The Dog Walker – The dog walker passed me, herding three dogs of ascending size: a chihuahua, a bulldog, and some kind of large abomination begat from the unholy union of what appears to be a retriever and another energetic monstrosity. The dogs smelled the ground. Of course, the main streets, with their high urine traffic by man and animal, would be better for smelling, but this sunny tree-lined side-street sufficed. The chihuahua eyed me with motherly worry. She could see in my face the ravages of a hangover. Her nose told her that I hadn’t showered. She could hear my whimpering as I wrenched at the rusted bolts holding the defunct Virginia license plate to the car.
Long-haired Male Model Guy – Long-haired Male Model guy actually passed me several times. I sat on the ground, prostrate before the car. The collection of tools scattered around me increased exponentially each time he passed. I am sure he noticed. One time, he passed as I was banging on the rusted bolts that had stuck firm to the license plate with a hammer. Sweat dripping from my brow, I swung high with a manic smile. He looked at me with pity when I fell to the ground again in defeat.
The Old Men Who Work At the Hardware Store at 24th and Mission – It was decided, by my Senior Mechanical Advisor, that I should acquire a vise grip. No tools of mine could marshal the unimaginable power necessary to wrest the rusted bolts on the front of the plate loose. I walked to the closest reputable hardware store. A musty smell of oil and sawdust filled my nose when I entered through the heavy door. It was as if I had descended into my grandfather’s basement in Brookfield, Wisconsin circa 1989. The room was filled with brown, from the wood to the dirty boxes that held a million nails. The clutter was magnificent. The old man with a limp hustled softly over to me. There was no browsing in this store. I explained my dilemma. I met confusion.
“uh…a license plate?”
“uh…wow, that sucker must really be on there!”
He fished through a bucket in the corner for a suitable weapon. He was disappointed he did not have a quality used vice grip to sell me, but I was excited at the prospect of a shiny new tool. The other old gentleman sang along to the classical music emitting from the radio as he ran my credit card.
The Homeless Dude – The homeless dude stopped for a chat while I affixed the back license plate. The screws that held the old Virginia plates on the bumper were so badly eroded that they fell apart when I tried to screw them off. A piece of the screw stayed in the hole, unreachable by any tool, and it took much negotiating to free the holes for the new license plate.* As I clumsily tried to reach my sausage fingers behind a small opening in the bumper to fix a nut to the brand new bolt I had purchased from the hardware store, I heard a voice.
“New License Plates, eh?”
“Yes.” I was not in the mood for idle chat. Jesus, man, can’t you see I am doing AUTO WORK!?
“What’s wrong with the old ones.”
“They are from a different state.”
“Did they cost much?”
“I don’t know, man, I just do the installation.” This was a bad joke, but apparently he didn’t care.
The Hipster Girl – The hipster girl emerged from her apartment right next to my park car just as I tore the Virginia license plate off of the car with my bare hands. The rusted bolt certainly budged when I used the vice grips, but then it just spun in its socket, never unscrewing. So I tore the fucker off. And then I tore the fucking bolt out. I sat there, laughing to myself. I raised the Virginia license to the sky, the sun shining through the gaping gash in the upper left corner where the bolt had been. And then the hipster girl opened the door, stood outside, looked up at the happy sun, looked down at me as I held the license plate aloft in defiance and she saw the carnage, mayhem, and madness, and then she smiled and chirped, “hey! what’s up!” Then she walked away.
*I would describe this in more detail, but it is incredibly dull and unnecessarily complicated. Let’s make it swift by saying that the original Virginia plates were so old that they were impossible to get off without great feats of engineering skill, which, luckily, I possess.
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