Finger in the Wheel

04/11/2014 — Leave a comment
images Sent by Tommy Jpseph
I was hitch hiking cross country, can’t remember which way, doesn’t matter.  I was in my late teens.  A guy about my age driving a ’55 Studebaker pulled over.  It had no paint job.  I loved it.  The guy was going a good distance.  After a while he asked if I wanted to drive.  “Hell yeah”, I said.

The guy was tired.  It didn’t take him long to conk out in the front seat, next to me, his head up against the window.  Why doesn’t he lie down in back?  I think I know the answer to that one, speaking from my own experience.  I can’t go to sleep when someone else is driving till I get a good idea how they drive.  Maybe that’s why the guy didn’t get in back.  He was tired though.
Anyway, he’s out like a light and I’m cruising along in his gun metal rocket – no radio, just the wind in my ears and the hum of the road.  He had one of those tiny steering wheels with metal spokes coming from the center.  There’s 3 spokes, each adorned with holes that get gradually smaller going downward.I was bored.  In a nice way.  I started with the largest hole.  I stuck my finger in and pulled it out.  Not challenging enough, too large.  I slid down to the next hole and slid my finger in.  Pulled it out pretty easy.  I went down to the second to last hole and slid my finger in.  I pulled it out.  It did not come out easy.  I put it in again.  It was like a challenge of some sort, a game of solitaire.  I put it in again.  Only this time I couldn’t get it out.  I gave it a good 10 minutes driving down that straightaway, didn’t want to wake the guy up, but the more I pulled on my finger the tighter it lodged.  I hated having to wake the guy up.I knew I had to get off the highway.  I slowed down to get ready for an exit.  Oh yeah baby, here’s an off ramp.  Thankfully it’s not a toughie, kind of long, but just enough of a curve to force me to slow to about 5 miles an hour so I could steer the wheel with my unstuck hand, contorting my body to work the stuck hand slowly to it’s limit.  I had to stop and re-steer several times.  It was driving with one hand, only worse.

It was night, but lucky for me there was an open gas station off the ramp.  This was in the era of full service stations.  I pulled in and crawled to a stop.  I nudged the guy who owned the car.  He was still asleep.  I nudged him several times before he woke to the words I had planned to use the whole time I worked his car down the ramp – “Uh, you are not going to believe this.”  Those are the go-to words I use in situations such as this – like the time years later when I was driving a cab and had to call the guy I leased it from to tell him it had been stolen after I had double parked it, left it running and ran into a building to get a customer.  I think, “Uh, you’re not going to believe this”, is better than, “you better sit down”, or, “I have bad news.”  It’s softer, yet it lets people know something not so nice is on the way.

“You’re not going to believe this”, I said, “my finger is stuck in your steering wheel.”

Two guys came out of the station and helped try to pry it loose.  No luck.  I admit I was resisting a bit because it hurt.  Finally one of them went in and came back out with a bucket of grease and applied some to my finger and worked it back and forth and finally it popped out.  No real story here, just want to say, “Those racing-car style steering wheels with holes in them should be outlawed – I could have been killed that night because of that wheel.”

Let’s take care of the old driving distractions before we go to work on new ones like texting and cell phoning.  Let’s go back and work our way forward.  Outlawing everything.  But this time, start at the beginning and do it right. That stupid wheel could have killed me and it would not have been my fault.  There was nothing premeditated about it.  My finger slipped into the holes, that’s all – it’s not like I planned it.  Get rid of those steering wheels, they are dangerous.

I was an idiot that night and I loved it.  By the way, the guy let me drive again.  This time I played only with the two larger holes near the top of the wheel.

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