Columnist

Mike Buzzelli is a stand-up comedian and published author. His book, "Below Average Genius" is a collection of essays culled from his weekly humor column here in the Observer-Reporter.

One word can really ruin a sentence. Take for example: I almost made it home. The key to the whole sentence is the word “almost.” The word invalidates the rest of the statement. It’s a tiny word that causes a lot of mischief, like that Mayhem guy from the insurance commercials.

Last week, I took off for a social distant vacation in the not-so-distant land of Virginia Beach, Va. A hop, skip and a jump under normal circumstances.

My circumstances weren’t so normal. I was driving a car with over 210,000 miles on it. I was in a rickety go-cart of a machine, a 2009 PT Cruiser. For a few months now, it’s been held together with masking tape and yarn.

Side note: You barely noticed the masking tape. The yarn was noticeable.

But I digress, like I do. I was coming back after several days in the sun. Because of the pandemic, there was little to do but play in the ocean and hang on the beach. I enjoyed every minute of it, but the sun was strong. I got color. I was going for a tan shade best described as Werther’s Original, but I came back the color of a ripened tomato – red with brown spots.

I ALMOST made it home. I was on the Pennsylvania Turnpike when the “check engine” light came on. The car stalled out two miles before the next exit.

I waited for a tow truck. A car broke down a mile ahead of me, but they got the tow truck I called in. Lucky break for them; not so much for me.

The tow truck driver finally arrived, hooked me up and took me to the mechanic. I was hoping for a quick fix so I could be on my way, but the mechanic pronounced her dead. He said, “As a mechanic, I must aver. I have thoroughly examined her. She’s not only merely dead, she’s really, most sincerely dead,” or something like that.

My car was no more.

I had to rent a car to go the rest of the way, but when I called the rental car company, they told me that they ran out of cars. They couldn’t get me home.

Hint: Don’t put “Rent-A-Car” in your name if you don’t have cars to rent. That’s just bad advertising.

While I waited for my nephew to come get me, I cleaned out my former vehicle. It became an archaeological dig through the glove compartment, trunk and other nooks and crannies of the car. In 10 years of driving the Cruiser, I managed to squirrel away a lot of stuff. I had two umbrellas, four ice scrapers, two bottles of suntan lotion – which I didn’t use on my trip (see above), books (a few copies of “Below Average Genius,” “All I Want for Christmas” and the manuscript for my new book, “Why I Hate My Friends”) and various oddities (a slightly used toothbrush).

Anyone want an Oingo Boingo CD?

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