My dad was not often angry with me as a teenager, as I remember. I like to think it's because I was the perfect daughter, but, really, it was likely due to the fact that my dad and I are something of kindred spirits. Or maybe it was simply because, with me, he always had captive audience - his jokes always cracked me up.
I remember distinctly one of the few times my dad was angry with me. A friend of mine had told me a joke and I thought, as we were driving along Stanley Boulevard one night, that it would be funny to recount it.
As we passed one of the bus stops on the road I made a passing comment about how, a few nights ago, I had picked up a homeless lady to drop her off from that particular bus stop.
"You did what?" My dad asked as if he didn't hear me the first time.
"Ya, I picked up this homeless woman. It was raining. Remember that night last week when it was pouring rain? Well, she was standing there, sopping wet, and clutching this full plastic bag. So I pulled over." I said matter of factly.
"Rachel, what were you thinking? You picked up some random person on the side of the road?!!" Dad is rapidly raising his voice.
My sister, Julia, sitting in the back, who has already heard the joke, tries to interfere on my behalf.
"Dad, calm down. She's obviously okay."
"Ya," I continue. " It was a little weird, though. As I pulled over I rolled down the window and asked her if she was headed somewhere in town. She nodded her head, yes. So I told her to hop in and I'd take her there. She got in the car and put her bag on her lap - she fiddled with that thing the whole time."
"Rachel! Were you driving OUR car?? The car that WE let you use. That car isn't yours to do careless things in!" My dad is past calm at this point - just trying to wrap his mind around what his seventeen-year old daughter is telling him.
"Well, ya, but, that's not even the bad part, Dad." I say, as if this is going to make him lower his voice.
"This gets worse...!"
"Dad! Let her finish!" Jules interjects.
"So, anyway, she gets in the car and I ask her 'Where can I take you?' And she mutters back, 'None of your business. She kept rummaging through the stuff in her bag. I was confused so I tried again, 'Well, where do you live?' 'None of your business,' she responds again."
I'm trying to tell the story as quickly as possible since my dad is driving the car and his face is turning red and I'm backing into my corner of the front seat.
I continue my story. "We're driving, and I keep asking her questions for any clue of where I can drop her off. 'None of your business. None of your business.' She keeps saying."
"Rachel! This is just ridiculous! You let a crazy woman in my car and you drove her around town??!! YOU OBVIOUSLY ARE NOT READY FOR THE RESPONSIBILITY OF DRIVING. I CAN'T BELIEVE THIS. YOU AREN'T GOING TO DRIVE EVER AGAIN!" My dad starts threatening.
"Dad! Calm down! You're being unreasonable! Let her finish..." Julia quickly comes to my defense.
I jump in - rushing to finish my story.
"So, she just keeps saying 'None of your business. None of your business.' So finally I pull over and I just tell her, exasperatedly, 'Alright, I think you need to get out. I wanted to help, but you are really freaking me out.' She mutters something under her breath and fumbles out of the car. She got out, okay? So I drove away and went straight home, but when I got there I realized she had dropped her bag on the floor in front of the seat. I went back out and tried to find her to give it back..."
"You went BACK OUT THERE TO FIND HER?" My dad is yelling at me and I'm ready to crawl into the glove compartment as I try to finish before he grounds me for five more years.
"...but I couldn't find her so I drove back home. I wonder what happened to her. I still have the bag. I left it in the trunk in case I see her around town..." I trail off to silence except for my seething dad, breathing fire through his nose. I'm mentally kicking myself for trying to tell this stupid joke.
"Rach, what was in the bag?" Julia asks.
I say a silent thank you to Jules.
"NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS," I emphasize the punchline triumphantly. Julia gives me a courtesy laugh trying to help dad see the light.
My dad's face changes almost instantly. He gets it. It was a joke. His daughter just told a joke.
I think he considered maintaing my loss of privileges, but he ended up laughing a little so all was forgiven. But really, the car they let me drive was an 80s, wood-paneled, Plymouth Voyager, so I think I was still punished.