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The Mile-Long Driveway, Age: 18

Recently retired from the California Department of Education, Andrew Laufer is writing a book about his life including periods as a butcher's helper, food service worker, construction laborer, animal research assistant, seasonal fire fighter, and janitor. In his youth, he hitch-hiked up and down the coast and out to Colorado numerous times providing context for hundreds of short stories.

At 18 years old, my buddy, Jon, and I drove cross country to Boonton, New Jersey. This was a trip of a lifetime with many serendipitous detours along the way. Somehow, we made it back home unscathed.

Our destination was Jon's grandfather's house. We called him Gramps. His house happened to be a mansion at the top of the tallest hill in Boonton. To get to the house we had to travel up his mile-long driveway, which was a one lane windy road. It was a beautiful driveway that wound through a thick, wooded forest before finally opening to a large lawn area and a grand estate.

At 18 years old, we were irresponsible. As such, we had spent all but five bucks of our vacation money. The trip should have taken one week, but it took two full weeks for us to zig zag across the United States. We assumed our folks would be willing to give us a loan to get back home, and as luck would have it, the drinking age in New Jersey was 18, so we decided to spend our last few dollars on some Southern Comfort.

We got snookered while sitting at the park downtown and when it started to rain we started home to Gramp's house. On the way home, Jon decided he was a race car driver and started driving fast up the wet and curvy driveway.


We almost made it.

Just before coming into the clearing at the top, we slid off the driveway and crashed into a very solid tree. One moment I was sitting in the passenger seat, the next I was under the dashboard listening to the horn blast away! We had crushed the right fender, and Jon smashed into the steering wheel so hard that the horn stuck. He tried banging on the steering wheel to make it stop. We were worried Gramps would hear the noise and then we'd be toast. Banging on the steering wheel didn't work so we hobbled out of the car, lifted the hood and started pulling wires at random. Finally, we pulled the right wire and the noise stopped. All was silent, we were stunned, wet, and drunk. We were thankful to be alive and uninjured but dreaded the consequences.

The next day, the car wouldn't start, and we had no money to fix it. Our parents talked it over and decided we were on our own. They said no, they were not going to bail us out of this jam given our irresponsible behavior. We ended up staying with Gramps the entire summer working for his neighbor.

Gramps saved our butts that summer, but I think he enjoyed every minute of it. We stayed with him and worked all summer to get enough money to fix the car for the ride home.

~ Andrew Laufer












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