Tuesday, March 26, 2013

The Cruising Strip


The speed limit was only 15 mph, but that wasn't why we drove slowly. I'm not sure whose car we were in, but the music was cranked up blaring REO or Rod Stewart, the windows down, the summer air, still damp with humidity and warmth, blowed our carefully feathered hair. We pulled into the parking lot by the skating rink and drove around, hoping to spot a few people but always watching our speed. Police cruised the area as avidly as we did. We probably stopped and talked to a few people—or maybe we parked our car and hoped a few boys would stop and talk to us.

Every town has its cruising strip and when I was in high school in Pittsburgh, it was the convergence of townships in a district park of open space called South Park. Because it was centrally located within easy driving distance of several high schools, kids in various letter jackets would group together. Girls would check out girls from other high schools with looks of snide comparisons, while the boys simply saw fresh flirting ground.

During the winter, an ice skating rink took center stage. I spent many hours going around in circles trying to catch the eyes of a boy. I don’t remember having any success with it, though. When it got too cold, I’d head inside to the concessions in the skate house and self-consciously sip hot chocolate while my eyes constantly roved the groups of kids, comparing myself to other girls and falling short or daring to hope a boy would look at me.

Once, I hooked up with a couple of high school girl friends, but not ones I usually hung with. We drove around, eventually stopping to chat with boys from another school, boys my friends had met before. They coyly chatted, playing with their hair, while I tried to strike up conversation about music and how much I liked Dan Fogelberg. To me, his music and words were sheer poetry and struck my heart with their poignancy.

After a couple of uncomfortable moments and looks passed between my friends, we got back in the car. They gave each other meaningful glances. I don’t remember if I asked what was wrong or they just felt it was their duty as friends to tell me, but the gal I knew a bit better, with her cute figure, and flipped blonde hair and thick eyeliner turned to me and said, “You just don’t flirt the way we do.” 

She was being kind, of course. I knew what she meant. I rehashed the conversation in my head both trying to dissect where I’d gone wrong and secretly cringing, mortified I'd embarrassed myself and my friends.

South Park is just over 2,000 acres with several side roads leading to named picnic areas. There was one particular area, whose name had significant meaning in high school but now completely escapes me, that was known for being the parking area for making out. Good girls didn't go there.

Except I was a good girl and somehow I did manage to go there with a boy once. And I was driving. I remember the delicious feeling of kissing and liking this boy, even though a part of me knew he was just using me. But it was nice to imagine this boy, cute and kind of popular, may actually like me. Still, when his hands started to wander to second base activities, I panicked and drove out of there like my car was on fire. Needless to say, he never asked me out.

Perhaps my friends had been right. Maybe my flirting skills did need a little help.

Years later, I took my fiancĂ© (now husband) to this same make out location, more as a joke and to show him my high school haunts. It was the week we were to be married. We were kissing but mostly just talking and laughing about my memories when a knock on the window startled us. Staring at us from the other side of the glass was a police officer. “You can’t be here,” he told us as I rolled down the window. I'm pretty sure he was smirking a bit.

I was embarrassed, and explained in a nervous stammer that we were here as a joke. This was my fiancé. We were getting married this week. We weren't high school kids. Really.

He didn't really care. He shooed us along anyway.

My flirting skills, it appeared, still needed honing. But this time, I must have done something right.          

15 comments:

  1. I love this!!! Ohhhhh the memory lanes of life........ :)

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    1. And did you go cruising Ms. Deb? Did ya? Huh? ;)

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  2. Just discovered this blog of yours. Great to see some of your creativity, even if this is a memoir, it's still nice. Nothing develops more than a spot of panic and humiliation. :)

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    1. Hi Nancy, thanks for coming by. I mostly write nonfiction and this is my place to play around with it safely. I haven't talked about it much for that reason. Thanks for hanging around.

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  3. Oh memory lane! We also had a cruising strip in Little Rock, a road named Geyer Springs in the SW area. I had an old car I'd completely fixed, except the body. But friends and I would park, pop the hood and look like we had problems LOL Unfortunately, I didn't have much in the flirting skills either. I ended up talking engines with every boy. *SMH* Ah well, it was fun.

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    1. Oh I bet boys loved that actually. Way better than hair flipping!

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  4. Wow...that was shameless. I love it! Hahaha...hey, obviously you had enough skill because you are a taken woman!

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    1. Now you do realize when I got "nabbed" by the police I was with my (now) husband, right?

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  5. Oh how fun. Yes, our town had a cruising strip and a parking lot hangout. I guess all towns did. Funny, you don't see much of that anymore.

    I wonder if the kids are all hanging out via text now?

    Happy to have found my way here!
    Jen

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    1. Hi Jen. I asked my daughter if she and her friends cruise. Our town is so small they just "hang out" with their friends.

      Thanks for stopping by and hanging out. :)

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  6. So I guess we all go through the same, no matter nations or decades... I was, too, an insecure girl who felt my social skills weren't as good as they should be. I also was much too good to have the kind of fun other girls were having. Back then I thought it was the end of the world. Today I'm glad I kept true to myself. Great story!

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    1. It's nice when you can look back with hindsight and see that taking the "road less traveled" was the right path for you. I wish I hadn't been so haunted by unnecessary insecurities, though.

      It did make me laugh to go back and remember cruising-- and it was fun on my Facebook account to reconnect with high school friends over this story!

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  7. Oh my gosh, but you just took me back to high school!
    My hair never did the right thing, my clothes were never trendy and I tried to flirt but always ended up with both feet in my mouth. I was the girl who went to the skating rink to skate. LOL!
    Thanks for the drive down memory lane.

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  8. Julie, we really are more alike than I originally thought. I went to one make-out point in the vast city park here in Louisville, but only as "one of the guys" to smoke clove cigarettes and weigh the merits of Tom Petty. A second time I went to another make-out point with a date in my twenties, mostly because we didn't have apartments of our own and were still living with our parents after college, and we had that embarrassing moment with a police officer as well. He even asked if we weren't a little old for this (my date had a beard).

    But really, who cares how you flirt? Sounds like you did just fine.

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    1. I'm laughing out loud-- Oh I feel sooo much better than someone else had a neckin' confrontation with the police! That is so funny, Amy!

      And why is it after you're married a long time you don't really go make out anymore? Maybe that's for another post. Or maybe you do. Maybe I should quit this line of thinking while I can...

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