Conversations

October 2020

I had some interesting conversations this afternoon. I wasn’t seeking them out, but from time to time, when I am behind the wheel of my old ’62 Jaguar, I wind up meeting and talking to people I would never have crossed paths with otherwise. Someone will stop me, wanting to take a picture of a vintage automobile or, more often than not, the car will break down somewhere, which can lead to some memorable interactions, which brings me to what happened today.

I have been back in Florida for a couple of weeks now, and this morning I took the old Jag out for a ride, having just gotten it out of the shop for a repair on the starter key. It was to be my usual route along Ocean Road, south to Lake Worth, where I gas up at the Chevron station for the return north along Dixie Highway. The Jag is in full restoration mode, with a brand new transmission. But that starter key issue that I thought was fixed, well it wasn’t. My gas stop was a dead stop. I spent four hours waiting for a tow back to the garage. It was during the wait that I met and spoke with some local people, there at the Chevron on the corner of Laverne and Federal Highway in the Lake Worth district.

First, there was a limo driver who pulled in because his car was overheating. He parked and got out, saw my predicament and helped me to push the Jag away from the gas pump where it sat, refusing to restart. While his engine was cooling, he offered to look under the hood of my car, but his investigation failed to turn up anything obvious. I asked if he was from Lake Worth. He said he was and then immediately shifted the subject to the election. “You know, Trump conned us all!” he said, furiously. I nodded but didn’t want to get into a round table political discussion with him. He was obviously hotter than his limo when it came to politics. He probably didn’t hesitate to share his views with his riders. But I was not one of them that day and excused myself to check on the status of the AAA tow truck. Next came two Palm Beach County Sheriff patrol cars. The two drivers parked conspicuously in front of the pumps and walked into an area marked Equipment. That was strange. After an hour they came out with what looked like video cassettes. Seems the close circuit security cameras at the pumps capture a lot of action. I have never been to a Lake Worth gas station after dark unless I am looking for trouble and these sheriff deputies took the videos to see about some recorded trouble. The conversation with one of the officers was brief. “Has the crime level gone down with the virus?” I asked, “with people staying home more?” “Not really,” he replied. “The virus didn’t make any difference here,” he said. “Same amount of violence and crime, with or without a mask, just more of it inside now. Big uptick in domestic violence.” Well, that was discouraging. “Sorry your baby broke down,” he said as they drove away.

I was just finishing the New York Times, sitting out a rain shower in the driver’s seat of my lifeless car, when a young fellow on a moped pulled up next to my door and asked if he could take a picture of the Jag. “Sure” I said. I put on my mask and got out. By the way no one was wearing a mask so far except for me. Not even the sheriff deputies. So, it turned out this fellow was a lawyer who did foreclosures–a robust business apparently in Florida. It seems in Florida a homeowner can stay rent free after foreclosure for two years. They try to pay for the key – a concept common in foreclosures. This fellow recounted his life story, how he relocated from Connecticut to his grandparents’ cottage in Lake Worth and never left. I guess he spends his off time riding about on his scooter talking to people in broken down old Jags and taking pictures. After that I had a few waves from passersby who did a double take when they saw the old Jag, and one young woman who shouted “cute car” above the music blaring from her car speakers. After four hours and two rain showers the tow truck finally pulled into the gas station. Despite the breakdown, the long wait, the rain– I loved every minute of my day and have the old Jag to thank for it.

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