Tuesday, August 29, 2017

A trip to the airport and back.

When I got home last night, around 7:15, rather than going up to my apartment, I took the elevator down to the sub-basement and picked up my 1966 Simca 1600 from the garage attendant.

Some months ago, I had been planning to trade-in the old girl. A 51-year-old car—and a Simca to boot—often causes more problems than it solves. That is, she seemed to be on the fritz more often than she was running.

I called Lothar, the world’s finest Simca mechanic, who has a small shop down in Tom’s River, New Jersey.

“You will not sell the Simca,” he gutteralled. “Like new a top I will make her run.”  Lothar was true to his word, and since I picked up the car at his garage a couple weeks ago, she purrs like a kitten on Miltown.

“She is tight as Kelsey’s nuts,” Lothar said when I picked up the machine. And to be sure, the Simca gleamed a gleam any new car would be proud of.

“I have fix-ed the transmission with a new Hurst,” he began, “replaced the motor with an in-line four twin turbo from a 2014 BMW 3-series. The wipers she are new and the heater works now like the gates of Hell.”

We negotiated the bill, with me paying more for the repairs than the car cost in the first place. But that’s ok, I figured. For one, my wife will never find out. For two, the Simca is a beautiful car. And finally, and most important, I’ve grown attached to the machine. If Lothar says she will drive like a dream, well, I believe the old guy. For all the bumps and grinds I’ve had with the Simca, for all her idiosyncrasies, in truth, she’s seldom let me down.

I pulled the Simca quickly onto the East River Drive and headed north to the Triboro Bridge, which some technocrat somewhere has decided to rename the RFK Bridge. But the Simca and I refuse to call it that. It’s the Triboro and will be until I die, like Uncle Slappy still calls Kennedy Airport Idlewild Field.

I drove out to LaGuardia to pick-up Aunt Sylvie and Uncle Slappy who had just flown up from Boca on the 4:45 Jet Blue from Fort Lauderdale. Shockingly enough the flight was right on time, and just as I pulled to pick-up section C, Aunt Sylvie and Uncle Slappy rolled up with their roller bags and waved me to the curb.

“How was your flight,” I began.

“Feh,” Uncle Slappy answered. “I asked for a drink and they ran out of seltzer. This is 2017, who runs out of seltzer.”

Aunt Sylvie countered, “It’s a very popular drink.”

“Popular schmopular,” Uncle Slappy spat. “I’m 89 and a half, if I want a seltzer, a Sprite they shouldn’t try to pawn off on me.”

I tried to break the downward spiral.

“We have at home,” I said, “all the seltzer you can drink, Uncle Slappy. We’ll be there in 14 minutes according to the GPS.”

“Ach,” he spat again. “The GPS knows how thirsty I am?”

I snuck off the Grand Central at the Hoyt Avenue exit, headed down to 21st Street past the Astoria Houses, and took the 59th Street Bridge across the river—thus avoiding the toll on the Triboro. Uncle Slappy, naturally, noticed my maneuver.

“Things are rough with you, boychick? Taking the detour.”

“Oy, Uncle Slappy. If I took the Triboro and paid the toll, you’d ask if I were made of money. If I avoid the toll, you ask if I’m broke. Truth is, I’m doing fine. My investments are at an all-time-high, my apartment’s appreciated beyond my wildest dreams and I’m very happy in my job. I'm just trying to get you some seltzer.”

Uncle Slappy looked out the window as we sailed across the bridge and took in the always-breathtaking Manhattan skyline.

Aunt Sylvie said simply, poetically, “The city sparkles.”

Uncle Slappy agreed. “Like seltzer,” he said. “Like seltzer.”


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