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You Cannot Make up This Stuff

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Ken is a retired insurance executive. He is happily married with two adult children, a companion rescue dog, and nine grandchildren.

A scene from the movie "The Sting"

A scene from the movie "The Sting"

If it was going to happen to anybody it was sure to be me

On December 25th, 1973, one of the all-time classic movies was released into theaters nationwide. The name of the movie was “The Sting.” It starred Robert Redford, Paul Newman, and Robert Shaw.

At the time, I worked a job from 6 p.m. to 2 a.m. that sometimes stretched to 4 a.m. if I worked overtime. It didn’t leave much time for anything other than work. When I was sleeping, my friends were all working. When I went to work each day, they were just getting home from their work shifts. Eat, sleep, work was my routine for the first several months of 1974.

In April, I was transferred to the day shift. Finally! I had a chance to live a somewhat more normal life. On this shift, I worked from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. That meant I had more time to devote to dating life. I was nearly 26 and I had several acquaintances I knew who liked to pal around and go on dates.

The one drawback I had was I drove a 1970 Chevy Nova. That certainly wasn’t a chick magnet, and my friends and co-workers razzed me about it all the time.

Two weeks before I ended up buying a new car, I had broken up with a girl I had been dating off and on for about six months. She had been encouraging me to check out the Buick Regal because she didn’t like riding in a Nova.

My job paid top dollar and I had zero debts, so I made the plunge. Back then, I was paid weekly and it was nothing for me to walk around with two or three paychecks uncashed in my wallet. I was footloose and fancy-free.

So, in April of 1974, I bit the bullet and traded in my Nova for a brand new Buick Regal. Man, this car had it all. It was a coupe with leather seats, 4-barrel 5.7 l engine, power everything, and even came equipped with floor mats and wire wheel covers. It was tan on the outside and a light brown Naugahyde leather gave the car’s seats a feeling of luxury.

Likeness of a 1974 Buick Regal

Likeness of a 1974 Buick Regal

Buying a new car to impress your new girlfriend is not a good idea

The day I bought the car, I called an old flame and asked her if she’d like to take in a movie. My friends had told me that The Sting was playing at one of our local theaters. I asked her if she’d like to go and she said yes.

When I picked her up in my new car, she was impressed. We grabbed a bite to eat before the movie since it didn’t start until 8:00. I remember her asking about why I picked the color of that new car. I told her it was the only color they had on the showroom floor and she laughed.

We finished our meal and headed for the theater parking lot, just across the street from where we ate. The movie lasted for over two hours and it was nearly 10:30 when we headed back to the car. As soon as I approached it, I knew something was wrong.

The back of the car was sitting on concrete blocks, the rear two tires were missing, and all four hubcaps had been stolen. Having just come from watching The Sting, I realized I, myself, had been stung!

Reality quickly set in after that! Here I was, in the middle of a parking lot with a girlfriend I truly liked and was trying to impress, and we were stranded. I had one spare tire that came with the car, so I hurriedly tightened it onto the chassis. I had no clue what I would do at 10:30 at night for the second tire.

Then it hit me! I remembered that my ex-girlfriend owned a Buick Regal just like mine. She would be my one and only chance for reclaiming some sort of sanity out of this mess.

I went back inside the theater, explained my dilemma to the manager and all he could offer was to let me use the phone for free. So, I mustered the courage to call my ex and asked her if she had a spare tire I could borrow. We had left each other on friendly terms, so she agreed and even told me she’d bring it right to me.

Until she arrived with the spare tire a half-hour later, I sweated out how this was going to go over with both ladies. I still liked my ex, but I liked my date better. I could only hope and pray they would see the humor in the situation I was caught in, through no fault of my own, and would not start a catfight in the parking lot of a theater parking lot.

Thankfully, they were both pleasant to each other about the entire situation — subdued, but pleasant just the same. My introduction of each of them wasn’t Svelte by any stretch of the imagination. But, in my defense, it was now 11:00 and I still had a tire to install, and a girl to get home.

When I finished, I thanked my ex-girlfriend for her graciousness, then got in the car and drove my new girlfriend home.

She and I didn’t talk about our date until two days later, because our schedules conflicted. But she was very good-natured about it. She did see the humor in this catastrophe. Her attitude about how it happened, and what resulted from her meeting my ex-girlfriend made a lasting impression on me.

She ended up being a keeper!

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