Auto Ride Ends In A Restaurant

March 9, 1907


A young black worker learns you can’t teach yourself to drive after taking his boss’s car for a joy ride into a restaurant window.


Auto Ride Ends In A Restaurant
Servant Takes Master’s Car Out For Jaunt and has Exciting Adventure
New York-Dr. Edgar Calvin Seibert of Orange, N. J., has a lively sense of humor. When he viewed the wreck of his fine new touring car the other day he fairly doubled up with mirth. Of course it wasn’t a hopeless wreck. There was a good deal of the body and framework of the machine left. There was a worse wreck stewing in ointments, bandages and lint in a wing of the physician’s house.
Competent chauffeurs are scarce in the Oranges. Dr. Seibert found this out when he sought to hire one. He employed several alleged drivers who seemed very eager in the interests of local funeral directors. Discouraged he decided to drive his own car, and carry along a sort of footman to crank up, clean the car, and do the messy work. In time he imagined that the might train the man to run the machine. So he engaged Wilkes, a serious young Englishman.
The other night the physician went out to deliver a lecture. He went inside, leaving Wilkes in charge of the car. Wilkes had a long wait ahead of him, and in his somber British way began to take an interest in things. He crawled under the car and studied the machinery intently. He had heard the doctor speak of his fine engine, and wanted to look it over. He saw a maze of little wheels and pipes that puzzled him. He got a mouthful of dripping gasoline and crawled out suddenly to the street.
He studied the house fronts and snow-sugared trees. This palled him. Suddenly he realized that he had some small spark of genius in him. He could crank the car and knew how to put in the spark plug. He cranked viciously, and the engine burred with vigorous, hoarse music. He had seen the doctor throw over the throttle and set the speeds. He didn’t know the first from the third speed, but he knew there was a speed lever.
“Blast it, I’ll take a blooming hazard!” he soliloquized aloud. He sprang abroad, and simultaneously jammed over the speed lever and throttle. Then he grasped the wheel and let her go. The spark was working fine and the engine was fairly bursting with energy. The machine sprang forward in a half circle and shot toward an elm tree.
Wilkes managed to yaw to leeward, scrape the bark of the tree, taking the sidewalk in a splendid leap. He had his foot on the clutch and was working it as if it were the pedal of a bicycle, with picturesque results. The mystery of the brakes was utterly beyond him, so he let them alone.
He had gone about two blocks on the sidewalk when he suddenly veered and mowed down a fence. He dashed safely through an arbor and demolished a dog-house in which there was a sleeping pet. The glass screen of the machine was shattered and there was much glass and splinters in Wilkes features and hair when he aimed for the porch of the Dodson homestead. He toiled furiously at the steering wheel, and only tore down one angle of the veranda.
This caused him to carom out onto the roadway again and he was soon flying diagonally toward a busy restaurant. In his emotion he had one foot on the siren and it was wailing horribly when he collided with the upstanding bill of fare and rolled to the window. The car hit the structure fair and stopped. Wilkes went out through the window and dived over three tables, landing headlong on the fourth at which five negroes were sitting about a platter of ham and eggs. There was consternation amidst them and the ham and eggs, but at this juncture Wilkes lost consciousness.
When they took him and the shattered car home his mind was on his childhood days.
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Upper Left Quadrant

Contributed By

Benton Camper


“Auto Ride Ends In A Restaurant,” Black Virginia: The Richmond Planet, 1894-1909, accessed September 24, 2020,