Back in his high school heyday, my youngest brother owned a 1972 VW van, which he personally painted in psychedelic funk. Everyday, he drove to eleventh grade assembly looking like he might make an abrupt u-turn to follow the Grateful Dead instead.
Suffice it to say he never lost his ride in a mall parking lot.
Maturity, however, brought a need for reliable, not colorful, transportation, and he sold the van in an eBay auction. But the fellow who purchased it, some odd years ago, recently managed to misplace the masterpiece in Auburn, Ga.
Last Thursday the State of Georgia notified my brother that the DOT had impounded his automobile. He looked out his kitchen window. His Jeep was parked in the driveway.
Confused, he called the DOT to inquire about the purported vehicle and his specific connection to it. The paperclip pusher on the other end described the van, and my sibling sentimentally acknowledged previous ownership.
"You, sir, are the current owner. You, in fact, are the only owner of record," said the bored state employee, exasperatedly.
"Ma'am," my brother retorted, a bit too mulish for his own good, "I wasn't even born until 1981."
She snorted and gave him his options: a) pay the abandoned vehicle fine or b) pay the daily impoundment charge. All fees, fines and crimes associated with the car remained his responsibility, but, she assured him, he could not retrieve the auto, because, as he just explained to her, he had sold it.
A road trip to South Georgia verified that, in fact, it was his vibrant vehicle to which she referred.
He phoned home to get some parental advice, "Yes ma'am. It looks great. It's full of animals, though."
"Alive or dead," said my mother.
"Stuffed animals. Bears."
"Go ahead and write a check for the fines. I'll buy the bears from you to defray the cost," she counseled. My brother, stunned, not because she advised him to acquire the van again, but because she wanted the multi-colored carnival bears in its cargo, stammered, "Really?"
After hanging up, he approached the dried-up, pinch lipped, humorless impound yard attendant. He desired to pay the minimum fine and free himself from further obligation, as well as drive the VW off the lot.
"But you're not the owner. You don't have a title. I can't release the vehicle to your custody."
Waving the letter from the state in the air, he replied, "The State of Georgia says I'm the owner."
"You sold the car," she retorted, in monotone.
"Okay then," said my little sib, "I don't want it and I won't pay for it."
She rolled her eyes at his idiocy. "The state of Georgia says you are the owner, and, therefore, you must either pay financial restitution or serve jail time for abandoning the vehicle."
Baby brother found himself in quite a conundrum, looking blankly at the woman, and thinking about the Grateful Dead and how many brain cells they may have inadvertently killed on their tours through Georgia.
He called dear old dad, who used connections to sort things out down in Auburn.
Driving home, my brother accidentally let one of the pink carnival bears whip out of the open window. At that moment he got a sick feeling in his gut. He suddenly discerned that our mother, a purveyor of ephemera, expected him to bring home taxidermied bears.
That Auburn jailhouse started to look pretty good.
As for me, I find none of this surprising, since nothing good ever comes out of a place named Auburn; especially when it comes to Georgia.