Make A Left Turn
On Ocean Parkway
who arrived here and expected to find the streets paved with gold and
didn't weren't so disappointed after all. They were happy to leave the
rotten conditions, the bullying police and the hunger behind them. Once
they rose from the sweatshops and began to prosper they were astounded
by the variety of stuff they could buy, the height of luxury being the
you knew you had made it when you bought your first car.
Pruskin got his in l923. What they called a touring car, a Buick. True,
it had no windows except the windshield from which stretched a sturdy
material overhead all the way to the back. Two running boards, four
doors, the engine and wheels completed the ideal open-air family car.
If it rained, large coverings with centers of isinglass through which
nobody could see had to be fitted outside, one protecting each passenger
seat from the weather.
Sol Pruskin, partner in a modest factory that manufactured handkerchiefs,
socks, and diapers, owned a small house in the middle of a long block
of such identical dwellings that some nights he had to count his way
home. His wife Dora, a nervous, ample woman who wore corsets, had three
children and a samovar, which she cherished. Pruskin ruled his family
with a restrained iron hand which had started to rust a little since
he had moved into the new neighborhood.
drove his recently acquired automobile in a serious and cautious manner
since he was still getting the hang of it. He had assigned his wife
the job of keeping an eye on the various dashboard dials to warn him
if the water was overheating, the gas getting low, the oil pressure
failing, or the mileage meter not moving. Before he would pull away
from the curb every member of the family watched out the sides and back
to make sure nothing was coming. Talking was prohibited while he drove
lest it distract him (especially from coordinating the shifting of the
gears with the pressing down on the clutch into first, second, and third).
Any grinding of the gears sparked a panic lest, as his instructor had
warned him, it might rip the engine apart. He never parked unless half
the block in front of him was empty so he could pull up. He hadnıt yet
mastered backing in.
a bit taller than average, a bit uptight, was also a bit of a chance
taker. He had plunged into various businesses as opportunities presented
themselves. He almost had control of the language, although his spelling
was phonetic, and he had insured the future by voting for Warren G.
Harding (later rumored to have been poisoned by his wife) and the entire
Republican ticket, donating a twenty-five dollar contribution towards
its success. His automobile, though he was in awe of it, elevated him
in his own eyes. After a couple of tours of the local environs, Pruskin
responded to the pleas of his children to take them to Coney Island.
The project roused a slight sweat in him, as he would be encountering
his first real batch of traffic. He had that morning wiped off the car
with the recommended cloths and had it shining. He tested the horn to
check the battery and flashed on the lights although it was noon.
slam the doors," he called to the family as they came out. He had driven
from the garage, around the corner in back of the house, in order to
give his neighbors a look, but nobody was about. His two pre-teenage
daughters, Myra and Sandra and their nine-year-old brother, Jason, climbed
into the back. Jason slammed the door.
want the car to fall apart?" his father cried. "One more time, Jason,
and you stay home! Now sit quiet and don't touch the outside of the
car with your fingers." He paused, looked at his wife, took a breath
and turned on the ignition. To his great satisfaction the car started.
The girls applauded.
said Mrs. Pruskin. The automobile slowly rolled into the road. "It's
moving," she said.
"What's moving?" her husband asked in a note of alarm.
"It's supposed to move," he said, annoyed.
"It's a half a mile from our house to the corner,"
"That's ridiculous! How could it be a half a mile?
It's a tenth of a mile, maybe. You get everything wrong - we won't know
where we are."
Pruskin drove on. It was a fine June day, everything
in leaf, the traffic easy, and the sewers odorless.
"Blow the horn, papa!" Jason called.
"Jason!" his mother said, sharply.
"It's all right," Pruskin said, delighted. "I'll blow."
He tooted the horn. The girls applauded.
"Again, papa!" Jason cried.
"Once is enough," Mrs. Pruskin said.
go by Ocean Parkway," Pruskin said, "It's a beautiful wide street. You'll
see houses like you never saw." They drove in that direction, reached
the Parkway and turned into the boulevard coursing slowly down it, admiring
the scenery and the homes on either side when a cacophony of horns behind
are they blowing like that, Sol?" his wife asked.
