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When going forward is not enough
May 18, 2018
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by Ivan Raconteur

The road to romance can be fraught with obstacles, as our old pal Bert discovered one summer many moons ago.

Mingo, Skippy and I were relaxing at a local watering hole fortifying our tissues with some refreshing adult beverages.

Our table by the window afforded us a clear view of a courtyard scattered with benches and people casually milling about.

“Has Bert made any progress with that new girl he’s been chasing?” Mingo inquired as we watched what appeared to be a couple of young lovers strolling past.

Bert was a local fellow who didn’t have much luck with the ladies. His specialty was cooking up elaborate schemes that never quite worked out the way he planned.

In recent weeks, we were aware he had been trying to open negotiations with a young lady named Marcy, who had so far been resisting his charms.

“He got her to agree to go out with him, but things didn’t go the way he expected,” Skippy said. “Apparently, he had arranged to take her to dinner and a concert, but he never got out of the starting gate.”

“What went wrong?” Mingo inquired.

“It had to do with his car,” Skippy replied.

Mingo and I nodded our heads in understanding.

In addition to his penchant for schemes, Bert had a reputation for being frugal with respect to his automobiles. We had watched him work his way through a string of inexpensive vehicles of questionable reliability over the years.

Bert’s current vehicle was probably the best one he had owned. It had only one flaw. The transmission did not work in reverse.

Bert had determined that fixing the transmission would cost more than the car was worth, so instead of paying for a repair, he got creative.

For months, he had managed to drive the vehicle without the need to put it in reverse.

He became an expert at finding parking spots that allowed him to pull forward rather than backing out.

When that was not possible, he had generally been able to park on an incline going uphill. This allowed him to put the transmission in neutral and roll back out of the spot before driving forward.

He even got to the point of bragging about how long he had gone without having to back up. Perhaps this was his downfall.

Skippy explained that on the night Bert had arranged to take Marcy out, he arrived at her house at the appointed time with his car freshly washed and fit for a lady.

Marcy lived on a hill, as many people did in our hometown.

The house where she lived was in an old part of town where houses were close to the street, and few people had driveways.

Bert parked facing downhill, but this didn’t worry him, because there weren’t many cars on the street and he could easily drive forward when leaving.

Bert went inside, and Marcy introduced him to her roommate.

He accepted her offer of a libation before they headed out for the evening.

A short while later, when they prepared to leave, Bert was stopped in his tracks by an unwelcome sight.

On the street just in front of his car, a substantial-looking dumpster had appeared while they were in the house.

“Where did that come from?” Bert inquired wildly.

“Oh, the landlord told us that was going to be dropped off,” Marcy replied, not understanding the problem. “They’re going to be doing something called a tear-off before re-roofing the house, and they need this for all the stuff they throw away.”

Bert was flummoxed. The dumpster was too big to move, and it was too close to his car for him to drive around it.

There was plenty of room behind his car, but having no reverse gear, he was unable to back up.

He briefly considered pushing the car up the hill to provide space to turn, but even Bert was shrewd enough to realize that asking Marcy and her roommate to push a car up a hill would not end well.

Bert and Marcy ended up not going on their date.

Later that evening, Bert found a few beefy guys who were willing to help him move his car for the price of a beer.

The next time we saw Bert, he had a “for sale” sign in the window of his car and a melancholy look in his eye.


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