Stevieslaw: Cousin Myron Blows a Gasket

Stevieslaw: Cousin Myron Blows a Gasket
When the phone rang at 11:30 this morning, I knew as I went to retrieve it that the call was from my Cousin Myron. He has been laying low since taking himself out of the Presidential race a few months ago. Myron, for those of you who have not met him, is my temperamental red-headed cousin—a high school dropout and math whiz, who made millions with a progressive betting scheme at the racetrack and then quadrupled it at a series of poker games in Lake Tahoe, against people who should have known better. By temperamental, I mean insane.
Myron greeted me with a keening wail, so pathetic, it sucked the air out of my lungs. All hope departed and the hair on my arms stood on end. I knew that wail well, although the last time I had heard it was at the movie theater on Saratoga and Livonia during the shower scene in Psycho. Myron and I were both twelve at the time.
“Are the kids okay,” I asked in a panic?
Myron wailed on- “My car, my car, my car.”
“Damn,” I thought, “not the car.”
Myron is well aware of his limitations, which are usually physical. One is his driving. It took Myron eleven tries to pass his driving test—three of the officers administering it took early retirement rather than sit in a car with him once more. Since overcoming his poor driving was out of the question, Myron adopted a self-preserving stance and bought himself a 1954 Packard Super-eight. He had it painted fire-red, so that people could see it coming. He drove it very sparingly and called it, with great affection his “red tank,” as it weighed about a million pounds and got three to four miles per gallon. Myron was also able to use his talent as an automotive mechanic—one of the few courses he managed to pass in his ill-fated career at Thomas Jefferson High School in Brooklyn, to keep the beast in tip top condition.
After he had calmed down a bit, I was able to get the whole story. Myron was in New Jersey. His wife, Marsha—the name should be hissed, had bought a hutch at the Ikea in Elizabeth, so that she could display her “objects d’art,” as she referred to her knickknacks and had sent Myron to retrieve it.
“I thought I had it knocked,” said my sad cousin. “I had made it across the river and on to the turnpike, but getting off I accidentally steered the car into a pothole the size of Chris Christie.” “I broke the front axle and moved the engine off its mounts.”
“Thanks to the tank,” he said, warming, “I’m good as new.”
“And I will rebuild it,” he continued with conviction.”
“Now hurry up and come get me,” he said and hung up.
I got a bit of a lecture as I chauffeured Cousin Myron back to Brooklyn, with the hutch in a box in my trunk. Myron had just helped with an analysis for TRIP, a national transportation research group, on the state of the nation’s roads. Twenty-eight percent of the nation’s major roadways in urban areas are beyond repair. They need to be completely rebuilt. The average driver spends an extra 515 dollars a year on extra maintenance and operational costs because of the bad roads.
“We spend a bit less than $100 a year in Federal gas taxes,” said Myron. “That goes to support the Highway Trust Fund, which is supposed to maintain the nation’s roads, but instead is going under.” “That’s a consequence of the failure of Congress to raise the gasoline tax since 1993,” he continued.
“You can’t raise the tax, because the three letter word tax is the only dirty word remaining in the English language,” he said with a grin. “But we all can pay five times as much in out-of-pocket costs and watch our infrastructure crumble, because that is not a tax,” he noted.
“Sometimes, stupidity is stunning,” he said with his boyish grin.
“And, by the way, I might need some help in putting the hutch together,” he said.
What Myron meant was that he would try it on his own first and call me only when he had stripped all of the screws, misplaced two or three of the major pieces and lost the instructions.
“Stunning,” I murmured.

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