When I turned 25 years old, I wanted to go ‘down the shore’ to play for the day at SIX FLAGS GREAT ADVENTURE, which at the time, was one of the largest Amusement Parks in New Jersey.
To me, my 25th birthday was a landmark age - the stepping off point between the idiocy of youth and the beginning of responsibility and adulthood. (I was a late bloomer!) I wanted to spend one last day going on all of the rides at GREAT ADVENTURE, screaming my head off like a kid, without the fear of having people looking at me like I belonged in a padded room or something.I wanted to celebrate that last day of immaturity and insanity with my sidekick; my friend Laurie. Our clique of friends often referred to the two of us as "Lucy and Ethel", as we were always getting ourselves into trouble in one way or another!
At the time, I drove a Ford Escort, and Laurie had a huge beat up Cadillac her Grandmother left to her, which was falling apart (literally!) and she lovingly referred to it as her “Crapillac”. (I think it averaged about three miles per gallon, and she had to use a metal hairpin to ‘arc’ the electric power windows to make them roll up and down!) Both of our vehicles were 'run of the mill', as far as cars went. To celebrate my birthday in style, we wanted something sporty to take us to GREAT ADVENTURE. Something with some class. Something different and thrilling and fun to drive. Something to make the celebration of my 25th birthday that much more special.
Coincidentally, our best buddy, Jimmy, was restoring a really cute little white MG Midget convertible.In our minds, the MG was the PERFECT vehicle of choice to make this trip, as it was a fun little sports car.And since it was a convertible, it would attract the attention of every guy driving along the New Jersey Turnpike!
Jimmy told us the MG restoration was not yet completed, but the vehicle itself was running well.However, the front window defogger/defroster system wasn’t yet working, and the windshield wiper motor still needed to be replaced. There were a few other things he mentioned to us, but once Laurie and I heard that he would actually allow us to drive his MG Convertible to GREAT ADVENTURE, we couldn’t care less what else was wrong!!It was party time and we were READY!!
I traded my Ford Escort for Jimmy’s MG Midget that night, and early the next morning, I picked Laurie up at her house.She rode shotgun wearing a straw hat with a ribbon that tied underneath her chin to protect her from the sun, and suddenly I felt as if we were riding in CHITTY CHITTY BANG BANG, the Fantasmagorical Machine!I almost felt as if this little convertible could fly!
As expected, we attracted a good number of single guys on the drive south… we laughed, passed beer back and forth between our moving vehicles (back in 1985, nearly everyone rode ‘down the shore’ with a cooler loaded with beer.) and we exchanged telephone numbers at 70 miles per hour, laughing like hell and having a great time.…And we hadn’t arrived at the park yet!It was going to be an excellent day!!
We parked the MG Midget in the parking lot, and entered GREAT ADVENTURE.The sky was blue with light, puffy white clouds, the sun was shining, and we were already psyched up and ready to have a full day of fun!
(The story is continued below!!) .
We started with the LOG FLUME, worked our way to the ROLLER COASTER OF DEATH (as we called it) and used the network of overhead trams as transportation to traverse the park without needing to waste precious time walking past the kiddy rides, the zoo and the food court sections.We wanted to spend our day waiting in the long lines, corralled like cattle, flirting with cute guys, and scaring the hell out of ourselves on the big, fast and scary rides!
We met lots of guys, and screamed even louder than we usually would when they would sit next to us on the PIRATE SHIP, the RUNAWAY TRAIN, the FERRIS WHEEL or the ZIPPER.Laurie and I had an absolute BLAST celebrating my 25th birthday!
Alas, all good things must come to an end, and this day was no different.It was growing late, the park was beginning to close for the day, our voices were hoarse from screaming on the rides.
Reluctantly, we left GREAT ADVENTURE.It was simple to locate Jimmy’s little white MG Midget, as it was sitting all alone underneath a street light in the middle of the enormous parking lot.We didn’t want this day to end.We had such fun!!
