Wednesday, August 20, 2014

No Pop for the Pope

Reading about Pope Francis' trip to Korea, I was reminded of another Pope's journey away from the Vatican and how it affected me.


In the autumn of 1965 I was teaching a course or two in the evening at Queens College in New York City. Early in the semester, before she moved to Manhattan, I would give a ride home to a fellow instructor who lived then not too far from the college. After class on Monday, October 4, I drove her home as usual, but what was not usual was that through simple mindlessness or brain fade on my own way home after dropping her off, I continued straight down her street and past my turning-off point. Almost immediately I had Flushing Meadow Park on my right. And there, in front of a side entrance to the New York World's Fair, was a sea of blue uniforms—New York City policemen—who, I instantly realized, were there because that was the night that Pope Paul VI was to visit the Vatican exhibit. 
And that presented me with a grave problem.


The car I owned at the time was a white Austin-Healey Sprite Mark II,
which was manufactured with typical British Motor Corporation attention to quality control—meaning that something was bound to go wrong; in early October of 1965, the defect was a nasty backfire whenever I lifted my foot off the accelerator.

So, here's the scene: masses of armed police ahead to my right and me sweatily gripping the steering wheel, knowing that if I were to back off the gas, I was toast. Stirling Moss never had better pedal control than I had as I nervously attempted to maintain a steady, cautious speed past the entrance gate and on down the road.

I made it--and breathed an audible sigh of relief when I finally found an intersection where I could make a left turn and maneuver myself back to the street that would get me safely home (loud bangs and all).

 Pictures stolen from the Web.

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