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Florida 1973: Part 2

In The 70's on July 1, 2013 at 7:28 pm

We  dragged our suitcases, ball-and-chain style across the pick-up lane, dodging yellow taxis and elderly drivers who could barely see over the wheel. Pops pointed across the way to his car, a new big, green 1970 Plymouth Fury, a car that lived up to its name with him behind the wheel. He was very excited about the prime spot he was able to secure directly in front of the airport’s entrance. He puffed his chest out and beamed. 

We listened as he described how it had all come about-how he’d driven by at the exact moment that a brown Cadillac was pulling away and he’d slammed on the brakes just in time.

Nan said, “And I have the neckbrace to prove it!”

Pops crinkled up his face and shook his head, obviously contesting her side of the story. Then he shrugged and continued:

“Yessirree! I pulled right in, I did!” he said proudly.  I got the feeling that if it were up to him, we’d stay longer and gaze at his parking job so he could bask in the rush of holding such a miracle spot. In the end though, all he could do was sigh, as my grandmother rolled her eyes and fanned her face at an even more  rapid pace, waiting for her door to be unlocked.

Jingling the keys in his hand, he switched gears, noting Nan’s discomfort out of the corner of his eye. Suddenly he was anxious to ‘get this show on the road.’ He unlocked the Plymouth’s giant trunk and we lifted our heavy suitcases up and over, where they landed inside the cavernous trunk, with three heavy thuds, while Pop-pop wiped down his sweating brow with his embroidered hankie.

“There you go! Atta boy!” he guffawed, proud that we could lift the behemoth Samsonites, before he  slammed down the massive trunk lid, and scurried to open Nan’s door with the key before she fainted from heat stroke.

“Woo, boy!” she sighed, seeing the lock pop up like a turkey timer, as she thrust open the front passenger door and began frantically rolling down her window with the gusto of a pilgrim churning butter. While fanning her face, and blowing air up from her bottom lip, which lifted her curls, she hissed,

“It’s as hot as Hades I tell ya! And you can put that in your pipe and smoke it, Buster!” It was as if she was speaking to everyone and no one simultaneously.

Florida International's prime parking spots.

Florida International’s prime parking spots circa the 70s.

Pops scurried around the car, methodically unlocking the back doors. I quickly called ‘Window!’ as did Rob, leaving David stuck in the middle. He dragged his butt slowly across the scorching seat like a cat with a dingleberry, sighing into the sizzling-hot vehicle dejectedly, while we kindly urged ‘hurry up, stupid!’ We couldn’t unroll the windows fast enough.

 Pops started up the car, warning us that in a few minutes we’d be required to roll-up all of the windows again- as soon as his new Chrysler Air-Temp System  kicked in. We needed this warning because rolling up windows manually takes a bit of bicep power, and is harder if you’re suffering from mild heat stroke, your back and legs sticking to the leather seat, tongues out, panting.

Finally, he pulled the trigger on the forty minute journey back to 391 Marigold Road, our home base for the summer.  He took a quick peek at the road behind him, jerked the wheel to the left, then gunned it out of the parallel parking spot- all of us instantly pinned to our seats with the sudden ‘G-Force’ (grandpa force) a blaring horn from a passerby (and finger in the air) welcoming us onto the airport road. 

Yachts of the 1-4, circa 1970s

Yachts of the I-4, circa 1970s

Every year we forgot about Pop’s driving style, and every year we were reminded in an  instant as his unique driving skills reared back up in a frightful how-do-you-do.

First off, Pops is a brake rider. If you are behind him (bless your heart) chances are you will be blinded and/or confused by the flashing red brake lights he applies every three seconds or so, regardless of speed or terrain. But this isn’t his only trick: Pop-pop is also a pedal to the metal kind of guy, stomping the gas like a bank robber in a getaway car. So you are virtually going 40-brake!-50-brake! 60-brake, until such time as you suspect you have actual whiplash. (Need I point out that no one is wearing  a seat-belt, it is 1973)

And here’s another fun fact: Pop-pop is hard of hearing.  He wears a hearing aid the size and shape of a circus peanut, the color of silly putty. The deluxe model. But even mic’d-up, Pop rarely hears any commotion around him, much of it the result of his curious driving decisions. In fact, if someone shoots him the bird he just gives them a friendly wave back as his eyesight isn’t so hot either. 

‘Yeah, yeah! You betcha’ he says in their general direction, behind a tight-lipped smile.

Even Frank Bullitt took heed when Pop-pop hit the streets!

Even Frank Bullitt pulls off to the side when Pop’s Plymouth Fury hits the streets!  

Over the years, Pops had three different cars-each one bigger than the next, all of them 4 door sedans. They were boats- ships even-sturdy war wagons, rolling on wheels of steel (okay-fiberglass belted tires) capable of parting the traffic seas in a single brazen clip. He backed out of his driveway without looking, he jumped lanes like the needle on a polygraph test, and he called it ridiculously close when coming up on a red light in a six-lane intersection. (Ironically, the one time he didn’t ride the brakes) Believe me when I tell you- Space Mountain had nothing on a ride to Pantry Pride with my grandfather!

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