How Starship Troopers Landed Us on Placer County’s Most Wanted List-Part One
By Peter Kimmich
In high school you do things in groups. On some nights these group activities are reasonable and parent approved. Then there are the special nights when groups become more cemented, future stories are woven, senior quotes are coined, and permanent things are written on paper and filed in permanent places. Permanent places like police stations. Those are the nights parents rarely approve of, but probably look back on themselves with their own sense of nostalgia.This was one of those nights.
On this night we decided to go see Starship Troopers in the theater, a simple enough plan. Matt drove us in the Blue Bomber, which was the naval destroyer of blue pickup trucks. It was big and loud, with heavy chrome bumpers, used tires, and that classic old truck smell no other vehicle can have.
Since there were more of us than the three seats in the cab, we decided to put the Bomber in “Pimp Mode.” This entailed carpeting the bed, installing the camper shell, adding two bean bag chairs and one mini disco ball, and piling in four or five rabid hyenas (read: high school guys).
I, of course, was safely buckled into the front seat, with my younger brother safely buckled in the middle seat straddling the shifter. Since the Blue Bomber had a manual transmission, this meant the middle passenger’s testicles had to duck and weave as the long-handled shifter clicked and chucked between gears. And since the bed had no seat belts or safety restraints of any kind (men were men back then), the hyena pack in the back was as good as screwed were any large bumps to occur. Unfortunately, Matt lived atop a hill in the middle of nowhere with Lumber Trail No. 347 as the only inlet. The things high school kids will suffer to get out of the house for the night.
The theater was 15 miles away in the next closest thing to a town. But first, one stop was needed to pick up Fred Hyena (some names here are obviously fictitious, to protect the innocent). Fred lived on a narrow, twisty, shoulderless road that came off the freeway, went through a tiny pasture town, then jumped back onto the freeway. On one side was a dirt embankment, on the other side was a steep slope that dropped off into the darkness. The tree canopy formed a dark tunnel lit only by our headlights. Navigating this road in the Blue Bomber began to take its toll on Matt, the manual transmission, my brother’s testicles, and the hyena pack in the back.
To make things worse, the next day was garbage day, and every homeowner on the downhill side had pushed their green garbage bins onto the street. This meant that aside from constantly shifting, steering, accelerating up hills and braking down grades, Matt was avoiding menacing green garbage bins every eight seconds.
For a reasonable motorist, these driving conditions are par for the course of car ownership. For your average 17 year old, more than a few minutes of it was torture. Matt was patient for a 17 year old, but his frustration was quietly building.
Finally, after about the 30th garbage bin, Matt seemed to decide he was working too hard. I noticed a dangerous gleam in his eye, and a sudden calm that was oddly alarming. The hyena pack noticed it too, and became silent. As the next garbage bin came up around the corner, Matt didn’t evade. He didn’t brake or shift. He just accelerated.
BOOM. The bin bounced off the chrome front bumper with the sound of an M-80, vomiting a week’s worth of its owner’s household waste 40 feet in the air. It rocketed like a ping pong ball back down its driveway, crashing out of sight somewhere as plastic bags and used coffee filters fluttered down onto the street. The hyena pack let out a collective howl, and Matt chucked with satisfied glee. The Bomber sped on through the night, unflinching.
This atrocious, regrettable act of irresponsibility only happened two or three more times at the most, but somehow the drive seemed much less stressful for everyone. The next morning, as a handful of undeserving homeowners got ready for the day and pulled up their driveways, they undoubtedly paused in shock and horror, taking a moment to curse teenage drivers everywhere for being uncaring, reckless and dangerous. And they weren’t wrong
Taking this detour had put us a little behind schedule, so once the guffawing and mirthful reenacting had settled down, people started to anticipate getting to the theater on time.
The theater was on the left side of the freeway coming from the foothills. The exit consisted of two ramps, one that headed off to the right and into various housing projects, and a second that looped around, heading to the left and to the theater. Our goal of arriving on time would have been easily met by taking the second ramp. However, whether because of the lulling 20-minute drive, residual distraction from the Garbage Bin Incident, or the fact that we were clueless hillbillies unfamiliar with basic urban planning, we took the first ramp and quickly realized we had screwed up.
Now, in our little group back on campus, neither Matt nor I were considered a lead dog. That privilege was reserved for those more popular and with cooler hair. However, as captain of the Blue Bomber it was Matt’s duty to make executive decisions when it was called for. And with four minutes to spare before our movie would start without us, it was that time…
Tune in tomorrow for the shocking conclusion…