I was in junior high, that most miserable stage of anyone’s life, unless you happen to be Del Latham, who was getting laid something like three times a day by all the girls who spent their lunch break in the woods smoking cigarettes. Those girls didn’t even know my name.
Like everyone else my parents were brake master cylinder casting divorced, but unlike most, I actually went to Dad’s house every once in awhile. Quality time hadn’t been invented yet, but still I went. Driving to my Dad’s house one particularly nasty afternoon, the rain was pouring out of the sky; one did not need to know how to drive to see that seeing out of the windshield was next to impossible. It looked like we were driving through an automatic car wash, only it didn’t end with big blowers, it was going to last all the way to Dad’s house.
I had never seen wipers so ineffective. We stopped at an auto parts store. I think that was the only time I was ever to be in an auto parts store with my dad. All that manly stuff looked formidable; the operation of all these tools and strange parts was contained in brains that mine would never communicate with on an equal level. I was intimidated, and so was my dad. There were men behind counters speaking about things I would never know using words I didn’t know, in dialects that I had never heard before. These people had to live around me, but they were strangers. Living in a different world, a world where men tore apart cars, and could put them back together, or at least talk like they could put them back together.
We scanned the store, trying to look at ease, scanning desperately for the wiper section. There was a variety to choose from, even after consulting the book. It took awhile to find the car in the book, some sort of crappy Toyota from the seventies. Dad’s didn’t have much spare dough in those days because they were all paying alimony and child support, and the rest went towards their weekends of carousing. Because of this Dad bought the wipers refills, not the replacements. He waited at the front counter for one of the men from the back counter to notice him with his purchase. And no one did. We stood, fidgeted, and dropped coin on the counter. I thought to myself, lets just walk out, since that is how I was procuring albums in those days; music filled my hours, since I wasn’t Del Latham, and the smoking girls didn’t know my name.
In the parking lot, the rain was relentless. My dad read the package, he then struggled to open them, and in the process he bent the refill blades. He sliced his finger trying to remove the old blades, pinching this, squeezing that, torqueing it this way and that, until he was finally left with mangled wipers. Men came out of the store and walked by us, glanced furtively and climbed up into their big pick up trucks, inside their sanctuary they grinned and shook their heads, amused at my dad’s incompetence. I knew this was a sad statement of our manhood.