The sound of the crash woke me. My window was open, and I’m a light sleeper – it doesn’t take a lot.
I jumped up and looked out to see a car smashed into the rear of another car parked on the street, and I watched a young man – swearing mightily – run down the street, jump in another car and speed away.
Not the usual thing on my street at 3 a.m.
When the police arrived they discovered the abandoned car was still running, there was rap music playing on the radio and – strangest of all – a big rock on the accelerator.
“Ghost riding,” the neighbor who owned the parked car told me. “Some kid ghost riding.”
Ghost riding? I had no idea what he was talking about.
Ghost riding, it seems, is when you put a rock on the accelerator just heavy enough to propel the car forward. Then you get out of the car and – accompanied by the song, “Ghost ride the Whip” (whip is slang for car) you dance around the car or dance on the hood of the car while it rolls down the street. Usually, a friend videotapes the whole thing.
I guess it’s true what they say about there being no bottom to the well of stupidity.
Then, to add to the evening’s entertainment, a young man who appeared dumbfounded to find his car unexpectedly decorating the rear bumper of a car just a few blocks from home wandered up to the scene.
He had no idea how his car had gotten there, he said. It must have been stolen. Obviously, another teenager had stolen the car to go ghost riding.
The police were polite – disgusted but polite – but they didn’t buy it. Unfortunately, the boy’s attorney had already been contacted and was advising him against saying anything.
My sympathy was with the two police officers who stood there trying to talk some sense into the boy. Telling him that while there would be a citation it might be better to come clean or his mother’s car was going to be impounded and the whole mess was going to grow exponentially.
But the boy stuck to his story. The car was towed away, and the police wasted two hours on something trivial.
It was all ridiculous.
That’s when I thought about Miss Ellen.
Miss Ellen was a woman who lived in my neighborhood when I was a child. She’d been about 100 years old for as long as I could remember. She’d taught school and Sunday school for decades and in that time she’d watched a couple of generations come and go. She had seen a lot of nonsense.
One night there was a ruckus outside Miss Ellen’s house; a lot of noise and the sound of breaking glass. I woke up and ran out to see what had happened and was there when the police arrived.
Miss Ellen, awakened by the sound of the streetlight crashing to the ground had grabbed her cane and gone out to investigate.
She stood there while the police questioned the teenage boys who were outraged to be linked to the wreckage just because they’d happened to be out for a walk at the same time the streetlight fell.
She listened to the police explain to the boys that it would be better for everyone if they’d just ‘fess up.
Everyone involved had probably been through her classroom.
Finally, disgusted by the whole mess, she turned and limped slowly back into her house.
“You get one jackass raised up, and another one comes along,” she muttered as she passed me, stabbing at the ground with her cane. “There’s just no end to it.”
I can only imagine what Miss Ellen would say about ghost riding, but I’ve got a good idea what the police think of it.
They know a jackass when they see one, too.