Waiting For The Light

Basically, Brooklyn

I was just waiting for the light to turn green. I was on the corner of Flatbush Avenue and Livingston Street, in the downtown section of Brooklyn, New York. I had this 3:00 AM craving for Fried Wontons and so set out for Chinatown in my '89 sky-blue Corsica with the ski-slope shaped front end. I happened to be glancing down Livingston Street when I spotted a yellow medallion cab coming towards me. I thought he was coming kind of fast but being the professional driver that all Yellow Cabbies are, I saw no cause for alarm.

Then he went into his right turn.

It was a really wide right turn.

It was so wide, he drove straight up the hood of my car before having the good sense to apply the brake. The cab came to a screeching halt just short of my windshield, barely giving me enough time to think, "Decapitated!"

Fortunately, I never lost my head. Instead, largely due to the fact that "time is money," I watched the cabby throw his vehicle into reverse and roll his cab off my crumbled Corsica. As the vehicle bounced back onto the blacktop, his left front tire blew out. I sat, still in a state of semi-shock, watching the cabby as he climbed out the driver's side door. At this point, I decided to do the same but my door wouldn't open. It had been crunched shut. I had to climb over the front seat to exit through the back door. It was about that time that I noticed the passenger, leaning out the back window of the cab.

"Are you nuts?" he asked the cabby.

"Yes, please," the cabby replied in a distinctly Middle Eastern accent. "I turn off timer."

How considerate, I thought, meeting the cabby somewhere in the back of the cab, where he popped open the trunk and pulled out a spare.

"I must fix flat," he explained. "Man in hurry to get home."

I looked at my Corsica.

"Not to worry," he added. "Is my fault. I turned around to talk to passenger."

It was then that two of New York's Finest came by. The usual documents were exchanged and slips of paper issued. The cabby changed his flat and went on his way, without the least bit of concern for the puddle of oil left behind, while I waited 45 minutes for a tow truck that dragged my car to a body shop where they declared my baby, dead.

"Chassis is bent," the surgeon said. "Engine's been slaughtered. Axle is busted. Those corner panels are arthritic. I'd say an easy 3,000 smackers."

I cried.

I didn't have collision. The rates in Brooklyn for full coverage on an automobile are designed for doctors, lawyers, used car salesmen, and politicians. So I took the bus to work the next day and then the real crime began. My boss wanted to know what happened. He noticed my spot was vacant in the employee parking lot. I told him, and I told my fellow employees and they all looked at me kind of strange.

"You didn't go to the hospital?" one of them asked.

"How could you not go to the hospital?" another added.

"Everybody goes to the hospital."

"You're going to the hospital," my boss finally said. "You're hurt. You can't work. You're in shock. You're in trauma. Look at you, you're all bent up. You've been standing around here for twenty minutes now and you haven't gotten a thing done. I'll call my brother-in-law, Leo. He's a lawyer, he'll know what to do."

I went to the hospital. I went to Leo. Leo sent me to doctors. The doctors told me I had back trouble. They told me my neck ached. When I explained otherwise, they told me I needed a psychiatrist.

"Don't you want to be compensated for your loss?"

"Well yeah, but--"

"No buts! You do as we tell you and you'll have another car in no time. You do as you feel and you can ride the stinking bus for the rest of your life!"

I spent the next four months in physical therapy. I stayed out of work. I left my car at the body shop waiting for an estimator from an opposing party to price my loss and then, of course, I was arrested.

You see, I canceled the insurance and left the plates on the car. I would have taken the plates off, except the body shop that towed the car wouldn't let me near it until I paid the expense of the tow. Plus the storage fee for the 192 days that it took an estimator to come look at the car. The bill was for $2,121.73. I was a little short but I had to get the plates off the car. Albany was threatening to suspend my license and heap daily fines on my already depleted resources. So I borrowed two hundred dollars from my brother-in-law and traded the money and the car, for the plates.

The next day I borrowed my brother-in-law's car. I was about three blocks from the Department of Motor Vehicles in the Coney Island section of Brooklyn when the scooter cop pulled me over.

"Is there a problem, Officer?"

"You got a broken left tail light," he explained.

"I see," I said handing him my license. Some twenty minutes later, I noticed two more cops pull up behind the Scooter cop. I noticed all three of them approach my vehicle, one on the right side of the car and the other two on the left.

"You want to step out of the car?" the Scooter cop said.

I complied.

"You want to turn around, please."

I felt like a puppy in training.

He grabbed one arm and slapped a cuff on it and then the other and started reading me my rights. I couldn't believe this was happening. I didn't even know what I did.

"Do you understand everything I've just told you?" he asked, as he led me to the back of the squad car.

"What did I do?" I screamed, my eyes filling with tears.

"Operating a motor vehicle without a drivers license."

"But I gave you my driver's license."

"It's expired, buddy."

"How can that be?"

"You let your insurance lapse or something?" one of the other cops asked.

"I was just waiting for the light to turn green," I explained.

"Tell it to the judge, buster."

I called Leo. He got me off without a hitch. I stepped off the curb in front of the Kings Criminal Court House and hailed a cab. You'll never believe who was driving.

Jon Simonds

was born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lives some of the time. He makes his home in Bradenton, Florida when he's not in Bangor, Maine, Tidioute, Pennsylvania, or Cortland, Ohio.

He's written for New York Newsday, "had a paragraph in the Village Voice once," The Bangor Daily News, The Cortland Home Journal, and a host of other lesser known publications.

Currently, Jon is working on a novel about elves and dwarves.