In 1975, when Bruce Springsteen and E Street exploded on the music scene with “Born To Run,” I exploded on the Birmingham radio scene when my beloved VW Bug and I faced a shitstorm driving home during rush hour after a day fighting crime and/or evil in the FBI.
Put-putting south on an incline through The Cut in the Red Mountain Expressway out of the city, my Bug humming on all rear engine cylinders, my tiny dash board AM radio gushing with traffic advisories from various helicopters, I was dumbstruck by what happened next. The adorable manual floor stick-shift broke off in my hands about 2 inches above the floor. I looked down in disbelief. Worse, the stick had broken off in neutral gear, casting me into traffic oblivion.
I could not drive forward or drive in reverse! I came to a halt, hit the brakes to keep from coasting back into a long line of vehicles behind me in the left lane, their loud, angry horns assailing me. Plus, I was in deep shadows, stuck beneath the wide Highland Avenue overpass across the Red Mountain Expressway. I had descended into Hell.
Motorists shook their fists at me as the AM radio helicopter shouted a bulletin warning drivers that a mess was piling up on the Red Mountain expressway south. The car, the culprit, the villain was hiding under the Highland Avenue Overpass and could not be identified. The coward. With as much dignity as I could muster, I turned off the engine, manually closed the sunroof, got out, locked the door and bravely escaped across three lanes of shouted profanities, middle fingers at full staff, shaken fists, death threats and menacing teeth as the Southern race can so eloquently produce in a football minute.
If they had only known that I was armed but not dangerous, heading home after another successful mission for God in the Federal Bureau of Investigation, just one of them, not a warckaloon, just a guy who ate peanut and mayonnaise sandwiches and who was kind to bad weather, they would have reacted to my predicament in an understanding, charitable, and saucy way. Sure enough.