(Sample story from “Tales from the Bus Leagues”)
Throughout my career at Clarkson University, I was fortunate to have access to a car. During my freshman year, I was driving a cherry red 1993 Chrysler Concorde. It wasn’t the nicest car on campus—most of the kids came from pretty wealthy families and found Hummers, Beamers and Range Rovers with personalized plates in the driveway on the morning of their sixteenth birthday. I was just happy to have some wheels.
I drove that car for the first two years I was at school and it acquired a few nicknames in the process. There were pretty self-explanatory nicknames like, “The Boat”, “The Red Cherry”, “The Cherry Blaster”, and then there was my personal favorite: “The Squealer”.
The reason my car got the nickname The Squealer was because, for the longest time, I had a loose fan belt that I was too cheap and too mechanically uninclined to fix. For the first two minutes after I started the car, it would make this high pitch, blood-curdling, unbelievably loud sound that was not unlike nails on a chalkboard through a megaphone. I would fire up The Squealer in a busy parking lot and everyone would immediately look at me with a mixed expression of: “I want to kill you with a chainsaw” and, “I just accidentally ate poop.”
Teammates used to tell me that they would be walking to class, a mile away from where I parked my car on campus and could hear The Squealer starting up. They would turn to one another and say: “There’s Jamer. I wonder where he’s going.”
It had gotten to the point that I didn’t even notice it anymore because I had gone so long without getting it fixed. There were times when it wasn’t as bad as others. For example, on the really cold winter days it didn’t squeal as much because the belt was constricted by the freezing cold air. It was always the worst when the weather turned warm.
One time, I was going out on a date with a girl for the first time and I went to pick her up in The Squealer to take her to a movie. I pulled up to her dorm and she nearly ran back inside. All of the dorm window lights started popping on and people were lurking about at their windows trying to see what was making that god-awful sound. I jumped out of the car strutting over to the passenger door to open it up like I was “The Fonze” and this poor girl was mortified.
During my first season at Clarkson, I had a lot to learn about possessing a car on campus. On the very first day, I went out to my car and noticed that I’d been given a parking ticket. The ticket was for $10 for parking in a university lot without a permit. I told the fellas about the ticket and asked where I could go to buy a permit. One of the veterans quickly interjected, telling me not to waste my money because Campus Safety doesn’t know who owns which car unless you register and they never try and track down rogue cars. They just give out tickets and assume people will pay them.
So, the rest of the year, I threw every ticket I got in the garbage. Sometimes I would put them on a teammate’s car to mess around. By the end of the year, I estimated that I had thrown away at least 90 to 100 parking tickets. At $10 a pop, that was a pretty hefty sum.
During my junior year, I was able to finagle a free parking pass from someone I knew who worked in the student council office, so my bad boy days were coming to an end. I was also driving a different car: a 2000 maroon Chrysler Concorde (another hand-me-down boat from my dad), more affectionately known as, “The Black Cherry”. This car didn’t have the clearly audible attributes of The Squealer but she was definitely not lacking in character.
Early on in my sophomore season, one of our freshmen, David Leggio, came in to the dressing room one day and asked where he could buy a parking pass. Remembering the sage advice I had received as a freshman the previous year, I put my hand on his shoulder, shook my head and told him not to bother. I repeated the reasoning that was passed on to me a year earlier. Leggio nodded his head and smiled.
The rest of the season, Leggio tossed away tickets left and right, laughing, as I had, in the face of authority. There was a competition going to see if he could break my parking ticket record, a feat that he easily achieved, and then some.
A year later, Leggio was a sophomore, passing on the advice to the next group of freshmen on a stroll out of the rink one day when he noticed something different about his GMC SUV. Affixed firmly (we tried everything we could do to pry it off) to the wheel of his SUV was a big, yellow car boot—Das Boot. Apparently, unbeknownst to any of us, the University had done an audit during the summer of 2005 and realized they were missing a lot of uncollected revenue from unpaid parking tickets. They were trying to track down vehicles that had large sums of unpaid fees by coordinating with the New York State Police. They had also invested in two car boots to help them recoup unpaid fees and, apparently, two vehicles where No. 1 and No. 2 on their lists. No. 1, with a bullet, was a cherry red 1993 Chrysler Concorde with Ontario plates and no. 2 was a GMC SUV with New York plates (Leggio’s ride). Since The Squealer was no longer in commission, collecting moss in a car graveyard somewhere, they moved onto public enemy no. 2, and Leggio’s SUV got Das Boot.
It was a shitty situation because Leggio had accumulated a crazy amount of parking tickets that had amounted to somewhere in the neighborhood of $1,200 to $1,500. Coupled with the fee to have the boot removed, Leggio was looking at around $2,000 to get his car back. I remember sitting around at lunch one day and we were trying to figure out if Leggio should just let the university keep his SUV instead of paying the $2,000 to get the boot taken off. In the end, they worked out a deal where Leggio had to pay a largely reduced fee and Das Boot was removed.