West Side Story, Chapter 2

I got stuck in an automatic car wash on West Broad Street* two days ago. I input the code numbers to make it go, the thing pulled me in about 20 feet, then stopped. Trapped in the somewhat foreign space of my stepfather’s Crown Victoria, I watched the spindle of fat, soapy rags twirl through an entire cycle and realized that I couldn’t take the keys out of the ignition without putting the car in park. Being on a track that demanded the car stay in neutral, this didn’t seem like the smart choice. Instead, I chose to lean on the horn like the most annoying person who ever lived and hoped that my oil-stained white knight would arrive soon.

My mother called me on my cell phone at that moment. Learning of my peril while listening to me beep for several minutes without getting any response, she serenaded me with, “Did she ever return? No, she never returned, and her fate is still unlearned/Though for years there were fond hearts watching/for the little girl stuck in the car wash who never returned.”

She tried to call the BP station for me while I kept on honking, and after about 10 minutes, a young man finally showed up to help. After a series of “turn the wheel this way” and “hit the gas!” instructions, I wound up safely back in the right place and miraculously, without any scratches on the car. He sent me back though with an upgraded car wash, which is apparently more expensive because you get to sit there and watch yourself get encased inside of a rainbow of sherbet-colored foam instead of plain white soap.

Yesterday, on the same stretch of road, I stopped at a traffic light close to the outerbelt, right at the moment that an ambulance and firetruck pulled over to examine a person lying on ground beside the offramp. I saw an EMT pick up one of the person’s arms and drop it. As it flopped to the ground, I decided that I would add an errand or two to my trip, which had been to simply ship a camcorder back to Canon that they have now failed to fix twice. I didn’t find anything about this person in the paper today, so I’m hoping that means the man or woman (I couldn’t tell which) is okay, or recovering from whatever happened somewhere.

When I finally drove home, I soaked in the friendly sight of Westgate’s neighborly-looking streets. A young woman in a ruffled blue shirt and spectacles walked a three-legged dog in front of these 1940s homes, where canna and petunias and sunflowers are embroidered into the landscape. There is enough obvious house pride around here to keep us feeling the peer pressure to weed and fix our crumbling front step. As commercial or institutional as West Broad Street can feel, Westgate is equally welcoming.

Dan keeps joking that living on the West side is like being in the witness relocation program. In our old quarters, closer to North High Street*, he couldn’t walk ten feet without bumping into some musician, artist, know-it-all, music fan, cult of personality or new or old friend. I have run into someone I know out in the neighborhood (in this case, at the hardware store) exactly once since we moved here last November. Dan, of course, has run into a few more, but nowhere near the level he did around our old stomping ground.

This is probably a blessing this summer, because we certainly can’t go to a festival or music event without his experiencing some degree of interrogation about what happened to Little Brother’s and what he’s planning to do next. Around the closing, it was very touching when so many people said “I’m so sorry,” and a few people actually cried about losing the club, or because they hurt for us, knowing that despite Dan’s veteran status as a music man, our life as a family is very new and financial instability is scary. It is touching, but exhausting.

For the sake of trying to figure out how we are going to rebalance our lives, it’s good to get stuck in a West Broad Street car wash.

* For those not familiar with Columbus, West Broad Street is the primary east-west road that runs through Columbus, while High Street is its North-South counterpart. The two street intersect in the center of Downtown, where the Ohio Statehouse is located.

Life soundtrack
: Doc Watson, My Old Country Home, “The Ship That Never Returned”
Doc Watson - My Dear Old Southern Hom - The Ship That Never Returned

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