I was in my first year of college, she was a senior in high school, and we were dating steadily. One of our favorite places to go was to a huge roller skating rink just over the western edge of Chicago in the small village where my girlfriend, Shirley, lived. It was only about four city blocks from her home and was called The Hub.
One evening, my best friend, Arnie, and I went to The Hub in his dad’s car. It was not my first choice. I had wanted to see Shirley, but I couldn’t get my dad’s car, so this was the next best thing.
Maybe she’d be there by getting a ride with one of her girlfriends. No such luck. I searched and searched, to no avail. What was a fellow to do?
Ah-ha! Arnie had a car and Shirley was close by, so I asked if I could borrow his car for a couple of hours. He was reluctant, but finally said OK. He told me to be careful and make sure I got back before the rink closed. I was ecstatic.
I called Shirley on one of those ancient devices called a payphone, and she was home. So, off I went in a strange car on a very hot and humid evening. We both decided to go for a ride, which I’m sure Arnie would not have approved of. We were young and impetuous, and going for a ride with the windows open sounded like a great idea.
But then we had a better idea.
Let’s find a place to park. Why? I’ll let your imagination fill in the gaps.
But it wasn’t going to work. As I said, it was a hot and humid night, and the mosquitoes decided that the two of us were going to be their evening snack. Rolling up the windows only trapped hundreds of them inside. It was time to go.
Reluctantly, I put the car in drive and began to move slowly forward, but something was wrong. The car was bumping along, not rolling smoothly. I stopped, got out and, sure enough, we had picked up a nail in the front left tire. It was totally flat.
I had no choice. Out came the jack and spare tire.
Since it was a front tire, jacking it up was strenuous because of the engine weight. That wasn’t the worst.
The skeeters were delighted that we had decided to stick around. I had to leave the headlights on since we were in a desolate area with no lights. This also helped them find us.
While I strained and sweated profusely, Shirley spent the time trying to keep the mosquitoes away with something she found in Arnie’s car.
We had now spent much more time than we had planned on, and by the time we got back, The Hub was closed. Not a car in the lot. Even all the workers had gone home.
There was one lone figure standing outside the rink. Was Arnie mad? He drove Shirley home and then me. Not a word was spoken.
I thought our friendship was over. We’d known each other since second grade. But it blew over, and we remained close friends until his death earlier this year.
I’m sorry about that night, Arnie. I’m thankful that you never held it against me.
— By Richard Hoffstedt, Tribune community columnist