Look South

By Dave South

I brake for stupidity

It’s 1991 and I am walking from my apartment at Ricks College (now BYU-Idaho) to the little music studio under the football stands. I say walking. It really isn’t. I probably look like Quasimodo as I lumber about with a 50-pound particle-board case. It is weighed down with — in order — glue, wood chips, felt, and a synthesizer. It’s spring in Rexburg so the weather is a balmy 40 something degrees. The winter ice is mostly melted from the roads, except where the cars park. Shade from the vehicles keep the ice pristine and very slick. Even from this distance — as I amble slowly forward — I see a car in the football parking lot struggling to break free.

Synthesizer hard case

Carrying a heavy case like that isn’t something you do in one go. It only has this one, tiny, hard handle in the middle to carry it. If I try to use both hands, they squish painfully together and my knees knock against the case making me walk in 6-inch strides. Instead I have to carry it with one hand, case at my side. After my arm lengthens a bit, I set it down, shift to the other hand, and continue.

By now I see the passenger is out, trying to push the car free from its parking space.

Why is the music studio under the football stands? Simple, it is actually a shed. The school converted it by putting down some carpet, installing a heater and saying, “Good enough for the jazz band”. They probably figure if it is at the very edge of campus, it wouldn’t bother too many people with our “modern sound”. This is Ricks College after all.

The man is pushing the little car from the low part of the parking lot. He is moving it backwards with pretty good speed and then it stops. It’s hard to tell exactly what’s going on because other cars parked in the lot block most of my view.

Set the case down, shift hands, pick it up, keep going.

After a while I’m in the parking lot. I can see the face of the man pushing the car. He’s clearly getting tired of this game and is showing more and more frustration. They are getting a fair amount of speed, but they still can’t free the car.

This is odd. The area under the cars is very slick, but the rest of the parking lot is clear. Why is it stopping? The slope is not that much. It’s baffling.

My left arm seems to have gone numb, maybe I should switch sides.

Finally I trundle past the last car blocking my view. There are probably six open spaces between me and the stuck vehicle. The man pushes, the driver reverses, and they stop.

Finally, I see the problem. The parking brake is on.

It’s a little Honda with front wheel drive. As they push and drive backwards the car moves fine, sliding the locked rear tires over the ice. When the rear tires reach the dry pavement the car skids to a stop. The driver then pulls forward, sliding the rear tires across the ice, and they do it all over again.

I shift the case for the umpteenth time to my other side and keep walking.

I’m almost to the car when the tired, frustrated pusher calls out, “Could you please help?”

“Sure,” I say. “But only if he releases the parking brake.”

It’s funny watching how much can happen in just a moment. The angry look from the pusher, the embarrassed yelp from the driver, his quick turn to the center console to release the brake, the yelling from the pusher, the apologies from the driver. I’m not even past the back fender before the pusher gets in the car — sweaty and mad.

They pull out with ease and drive off.

By now my arms and hands are sore and I’m tired of this whole trip. So as I reach the shed feeling a bit smug about the foolishness of the driver I realize something else — I own a car.

Why did I carry this stupid case?