But, the day was not yet over!We still had a 90-minute drive home via the New Jersey Turnpike in Jimmy’s neat little MG Midget!!Hooray!!There was still some fun left to be had!!Laurie and I unlatched the convertible hood and folded it back down and attached the leather boot over it to keep the top from popping open by itself in transit.We were again ready to hit the highway with the radio blasting our favorite songs!We sang along at the top of our lungs.We laughed to the point of hysterics as we reminisced things that happened during the long day at the amusement park.
It was now very dark and we were happy to see Jimmy’s MG Midget’s headlights (and little red silver dollar sized taillights!) were in working order!Suddenly, Laurie turned to me and asked if I spit on her!
“SPIT on you?Why would I spit on you?”I asked in disbelief!
“I felt water on my face!”Laurie replied incredulously, as she noticed a few drops of rain beginning to land on the front windshield.“SHIT!It’s raining!”
At that same moment, I too, began to feel raindrops on my face, and I pulled the tiny car over onto the shoulder of the Turnpike, as the traffic whooshed past us. Laurie and I jumped into action as soon as the car stopped.We removed the boot, tossed it into the trunk and pulled the convertible top up in record time!We snapped the roof into place just above the top of the windshield and secured it with the latches on either side.
We managed to get back inside of the car just as the skies opened up and let a deluge of rain fall to the earth, completely drenching everything in seconds. We stayed on the shoulder of the Turnpike for a few seconds longer, giggling with relief at the fact we barely managed to make it back inside of the car without getting completely soaked in the process.
I turned on the windshield wipers and NOTHING HAPPENED.
“Oh no! Jimmy said the windshield wipers didn’t work!Damn!How can we see in this downpour?”Laurie whined.
I agreed with her, recalling our conversation with Jimmy the previous day, and I added the sad fact the defroster also did not work.Already, the inside of the windows were completely fogged up.We couldn’t see a thing outside of the car!
We were rudely jolted from assessing our current situation with the unbelievably loud blast of an air horn from a passing Eighteen Wheeler Tractor Trailer Truck!It blew past us at what felt like 100 miles per hour, pushing a tidal wave of water from the road up over our little vehicle as it sat on the shoulder of the New Jersey Turnpike.We felt the entire little car shake, as if it were pushed, with every vehicle that passed us!
“That Truck didn’t even SEE us until he practically drove OVER us, Laurie!These little red tail lights are too dim and too small for anyone to see, especially in this weather!”
Let me note here that this was also a time when Cell Phones were not yet a thing everyone possessed.There was no outside lifeline to call and ask someone to come and save us!It was up to us to save ourselves; or at least, to get the car back onto the Turnpike and drive to the first Rest Area to wait the storm out.
Laurie was nearing panic mode at this point.“We’re going to get smeared by a truck because this car is so small!We’re going to die!We have no windshield wipers and no way to get rid of the fog on the windows!We can’t see anything outside of the car! What are we going to do??”
Of course, in my twisted mind, a solution to our problem was already taking form!I had an idea!! (Once Laurie heard my cockamamie scheme, she knew it was time to PANIC!!)
Laurie and I both took off our shirts, leaving us wearing just our jeans and our bras.I tied a sleeve from each shirt to the windshield wiper on the driver’s side, getting drenched in the process!We rolled down our windows about 2 inches, and fed the other part of our shirts through the openings.Laurie held onto the one sleeve of her shirt, and I held tight onto mine.We alternated pulling our shirts, which moved the windshield wiper on the outside of the front window!
When I would pull my shirt into the car, the windshield wiper would slide to the left of the windshield.When Laurie would pull on her shirt, the windshield wiper would slide over to the right side of the windshield.My plan worked!
WE NOW HAD A WORKING WINDSHIELD WIPER!True, it was a half-assed manual windshield wiper, but nevertheless, it worked! Hooray!! But before we could attempt to re-enter the traffic blasting past us on the Turnpike, we had to rid the windows of the condensation, or fog.So, we removed our sneakers and socks, and using our socks, we wiped all of the windows clear!We were finally ready to attempt to get ourselves out of our present predicament!
