It was mid-February in Central Maine, way back in 1975. We lived on a dirt road out in the country where the only street light was a full moon reflecting off the white snow. Around two a.m. on a Saturday morning my father came upstairs and rousted me out of bed. He told me that two guys just knocked on the door and were looking for help to get their VW Beetle out of the snowbank that they just plowed into. I was seventeen and had long curly hair and looked like I could be a side character in a Cheech and Chong movie. I dragged myself out of bed and slipped on my blue jeans and sweatshirt and sleep-walked down the stairs to the bench near the front door and started to slip my boots on.
The two guys were in their early twenties, both wearing blue jeans and coats that were not nearly warm enough for a cold winter's night in Maine. They stood there with goofy grins and glassy eyes and an overall clueless look about them. I mumbled something to them and each waited for the other to respond.
“Thanks for helping us, man,” one of them finally answered.
“No problem,” I answered and finished lacing up my boots.
“Road was icier than I thought. Lost control and ended up on top of the snow bank.”
“It happens,” I mumbled, even though I don’t recall it ever happening before.
“I think the four of us can push it out,” the other added, referring to me and my father, who was upstairs getting dressed, and of course, the two slightly drunk guys.
“Shouldn’t be a problem,” I said and stood up and grabbed my oversized corduroy coat with a big fake-fur collar. It was the perfect finishing touch to my Cheech and Chong attire.
“We’ve been out to the Red Barn. Bill Chinnock was playing,” one of them added, as if I needed to know what they were doing prior to driving their VW off the road. The Red Barn was a bar that was in fact, a red barn. It was way out on the back roads and Bill Chinnock was sort of a local rock star. It didn’t take a genius to figure out that if they were in a snow bank at two a.m. while on their way home from a bar, well, you can fill in the blanks.
My father reached the top of the stairs and began his slow descent down to us. The two morons continued to stand there with their goofy grins and probably didn’t fully realize how neighborly it was of two complete strangers, who had only a few minutes ago been sleeping comfortably under our blankets, to get up in the middle of the night and drive them back to their car to help them get on their way again. I stepped to the side so my father could grab his winter coat and slip it on. That’s when the stupid grins left their faces and were replaced by a combination of relief that they were getting help, regret that they had stopped at our house for the help (not that there was any others to stop at), and confusion of what to do next. As he stood there zipping up the coat, they stood there staring at the big yellow and brown patch on the side of his sleeve that said, “Deputy… Waldo County Sheriff's Department.”
If looks could speak, their looks would have said “Oh, shit!” But neither of them said anything as we headed out the door and walked to the car sitting in the driveway. They climbed in the back seat and couldn’t help but notice the blue light sitting on the dashboard or the sheriff’s department radio installed in the center console. I presume they were wondering if we were going to help them get back on the road just so my father could arrest them for drunk driving.
When we got to their car, it was sitting on the top of a three foot snowbank, but it was a VW Bug and it took only a couple minutes to get it back on the road. That’s when there was awkward stand-off. They thanked us and then just stood there fidgeting with their hands stuffed into their pockets again, waiting to see if they should just freeze to death on the side of the road, or should they get in the car and drive, or what?
My father made them sweat it out for a few seconds before he lit a Camel non-filter and took a long drag off it. It was a thing he did. He’d take a long drag and make you wait for whatever he was going to say and he could take a longer time than you would think possible.
“You boys drive careful,” was all he said before nodding to me and we both got back into the front seat. They looked at each other, as if one of them could possibly have an answer of what to say. Neither of them did.
“Yes, sir. I’ll drive careful the rest of the way, officer. We’ll take it good and slow,” the guy who was the apparent driver finally blurted out. But neither of them climbed into their car until we got out of sight. I suppose they were pondering what had just happened and wondering what the odds were that they would knock on the door of the only Waldo County Deputy that lived in our town. Plus, they were probably giving us time to get home and back in bed before driving past the deputy’s house. Five minutes later, I was snoring again. It’s amazing how easily a seventeen year old can get back to sleep.
And as for the two drunken knuckleheads, I have no doubt that over the past forty plus years those two guys probably grew old and chuckled every time they thought about the time that they got drunk and woke up a cop to ask for help to get back on the road so they could drive home. I know all these years later, I still smile about it every now and then. I can still see the “oh, shit,” look on their faces.