Driving Dr. Gil

My job in the headmaster’s office of the Escola Americana do Rio de Janeiro was as different as could be from the one I held at San Francisco’s Standard Oil Co. of California (now Chevron). Our office had accordion doors which were always open and looked out at another hill, the Rocinha favela, or slum. Below was the baseball diamond and sometimes I went down and acted as cheerleader with the teachers. On enrollment days my fellow secretary Alice and I processed a hundred or two new students. There was one American parent of special note, which I shall deal with later…..

My boss the headmaster, Dr. Gilbert Brown, was accustomed to riding with me down the hill after work when his wife, a teacher, left early with their car. On this day, as we exited the second gate at the side of the hill, we saw that my Beetle’s side window was broken. I opened the door and found both front seats gone.

Gil said, “Hmmmm,” and “Wait one,” then re-entered the gate and walked into the kindergarten building, returning with a little yellow chair. This was to be my driver’s seat. He climbed into the back, and set to wrapping the seat belt around me and the chair back. Getting a strong grip on both sides of the chair, he said “Go with God!” and we did. Well, slowly as I drove, the chair teetered hard over right and left on curves, and in this way we made it down the hill, me laughing helplessly as I steered and he gripped.

I asked if I should drop him off at the tennis club as usual, to which he answered, “Are you nuts? Go straight home, I can take a taxi from there.”

Gil went on to become headmaster of the American School in Costa Rica, and semi-retired to travel around the world as speaker and consultant. His wife died recently and I regret I could not travel to North Caroline for her memorial.

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