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When I was a little boy we lived up the street from Precision Motor Cars, a Volkswagen dealership at the corner of Maple Drive and Olympic Boulevard. The streamline moderne showroom was built in the 1930s, and is still standing, though it's no longer an auto dealership. A standout feature of the building is the floor-to-ceiling curved window glass, which originally was in two large sections at the southeast corner of the building. I was responsible for modifying that curved window. The modification occurred when I was eight years old.
I used to hang around the dealership and get in the way of the mechanics and salesmen. There was a Coke machine from which I'd grab bottle caps for my collection. And there was a friendly janitor named Jelly, who befriended me and told me lots of interesting -- and naughty -- stories.
On one afternoon visit I noticed a bright red go cart-sized Porsche behind the dealership's curved window. The little car was roped off, so customers could only peer at it from a distance of three or four feet. My friend Jelly saw me gazing at the car and asked if I'd like to "try it out."
"Go on, start 'er up," he said.
Well, that's all the permission I needed. I slipped under the rope, got in the car and turned the key. The engine started and without knowing at all what I was doing, I pulled on the gear selector and the miniature Porsche rolled backwards -- and crashed through the showroom's plate glass window.
Somehow I got the car to roll forward. I turned off the ignition and climbed out and was about to sneak away when I bumped into the legs of the sales manager. He looked like he was about to throw me through the window. Instead, he just cursed at me and I ran home. Thinking back on it, I was lucky I wasn't guillotined. If something like that were to happen today there'd be lawsuits -- against the dealership.
My "accident" destroyed one of the two curved windows, and because these were custom made back in the '30s, no replacement could be found. Instead, two narrow panes were installed. Last time I drove by, my replacement windows were still there. I wonder what happened to that janitor.
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