"Speeders," replied Pruskin. "They'll kill somebody
yet. Don't they know there's a speed limit here? They'll wear out their
tires in no time. Wait. Wait! I have to get to the middle. I have to
make a turn." Pruskin successfully accomplished the maneuver and gained
the center lane as they approached the intersection.
careful, Sol. It's very busy here," she said.
"I see, I see," he said. "Don't bother me." He began
to perspire a little as he faced the problem of crossing against the
traffic and prepared to make the turn as soon as the situation permitted.
He gripped the wheel fiercely, waited, sweated, saw his chance, spun
the wheel and stepped on the gas, the car lurching into the right angle
and traversing the intersection. Two shrill blasts on a police whistle
followed him into the cross street. Startled, he jammed on his brakes.
Everybody pitched forward. The whistle blasted its earsplitting scream
Move!" a loud, husky voice cried. "Pull over!"
Pruskin, his hands wet, shifted into the wrong gear.
The car stalled. Uncertain what to do, he turned off the motor.
"Hey, you!" the voice cried. "Yer blockin' the road!"
Pruskin started the motor. It burped then caught.
He shifted into first. The car rolled to the curb.
"Sol!" whispered Mrs. Pruskin. "It's a policeman!
In a uniform!"
"Nobody say anything!" Pruskin commanded, his heart
racing. A mountain of flesh in an officer's regalia and cap advanced
"Lemme see yer license," he ordered.
"My license?" Pruskin repeated, hypnotized by the
The cop turned a grinning glance at the slowly passing
cars nosing past the scene as if to share with them the news that he
had in hand an idiot without a license. "Y'mean ya donıt have a license?"
"My car license?" Pruskin asked, shaking.
"No, yer weddin' license!" the cop said.
"My wedding license?" Pruskin cried, amazed.
"No, yer dog license," the cop growled, angrily.
"We don't have a dog," Pruskin said, weakly.
"Don't be a wiseguy, mister!" the officer warned him.
Then, more officially, he said, "Do you or don't you have a license
to operate this vehicle?"
"I have! I have!" Pruskin cried, hurriedly searching
"Get out of the car," the cop ordered.
"Out from the car? But I have my wife and children
"Get out of the car."
Pruskin slowly emerged. He stood there, his mouth
open, waiting to be shot.
"Show me yer license," the cop said. Pruskin shambled
through his pocket, drew out his wallet, found the license and handed
it over. The cop glanced at it, poked his head into the car, tipped
his hat to Mrs. Pruskin, peered judiciously around, then straightened
up. "Get back in the car," he said. Pruskin quickly obliged.
"Excuse me, please, captain," he said.
"Captain? Who you callin' captain?" the cop demanded.
"Youıre not a captain?" Pruskin asked, apologetically.
"I know that trick, mister. You think by callin' me
captain you're gettin' on the good side of me, hmm?"
"No, I didn't..."
"A lot of people try that kind of stuff"
"Some people even pull out money..."
"How much?" the officer cried. "How much? You want
me to tell you how much?" he yelled, red in the face.
"You tryin' to suck me into askin' you for a bribe,
mister? Is that it?"
"Not me! I'm not!"
"Just shut up. Iım gettin' you a ticket. And be glad
you're only gettin' one!"
"A summons for offense AX17 accordin' to the code
of the State of New York: for failure to thrust your arm out full length,
to bend that arm up at right angles and down, outstretched again to
indicate the prescribed act of makin' a warnin' signal prior to executin'
a left turn."
officer wrote out the ticket in a bold hand, then passed it over to
the wrongdoer. He removed his cap, wiped his brow and glanced at the
children in the back seat. "I got four of my own," he said. Looking
at Pruskin he added, "I had to do it. It's the law. That's the way it
is. But you seem all right, a gentle type person..."
"No, I'm Jewish," Pruskin admitted, hesitantly.
They didn't go to Coney Island but straight home.
As soon as he entered the house Pruskin ran to the telephone and called
"I have to report to the court next Wednesday at nine
o'clock in the morning," he cried. "Can they put me in jail?"
"What happened? Did you suggest giving the cop a bribe?"
his lawyer chuckled.
"No. He suggested it."
"Well, maybe we can put him in jail." The lawyer said.
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Copyright İ August 3, 2000-