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The Repent Van! and other bonkers cars

repent van

Simcha Fisher - published on 07/14/16

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Hey, it’s that car! You know, that super crazy car you see driving around town! What is the deal with that car, anyway? What’s the story of that car’s owner, and what made him slip the bonds of what is normal and routine, choosing instead the path of the bonkers?

Whatever the story, That Car never fails to cheer us up when we spot it. Locally, we have at least five That Cars:

1. Duck Truck!

During the school year, we drop off the older kids at one school, then go home, pick up the younger kids, and drop them at another school, and then glumly wait for the glum carpool kid to turn up so we can all glumly get to the third school. We are not a morning people, and this segment of the day is nobody’s favorite.

UNLESS THERE’S THE DUCK TRUCK. Every so often, without warning and without explanation, there will be an enormously heavy, military-style dump truck parked in front of the school. Nobody knows why. There is no one in the driver’s seat, and the back is packed with miscellaneous furniture, auto parts, a blue plastic wading pool, one of those grubby dog igloos . . . and two geese.

That’s all I know. Okay, so it is a goose truck, not a duck truck, but shouting “DUCK TRUCK!” turns our day around. It’s wonderful. They seem like happy, spry, well-cared-for geese. They just happen to live in the back of a camouflaged dump truck parked in front of the school, okay?

2. Real Bill the World Exercise Champion! 

This energetic man’s exercise biography is painted in white all over his brown van. He does unbelievable numbers of sit-ups and jumping jacks, and there are raw eggs involved, and he can run backwards for way longer than you’d expect. Even reading about it is exhausting.

The upbeatness of it all is fairly encouraging, but then I saw he had carved a slot in the side of the van and painted the word “TIPS.” It’s a college town, with lots of frat boys. I get mad thinking about what they must stuff in that slot. Why can’t they leave Real Bill alone?

3. The Repent Van!

Speaking of frat boys, we also used to see a terrible van with “REPENT” painted all over it. Surprisingly effective, at least on me. I would draw up to a red light, see the Repent Van, and think, “Well . . . but . . . okay, fine, all right, I will.” Can’t really think of an argument against it. What, I have nothing to repent of? What, I refuse to repent just because a terrible van told me to? If this van were a guy, he’d be dressed in camel hair and eating locusts, and then what would I do, eh? Just keep on driving to Wendy’s like nothing happened?

Recently, the prophet traded his van for a Pepto-pink Repent Jeep, and he added some fluttering “REPENT” flags. It’s less persuasive now; not sure why.

4. The Batmobile! ish

There is a guy who drives an old black Corvette with a bat symbol painted on the side. Sometimes, for a festival or parade, he also wears his Batman costume, although he is of slight build.

Batman-ish demonstrates one of those developmental stages you won’t hear about from your pediatrician. In children ages two to about nine, he elicits thrills, admiration, even a little hysteria. IT’S BATMAN!!!!! DADDY, DADDY, BATMAN IS HERE! Then, when the child turns eleven or twelve, they stop thinking, “When I grow up, I’m going to be just like him!” and they start thinking, “Gee, that guy spends a lot of time pretending to be Batman. Huh.”

The other thing is, you can tell he’s shy. He likes it when people say, “Heyyy, it’s Batman!” but he doesn’t look them in the eye. One time, there was a pretty woman in the passenger seat, but only one time.

5. So I says to my husband, I says, “That’s four. Now I just need one more to round out the post.” And he says, “Simmy, it’s you.”
“What do you mean?” I asked, all naïve, despite having been married to this man for eighteen years.”You mean, like, this post is so me? Or it’s on me to come up with something else?”
And he says, “You are the fifth car.”

That can’t be right. Just because it’s a frankensteinishly-rebuilt 15-passenger van with blue racing stripes and peeling pro-life bumper stickers, with a 10-cylinder engine that is always goading me into trying to catch some air on the awesome hill just before the police station. Just because I sometimes spend four or five hours a day tooling back and forth and back and forth around the same 15-mile radius, shouting back at Diane Rhem and trying to drown out the “BONG BONG BONG” of the “you left your lights on” alarm that we keep disabling with wire cutters and it keeps resurrecting itself. Just because it’s crammed with feral-looking children and makes a ludicrously suggestive “squeakity-squeakity-squeakity!” sound when you put it in park. Just because every time you open the door, four seltzer cans and a boot fall out, and every time you close the door, you have to thread the floppy rubber weather stripping back on first.

He’s trying to tell me this is a vehicle that people around town notice and remember? He thinks that people say, “Hey, it’s That Car!” and they wonder what my deal is?

Yeah, well. REPENT.

Photo of Repent Van (actually a completely different Repent Van from our local Repent Van) by mike krzeszakvia Flickr (license)
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