September 24th 5:20pm - Loonybin

I played soccer for a club team throughout my childhood. We traveled to games in a decades-old Volkswagen van. It is quite possible it embarked on its life journey in the 70’s. The one sliding door didn’t open, so all entering and exiting of the vehicle was accomplished through the two front doors. Three of the six windows didn’t move, and there was no air conditioning. The van’s exterior was painted. When I say painted, I mean spray-painted in some indistinguishable swirling and splotches of color. The only discernible feature on the box-on-wheels was the word “Looneybin,” painted in loopy, cockamamie lettering. The music system (i.e. the radio) didn’t work. We compensated with a battery-powered boom-box blasting music, persistently accosting our driver’s (who oftentimes our coach) ears.
Those were the days when the majority of my teammates’ family vacations had coincided with wherever we were required to play over the past ten years. We had been playing soccer for a decade, and the parents were tired of coming to the twelve tournament weekends a year while the coaches were obliged to. A very lucky few selected parents would travel with the team, while the rest saved their time and money and devoted a bit of their constantly-busy lives to their other children (sorry other children).

Driving endlessly to some tournament in some god-forsaken city in some record heat, we stopped at some gas station. On this particular trip, there were five of us in the bench seats, and our coach sat shotgun while one of the dads drove. Our heroic driver departed from our wobbliness-on-wheels to walk inside to pay. The six of us remained behind. I, my coach, and two of the other girls gazed out the window at the adjacent van. It appeared to be brand-new. It sparkled in the sun. Through the tinted windows we could barely distinguish those new small pull-down televisions emerging from the ceiling like angels from the heavens. They emanated colored light. I sighed. The passenger side window was open and the sound system appeared to produce from a C.D. There were no on-air commercials. Wiping the seat off my forehead, I imagined such commodities as air conditioning and cup holders. This new van was a work of genius, a deity.
Abruptly, our van rolled forward, driving. I heaved my head frontward, tearing my eyes from the van-trance. Our coach lurched from the passenger seat to the driver’s, throwing his hands on the wheel and hurdling himself into the seat with a yelp.
One of the girls behind me started giggling and asked what we were doing. As it turns out, the new shiny van had clutched us in such as trance that when it started driving we thought our Loonybin had been moving forward. Really, the van had simply been pulling out of the gas station.

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