Thursday 08 Dec 2016

Off Road Romance
Sjef Frenken

It’s always obvious when Jack has rented a car: he’s full of comments about the bad driving habits of other motorists. Over lunch, he regaled me with tales of stupid drivers who use their turn-signals while they’re making a maneuver or even after.

“If you’re not going to do it before you make your move, why bother!” exclaimed Jack. “And another thing, I noticed that almost all the people talking into their cell phones, have tinted windows. That the government allowed tinted windows was stupid in the first place, but now policing of scofflaw cell phone users will be doubly difficult.” Jack predicted that the purchase of vehicles with deeply tinted windows would be on the rise.

So, as I said, Jack had rented a car and gone to spend a week at a cottage he’d rented from an acquaintance. The cottage was on a small lake somewhere in the Muskokas or Haliburton Highlands; I don’t know which, and besides, I have no idea where the one ends and the other begins. That cottage is one of two at the end of a rather long country road – maybe four or five miles from the highway. And then it’s another ten miles to the nearest town. The other cottage on the lake was situated some distance from the one Jack had rented. He’d seen no one on or around the lake since he’d arrived.

One day, late in the afternoon, as he drove set out to drive to town to pick up some groceries and a few bottles at the LCBO, he came across what he presumed to be his neighbour, standing on the sandy road beside her car. Helpful as always, Jack braked, got out and walked over to the woman. He recognized her at once as an American actress he’d seen many times on TV and in films. While no longer in the prime of her youth, she was still well short of her best-before date. In fact she looked fantastic, said Jack. She also looked frustrated and out of sorts.

I’ll let Jack tell about the rest of this encounter.

“Before I could even open my mouth, she said ‘Listen, help me get this car started’. She didn’t say it nicely; more as if she was in charge, and all I had to do is obey.

I didn’t like that. So I asked her ‘Why should I do that?’

She said ‘Do you know who I am?’

I said ‘Do you know who I am?’

She said ‘How in hell would I know who you are?’

I said ‘Same to you, Ma’m’.

I think at that point she must have realized that she’d run into a stone wall, so she changed her tactic, turning on her Hollywood charm.

She said “Sorry, I’m a little frustrated. Would you please see if you can get my car started.”

I said I’d give it a try, mentioning that I’m not much of a car mechanic.

I got into her car, turned on the ignition, to no avail: she must have near-exhausted the battery, because the engine barely turned over. I then hooked up my battery cables to her car, and tried again. The engine turned over fine, but it wouldn’t catch. What now?

I told her that we’d have to get her car to a mechanic, or vice versa. By now we’d wasted at least half an hour, it was after six, and it was doubtful that the garage in town would still be open. She asked if I would drive her back to her cottage. No problem.

So we went back to her cottage and had a good time.

I know what having a good time means to Jack. So I asked him “Isn’t she married?”

“I don’t know,” he said. “If she was, his name never came up. But something else did, though.”

Ah, Jack!

Sjef Frenken is a renaissance man: thinker, writer, translator and composer of much music. A main interest, he has many, is setting to music the poetry, written for children, during the Victorian and Edwardian eras. Nimble of mind, Sjef is a youthful retiree and a great-grandfather. Mostly he's a content man, which facilitates his relentless multi-media creativity.

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