Laurie and I were laughing like lunatics that we had solved our dilemma! And once we finally got the courage to attempt to re-enter the Turnpike traffic, I was suddenly frightened I would stall the MG Midget as I pulled out onto the highway.I wasn’t too familiar with a clutch and a four-speed vehicle, so I got out of the car in the downpour and watched the traffic behind us. I wanted to be sure we had a large enough space to pull back onto the road, just in case I stalled out and needed to re-start the car while it was sitting on the highway. Finally, when I didn’t see any oncoming headlights in our direction, I leapt back into the driver’s seat, put the car into gear, and made a flawless return onto the Northbound New Jersey Turnpike!YAY!!
I would bark out the order to “PULL” and Laurie would pull her shirt down through the window to move the wiper to the right, and I’d then pull my own shirt, making the wiper return to the other side of the windshield.We couldn’t see a thing out of the other half of the windshield, but I saw enough of the road and vehicles around us if I leaned all the way forward over the steering wheel and stared through the tiny space the one little wiper made in the rain.
I should mention here that the connection where the convertible roof snaps in above the windshield did NOT make a tight, secure seal, and rainwater was spitting in-between the little gap, hitting Laurie and I directly across our foreheads, which felt like we were being pelted with ice cold pebbles.In addition, Laurie had to reach across the car to use our socks to wipe the fog off the windshield in front of me, as well as the side windows around us as we drove. Yes, it was a very interesting ride!
“PULL!”I would yell, as Laurie would pull her shirt to move the wiper!“WIPE!”I would shout, and she’d lean across me (once nearly pushing the stick shift into neutral with her hip!) to wipe the window in front of me!I needed one hand to pull my shirt to move the wiper, and the other hand to steer and shift the car, so it was up to my trusty sidekick to be the designated fog wiper!
For most of the trip, we were laughing at our predicament, as several cars and trucks passed us, their occupants pointing at us with curiosity and amazement! But after nearly being hit by other vehicles a few times, our nerves were becoming frayed, and the muscles in our arms and shoulders were starting to cramp up. The rain continued to obscure our vision, and it was now making our foreheads numb from being constantly pelted as the water shot in-between the slit of where the convertible top met the frame of the windshield!
By now, we were completely soaking wet and dripping from the frigid rainwater! Whenever we would pull our shirts to move the windshield wiper, rain would rush inside of the window, down our arms, and into our laps! (The windows had to remain open a few inches to allow for the movement of the shirts so we could make the wiper blade move back and forth!) The interior of the car was wet as well, and it wasn't long before we realized we were sitting in puddles of water!Laurie and I were soaked to the bone and shivering from the cold! Yelling out "PULL!" and "WIPE!" was becoming a monotonous (yet necessary) chore. We were both nearly exhausted.
Just as we started to panic about our situation, we came to the Rest Area exit!It felt like it took us a month to get there, but as we drove up to the open garage doors, we both sighed with relief!
There were three mechanics standing around smoking cigarettes, and watching the rain pour down from inside of the empty and dry garage.
I drove Jimmy’s little white MG Midget into the empty garage bay. Once I turned off the key to the engine, Laurie and I realized all of the mechanics just stood frozen in place, most of them in mid puff of their cigarettes.Apparently, they suddenly realized two half naked women just pulled into their empty garage, with their shirts soaking wet and tied to the windshield like some kind of bizarre looking decoration.
We got out of the tiny car in our bare feet, soaking wet jeans, (which now appeared to be painted on!), and wet bras which left little to the imagination!I burst into hysterical peals of laughter, and Laurie quickly joined me. We laughed so hard we were practically snorting! The mechanics still stood still like department store mannequins, not moving an eyelash!(That made Laurie and I laugh even harder!)
We eventually calmed down a bit, and decided to untie our soaking wet shirts from the windshield wiper. We wrung the water from them, and tried to pull them back on.They were cold, clingy, dirty and now stretched out beyond belief.We continued laughing hysterically as we dressed, and helped each other to adjust our clothing the best we could. I don't think we succeeded in trying to appear like we didn’t just drive twenty miles in a torrential rainstorm without shirts or shelter from the weather!
We continued to make comments and jokes to each other, still laughing like we were completely insane!It was hilarious to us, and completely baffling to the mechanics, which had now snapped back into reality and were walking toward us.(One with great trepidation!)
