Monday, March 11, 2013

Don't Panic: The Coleman Cooler and Fire.

"Don't Panic?"
"It's from Hitchhiker's guide to the galaxy" replied my father.

I walked away as he finished applying the bumper sticker to our family van. This was one of the last ditch efforts to relate to me my father would ever make. He thought it was a cute bumper sticker and my prius was sporting a bumper sticker too. Mine was more for shock value than anything else. I got a huge kick out of parking my car at the front of the all girl's catholic high school with a "Sorry I missed church, I was busy practicing witchcraft and being a lesbian" bumper sticker.

Why yes, I am a smart ass. Thanks for noticing.

Like all bumper stickers, they fade and wear away. After we kicked my father out of the house, the bumper sticker became a twisted joke. The man who had terrorized my family for years left behind the words "don't panic" as his last statement. A few years later, the sticker came off in a way so it just said "PANIC".

My mother drove around in a big clunky van that had broken electrical system, no automatic steering, busted taillights, and a "PANIC" bumper sticker. Well, until one day.

I was sitting in our living room and I get a call from my mother.
"The car just blew up."
Not knowing what a normal person would say in this situation, I asked "are my cds okay?"
I could hear the laughter of the firemen in the background as my mother told me to come pick her up.

My mother had driven exactly 50 miles and made her way to Portland for a meeting with my father. She was out doing errands before and it was a hot summer day. She always takes a cooler of drinks wherever she goes because she always likes to be hydrated.

I'd like you to picture my mother as she is, a petite Irish woman with the grace and style of Jackie O. Growing up in Woburn, MA in the 60's she has the laid back and frank attitude of a person who can handle any trouble. So when she parked the car and flames immediately leapt up the windshield, with her lit cigarette in one hand and purse in the other, she calmly got out of the car moments before it blew up. She walked to the building, apologized for being late, and told the secretary to call the fire department because her car was in flames in the park lot.

After the firemen put it out, my mother asked to see if some of the items in the car were salvageable. She retrieved her glasses which were in a metal case that had melted to protect them. At first she laughed to see the Coleman cooler barely warped amidst the melted interior of the car, so she opened it. Inside that cooler were two Sprites and an ice pack, still cold. She offered one to one of the firemen, but they declined and thought the whole thing was strange.

When I arrived, I collected my Cds which were weirdly alright amongst the damage. Only my Panic at the Disco, still in the player, was lost. The cooler smelled of burnt plastic, smoke, and fear: we didn't take it with us.

As we took pictures of the mess, I fell into a fit of laughter when I got to the back of the van. My mother came over and she began to laugh too.

Still attached to the van and perfectly readable was the word "PANIC".

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