This short, non-fiction story was recently published in “Insights 2017” a literary journal of the community college I went to in the fall of 2016. True story – yes I was really that stupid and reckless – read on.
Being Single and Immortal
My near death experience delivering comics in the hills of San Francisco was proof that, when I was young and single, I thought I was immortal. Jobless and penniless I hitched hiked to San Francisco in 1972 with everything I owned in a backpack to study meditation.
On my first night I met John at the meditation group. I needed a job and a place to stay. John needed an errand boy for comic book delivery. I was expected to drive his light blue Austin Mini for deliveries to various locations up and down the steep San Francisco hills.
The Austin Mini of the early 60’s is a very underpowered car. It rides low to the ground but the normal five inches of clearance from the muffler to the street was reduced to two inches by the time I loaded up the first morning’s deliveries.
Twenty-second street has over a 30% grade and is one of the steepest streets in San Francisco. I didn’t know this at the time. There was a down hill section first so I gunned the Mini down hill to gain speed before hitting the up hill part. I almost made it to the top of the hill when the little engine stalled from the effort. I put on the brakes but the little car only paused before shooting back down the hill backwards, overloaded and under-braked! Terrified I grabbed eyefuls of rapidly moving road and expensive parked cars over stacks of comic books. I stood on the brakes with both feet steering towards the middle of the street. The mini and I zipped through an intersection rose slightly into the air and entered the next down hill stretch. I zipped through the second intersection and uphill again. Eventually the up-slope, brakes and emergency brake brought everything to a stop. I breathed and discovered it was a beautiful sunny day full of colors I hadn’t noticed before. The brakes and I cooled for an hour. Unbelievably I drove the Mini back to the print shop! I informed John his car needed brake work.
These is one of the many risks I took when I was single; when I never thought much about the risks I took; when I was immortal.