Laurie and I slowly stopped laughing, and stood to face the three men approaching us from across the large garage.The men stopped walking at the same time, none of them saying a word, and we all just stood there facing each other as if we were back in the Wild West and were ready to have a shoot out at the OK CORRAL.
“Can you replace a windshield wiper motor?”I asked, quietly thanking the MASTER CHARGE God for granting me one of his magical plastic “get yourself out of any predicament without money” cards.(Back then, MASTERCARD was known as “Master Charge”.)
The mechanics still stood in formation, and one rubbed his chin as he looked us over from head to toe.(We now looked like two drowned rats in dirty, stretched out shirts, and were standing barefoot in a greasy garage, shivering with cold!)The Chin Rubber finally spoke, “We ain’t got no mechanical car repair parts here.We only sell fan belts, windshield wiper replacement blades and gasoline.”
“You’re kidding!”Laurie half shouted, half giggled.“If you don’t repair cars, why do they need three of you?”
I began to laugh again, and leaned onto Laurie’s shoulder, trying to pull on my soaking wet sneakers.
“Where’s the phone?” I asked, once I composed myself enough to ask.
The Chin Rubber pointed across the garage to a huge, black metal and chrome pay-telephone mounted on the wall.I fished in my pockets for coins and was lucky enough to reach Charlie, a Fireman I was seeing on and off for three years.(Thankfully, this was an “ON” time!)
Charlie wasn’t surprised at all at my predicament.I have a habit of doing stupid things, and to Charlie, this was no exception.In a little over an hour, Charlie arrived in his jacked up FORD Ram Charger Monster Truck, with his friend Harold by his side to save the day!
Laurie and I rode with Charlie (with the heat on full blast!) and Harold squashed his large bulk into the little MG Midget somehow, and he followed Charlie's truck taillights blindly through the rain. We all arrived safely back at the Firehouse. Of course, as soon as we got there, the rain immediately stopped. Laurie and I still looked like drowned rats, but at least we were drier and warmer and SAFE.
Harold opened the door of the MG Midget, and realized he couldn’t get out from behind the wheel!He was stuck!(Harold was a very large man!)Charlie, Laurie and I had to open the convertible top to make more room, and Harold actually had to semi-stand and ROLL himself out of the vehicle, and onto the driveway of the firehouse!It was a sight to behold, and, as if on cue, Laurie and I started laughing like two hyenas at the sight!(I’ll bet Harold’s back never felt the same after driving that little car!)
After using a ton of paper towels to dry the interior of Jimmy’s car, we thanked our two Rescuers for their help. Laurie and I then drove the MG Midget to Jimmy’s house and parked it in his driveway.
We walked to my car, which was parked at the curb. The keys were under the floor mat.When I started my Escort and turned on the heat, Laurie and I laughed about our adventure, and we knew we’d never forget celebrating my 25th birthday for the rest of our lives.
Once the car heated up nicely, I put it into REVERSE and was shocked to hear a very loud BEEP!BEEP!BEEP!sound!
Laurie and I looked at each other with confusion, and I hurriedly put the car back into PARK.
I again put my car into REVERSE, and again, we heard the loud BEEP!BEEP! of a ‘reverse back up beeper’ that Jimmy had installed on my car during the day when we exchanged vehicles.
My little Ford Escort now had a loud back up beeper on it like you’d hear on a hugeTractor Trailer Truck, or a big brown UPS Delivery Truck! It would sound every time the car was put into REVERSE to warn people around me (for miles!) that I was backing up and to beware!!
Laurie and I allowed my car to BEEP!BEEP!BEEP! for a full five minutes, laughing so hard we couldn’t even speak!The sound resonated loudly throughout the quiet, tree lined streets of East Rutherford, as the two of us continued to laugh hysterically until tears ran down our faces and our stomach muscles hurt!
When we finally composed ourselves enough to drive away from the curb, we glanced at Jimmy’s house and saw him waving to us from the window.In his hands, he was holding a piece of paper printed with the words, “HAPPY 25th BIRTHDAY!”
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