Piercings and Bill Leftfoot

I celebrated my graduation from high school by doing things of which my parents would disapprove.

Rebellion is nothing unique to me. We see the light at the end of the tunnel—freedom! No more rules, no more curfew. No more questions about where we’re going, who will be there, or when we’ll be home. No more comments on our clothes, our language, our tardiness, or our laziness.

I was free to slouch into mediocrity and complacency, squandering my glorious potential on Super Smash Brothers and sleeping in.

My first act of defiance was to take myself right down to Icon Piercing, then occupying a couple of rooms above the Dairy Queen on West End Avenue, and get my cartilage pierced. What I hoped to accomplish by paying someone to punch a hole in my left ear is a mystery. I suppose it was self-expression, but I do wonder whether I would have done it if my parents had said, “Do what you want. We don’t care.”

To my delight, they were displeased. When my ear got infected and I had to go to the doctor for antibiotics, their displeasure only deepened. No matter, I was my own man, and they could take their disappointment in my appearance and my choices to someone who cared. I was so independent, free-thinking, and original, right?

When my grandfather saw my piercing, all he said was, “I wish that wasn’t there.”

My next step into adulthood was one my parents didn’t know about until last weekend. Certain acts of stupidity need eight to ten years to become funny. My friends Jonathan, Will, Bear, and I pooled our capital and bought an ’88 Volkswagen Golf hatchback for $350.

This is perhaps the best decision I have made to date, other than following Jesus.

We first ripped out everything in the interior of the car that didn’t required tools. This included the center console and the glove compartment.

Why?

Because we could. It was our car.

We then found heavy sticks and a couple of metal pipes to store in the cargo space. At stoplights and intersections, we would pile out of the car, choose a weapon, and do as much damage to the paint job and body as we could before the light turned green. This was particularly fun to do in the middle of Green Hills.

The car had some mechanical problems. For example, if you shifted into reverse, you could only go backwards for a few seconds before the clutch popped the car out of gear.

We had no license, registration, or insurance for the Golf. This made every adventure a bit more exciting. Without a muffler, our little hatchback was louder than the biggest truck you’ve ever seen. I do not exaggerate when I say that you could hear it coming two miles away.

One time, the engine caught on fire in Jonathan’s driveway. We all stood around looking at it while Jonathan ran inside then ran back out carrying a single glass of water.

We all stood back as Christopher started it up. It ran better. The fire must have burned away all the impurities.

In between beating sessions and the nights when we would go for joy rides and run over people’s bagged leaves, For Sale signs, and trashcans, we parked the Golf in one of Lipscomb University’s parking lots.

One day, after we finished eating at the meat market where I choked on my beef stroganoff, we were approached by one of Lipscomb’s security guards. Back when I was in high school at David Lipscomb on the same campus, we parked across the street in a lot that belonged to Granny White Church of Christ. People kept breaking into the cars during school hours and stealing cd players. To remedy this problem, Lipscomb hired two of the oldest men in Nashville. Even after securing the protection of the Geezer Patrol, the break-ins continued. I wondered if the new security guards snoozing away in their Buick boats had anything to do with it. After school, they’d be asleep with their heads back. No doubt my car and my valuables were in capable hands.

I want to say it was Carl who tapped on the window of the Golf after lunch that day. He asked what we were doing.

“We just finished eating lunch.”

He asked if we had permission to park our car at Lipscomb.

We reassured him that we were both students at the high school.

He asked to see our IDs.

Yeah, about that, well, we didn’t have them on us. It was summer after all.

He asked Bear what his name was.

Bear turned to look at me then said to Carl, “Bill.”

“Bill what?”

Bear looked at me again. “Leftfoot. Bill Leftfoot.”

Of all the phony aliases he could have chosen, Bear picked the one that sounded least plausible. I did a Google search just now with “Bill Leftfoot.” No one in the history of humankind has ever been named Bill Leftfoot.

Carl the Geezer wasn’t buying it. He asked us to step out of the car.

Bear politely ignored him, put the car into reverse, put the car into reverse again, and a third time, and we finally drove out of the parking lot. I turned around to look at Carl in his white synthetic cowboy hat. Poor Carl. Even with the car’s mechanical problems, we would be in the next county by the time he got back into his car. No chance of a chase.

We didn’t have the car for very long after that. Parking on Lipscomb’s campus was asking for trouble, so we moved it three miles down the street to Belmont’s campus. We went to get it one day, and it was gone. Probably towed by some beastly man with no concept of how to love a car well.

My dad sells insurance, so everything mentioned above would have stressed him out if he’d known back then. Sometimes, oftentimes, what our parents don’t know can’t hurt them.

They never mean to smother us, only love and protect. They’re just human.

We have to teach them that the world needs piercings and Bill Leftfoot. The world needs the sound of a metal pipe putting a dent in an ’88 Volkswagen Golf hatchback in the middle of a busy suburban shopping district. The world needs risk-takers and people who challenge our conceptions of what “normal,” “presentable,” and “appropriate” look like.

The world needs you to be yourself—to become more fully alive.

Just please don’t blame your arrest and jail sentence on me.

Comments Closed

5 Comments

  1. Posted April 30, 2009 at 3:02 pm | Permalink

    i am SO glad i found your blog today. totally made my afternoon. hope you’re well, austin.

  2. Lauren
    Posted May 1, 2009 at 11:17 am | Permalink

    Carl was such a cute old man. I hadn’t thought about him in a long time. Made me smile. I think he lived at one of the Lakeshore properties while employed as a dlcs security guard.

  3. Posted May 5, 2009 at 6:37 pm | Permalink

    #1. thank you for this post. Its hard not to get trapped by all the expectations, even the well meaning ones.

    #2. I miss the Datsun wagon. For what I sold it for, we should have brought out the pipes and got it airborne a few times first.

    #3. when are you coming? lets co write some daily adventures

  4. Bear
    Posted May 21, 2009 at 7:43 pm | Permalink

    Good ole’ Bill Leftfoot. Oh how I miss him. If only I could go back in time, I would do it all over again, exactly the same. I love reading the stories. You do a wonderful job.

  5. Austin L. Church
    Posted May 24, 2009 at 2:17 pm | Permalink

    Thank you, my friend. I quite literally couldn’t do it without you. If only we could find Burt Landers to share his side of the story.