Frantic Drive to Ohio for a Doomed Marriage Proposal

Joseph O'Brien

© Copyright 2022 by Joseph O'Brien

Photo by Luke Yanko on Pexels.
Photo by Luke Yanko on Pexels.

I graduated from Bakersfield Junior College in California in 1963 with an Associate of Arts degree as an Electronic Technician. I had been in the Navy, stationed at Charleston South Carolina, when I was accepted at Bakersfield and received an early (two weeks) out in order to attend school. Even with the early out I had to get to Bakersfield for an entrance exam pronto. Leaving Charleston I was in a tizzy to get there on time and used the southern route meaning I had to drive through the widest part of Texas, somewhat over 700 miles, I thought I would never get out of that state. California was a long drive and I pushed on night and day stopping for nothing except food, gas, and once in a while to sleep on the side of the road and I finally got there. After a little sleep, shower, and fresh clothes I took the test. I had to take a remedial class in english but got going although relearning to study after the four yers in the navy was tough and I burned a lot of midnight oil. While attending school I gone home to see my family and had driven Route 66 from LA to St. Louis then on to New Jersey and back twice at such a screaming pace I saw nothing. This time I resolved to take the tourist route stopping at every place that looked interesting.

The day before leaving I was approached by Bob, another Bakersfield graduate. Since he had been taking a banking program and I was in the Electronics Technician program our paths hadn’t crossed and I didn’t know him, but we had mutual friends. He heard I was driving to the East coast and wanted a ride to Ohio. However, he wanted to get there in a hurry to ask his girl friend to marry and was practically pawing the ground to get started. Against my better judgment I agreed, we loaded my 1959 Chevy with our worldly belongings that all fit easily in the trunk, and off we went with our feet in the carburetor.

We drove non stop except for gas and food, one of us would drive and the other would sleep in the back seat. The whole trip was a blur of driving, gas stations, and sleeping, with occasional conversation when we were both awake and in a mood to talk. Our conversations got around to the courses we had taken and chances for employment. One of the banking systems in Bakersfield would hire the top two people from the Banking class every year and Bob was the top of his class. They had offered one of the positions to him but he had turned it down to hurry home and ask his girl to marry.

It was a two thousand mile trip and I think we averaged about fifty miles per hour. In 1963 that was flying. At any rate about forty hours later early in the evening we arrived in his home town (can’t remember the name) in Ohio unshaven, unbathed, and in the same clothes we were wearing when we left Bakersfield. We didn’t go to Bob’s, he directed me to his girlfriends’ house.

When we pulled up outside the girl friends house I could hear music and many people talking. There was a big party going in back of the house and I thought O good, I’ll get invited. I opened the trunk and Bob pulled out a clean shirt. He took his shirt off and put some deodorant on his armpits then put on the clean shirt. Thus dressed he went running around the back of the house. I was left standing in the street by the open trunk. I used his deodorant which he left on the fender and dug out a clean shirt for myself. I put on the clean shirt and waited for an invitation to the party.

Five minutes later I was getting antsy and thinking about going around back to crash the party when Bob came out. His head hung down, his shoulders were slumped, and he barely picked up his feet. He looked like a man who had been kicked hard in the teeth. I said “What happened.”

He looked at me, “You know what that party is, its her engagement party. Everyone is in there celebrating because she just said yes to someone else.”

I thought good grief he turned down a good job and lost his girl, it couldn’t get any worse for him. “What do you want to do?”

Take me home.”

He only lived two blocks over so I drove to his house and stopped. He got out, I opened the trunk so he could get his suitcase out and he trudged up the steps to his parent’s house looking like a sad sack.

I got back in the car and started driving. After thinking about how he looked I decided to get back up on the highway and keep going for an hour then find a motel for rest and a shower. I wanted to get away because I was not sure what he would do. I did not know him well although he seemed like a level headed guy but smaller problems than his had made people snap. I didn’t want to be around if it happened.

I never saw him again and after all these years I still wonder what happened to him and how he made out with his problems. I hope he called the bank in Bakersfield and tried to get the job before they filled the position. It would have helped him to get out of town.

I always intended to do the Route 66 tour across the country but over the years other things interfered and now Route 66 is gone, replaced by freeways. Occasionally it comes up in my mind and I think, son of a gun I missed it. Sometimes life doesn’t work out the way we want.

 Joe O’Brien is a first time fiction author. He has published numerous technical articles, technical manuals and proposals and has received the Prize Paper of the Year award from the Society of Logistics Engineers. Early in life he spent four years in the Navy three of them on Submarines. After Joe went to college and worked as a Ferris wheel operator, bartender, gas station attendant, etc. He has an AA degree as an electronic technician, BS in Industrial Technology and MS in Management. He was a field engineer working on electronics equipment for two major companies in many places including Viet Nam, Iran and Israel, then worked thirty years as a logistice engineer and manager. Joe has been around, seen much and learned much. A lot of his real world experience and the experiences of others as told to him are in his writings.

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