A Photo Triggers Driving Memories

7 Oct
AP parking lot photo from Cindy Bottcher

A&P Parking lot, photo from Cindy Bottcher on the Town of North Bergen Facebook group.

The photograph on the North Bergen Facebook group page brought a flood of memories. It showed the parking lot of the A & P grocery store, a store that has been closed for many years. The photo showed the somewhat empty parking lot and to the left, alone by itself, a single light pole. I know that light pole well!!

It was in 1972. I had recently received my driver’s license. Mom and I went to the grocery store together. At that time the parking lot at the A & P was packed. I easily parked the car in the only empty spot by the light pole. Later when we left the store, Mom once again let me be the driver. As I put the car in gear I made a slight error. I went into drive instead of reverse, and I hit the light pole. It made a dent in the front bumper. My first fender-bender.

I was so upset. I knew my Dad was not going to be very happy about this! I had already had a mishap with the garage door during the summer. My father had told me NOT to attempt to park in the garage when I went driving with my brother in the Catskills. When we return home, I decided to try. My brother did not stop me, so I always sort of blame him. In any case, I misjudged as I entered the garage and off came the car’s side view mirror.

Dad was not happy with me.

So now it was a few months later, and I hit the light pole. My Mom and I looked at the damage. It was not too bad. My Mom was calm. “Better the light pole than another car,” she told me. Then she offered to tell my Dad that she had hit the pole. We agreed that he would be much calmer that way.

So home we went, and my Mom took the responsibility for the accident. The parking lot was busy. She got distracted. She hit the pole. My guilty face probably gave me away. “Who really hit the pole?” My Dad demanded. My Mom kept up the pretense.

A few days later my Dad announced at dinner, that it did not bother him that I hit the pole (ha), but it did bother him that I let my Mom take the blame (This part is true). My Mom still stuck up for me. It was her idea. I just agreed. However, now as an adult I do agree that we should have been truthful…somewhat. My Dad was much calmer a few days later when he actually learned the truth, than he would have been when it happened.

However, I never liked to drive in New Jersey after that. Luckily we had wonderful mass transit. I took buses, trains, subways and taxies wherever I wanted to go.

The following year, when I was a senior in high school, my parents went to India for three weeks. I was in charge of my sister. And I had to drive. We needed groceries. We were invited to friends’ homes for dinner. We had to go to school in the cold winter. I was getting much better and began to lose my fear of driving.

My parents left us with many phone numbers of people who could help in an emergency. Friends and relatives were on call. One of my Mom’s friends called every morning as a back up alarm clock to make sure we got off to school on time. So many people called to invite us for dinner, we never used the meals my Mom had cooked and froze for us.

But for me the most important person was my Dad’s business colleague and friend, Normie P.   One night I took my sister to the movies. We came home, and I forgot to turn the lights off.   The next day the car was dead in the street. We had drained the battery. At the time I did not know that. Normie and his son came and fixed it for us. I will never forget them in their work suits, jump-starting the car. We had to drive to school immediately, but take the long way to recharge the battery.

When I moved to the Midwest for graduate school, I was extremely concerned about driving here. But it was a breeze. The traffic was nothing compared to the traffic in the New York City area and in New Jersey. I drove downtown with ease. I found the perfect place for me to drive. I met my husband, and he let me use his old Buick to do my school assignments. Driving is easy in his opinion.

However, he learned his lessons about New Jersey.  I remember the first time my husband drove in North Bergen and West New York. He continually got stuck behind double-parked cars. I kept telling him to move over.

“What do you mean they are double parked?!” He demanded. “That is illegal.”

“Not here,” I told him.

He thought people in New Jersey were crazy.

We also made him drive into New York City one time. It might have been a bit cruel. But he needed to see what we were talking about.   Growing up in St. Louis, he had never experienced REAL traffic.

For years, when I went home to Jersey, my Dad would drive. As he aged, I had to take over some driving for him. And after my parents passed away, the driving ended as well. My sister or brother do most of the driving for me. I am once again in the passenger seat. I usually do not mind.

To this day, I do not like to drive on the highways of New Jersey. I am fine in the lovely highways of Kansas and Missouri.   I am fine in the local driving of my daily life.

But occasionally I get the urge to drive when I am back East visiting. I decided that Catskill driving is the best for me.   And now I have no problems at all pulling into a garage. It is something I do multiple times a day.

It is amazing what one photo can do for memories. I will always remember that A& P parking lot and light pole.

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3 Responses to “A Photo Triggers Driving Memories”

  1. Amy October 7, 2015 at 5:41 pm #

    I had to laugh and shake my head a bit. Your experiences sound so much like mine growing up in Westchester. I sideswiped a fire hydrant when someone impatiently honked at me at a four way stop sign when I was first learning to drive, and years later I sideswiped our garage just like you did (fortunately my husband did not get upset!). To this day I am phobic about drivin
    g on highways. But living in western Mass I get to drive mostly on local streets.

    • zicharon October 7, 2015 at 5:43 pm #

      Driving in Kansas is easier!

      • Amy October 7, 2015 at 5:45 pm #

        I am sure it is. But I am East Coast kid for life!

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