MAN! They took my fucking sounds!” The ferryman suddenly grew impatient. When he said “You got everything you need from there?” it was without pity. Andre then asked “You got a screwdriver?”
Of course, there was no screwdriver to be found. Andre resorted to forcibly pulling on the glovebox handle, which snapped off in his hand. Next, he tore the lid free with the ferocity of a bear, and retrieved the registration card within.
Chris was still waiting back at the trailer. “Errrthing all set?” his friend asked. “Naw man. They jacked all my sounds. My shit’s beat.” answered Andre. He raged back into the hot trailer, where the clerk informed him of his additional storage fees. “That’s fine.” said Andre disapprovingly. The clerk continued, “Also, your city sticker is unreadable. You’re gonna have to replace that before we can release the car.” Andre could only laugh and say “What!? Dayum man!!!” before leaving the impound for the second time. He wept, although, not openly. He didn’t even do that after learning of his niece catching a stray. Chicago broke him.
The Neon returned at 11 pm. “This shit outta hand.” agreed Chris. Andre creaked into the trailer for the third time, now armed with some high-interest plastic. He was just going to pay the fiddler, and sort it out later. He was pleased to find that there was no wait this time, and the clerk was also a quite attractive young lady. He wiped his mouth with his hand, and put on a fresh persona. “Hey sweet thing. You got my ride up in there. I want to get this handled today.” he said, cranking the charm to 11. “We got yo ride?” she cooed, processing his license and registration. He then placed the credit card on the counter to pay the nearly $1,500 in fines and fees. She playfully took the card and paperwork back, where she was intercepted by the same clerk he talked to earlier that day. “Naww man, naww … ” thought Andre. The two clerks came back to the counter. “You can’t use this card.” stated the math teacher, “It’s not even the same last name as the registered owner. You’re gonna either need cash and a notarized note, or ‘Denice Ellis’ to come down here in order to retrieve your vehicle.” Andre thought of his sister, smiling in her new Atlanta condo, oblivious to the $1,500 in fines racked up in her name on top of the impounded car that she still legally owned. “There’s signs,” gestured the young woman. Indeed, there were. The ballast in the fluorescent light fixture above Andre had enough strobing for the day, darkening a pair of bulbs.
“Mannn, I don’t got that kinda paper mone-Y’all heartless. You ain’t even people! DAMN MAN!”
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Wow, incorrect engine oil viscosity is a code?
Poor guy. I think this is the first time I've felt sympathy for one of your characters. I usually just laugh at their predicaments.