Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Public Service Anouncement: Stay Off Roads

So in my family's most recent attempt to kill me (past efforts ranging from pickles to dark chocolate to baked mushrooms), they're teaching me how to drive. At this moment, 'teaching' means putting me behind the wheel and telling me what not to do whenever I do it.

On Friday nothing really happened. I learned to drive in a circle. Then I learned to do it backwards. According to my grandpa, the sacrificial lamb in this exercise, I was learning where the edges of the car were. I'd buy that. I threatened a few stop signs, but since this is the hill country, home of the utra-rich-and-almost-inescabably-silly-looking-housing-development, these stop signs were encased in totally-tasteful-don't-you-believe-a-word-of-it-when-people-call-them-tacky stone, I don't think they were particularly worried.

On Saturday I was spared.

On Sunday I had a disagreement with a barbed wire fence, which we also have a lot of, but that's just because it's Texas. (This was the day I was transplanted from automatic to manual transmission.) I managed to kill the engine before I killed the fence, and we hauled the truck (did I mention it's a truck? It's missing the right rear-view mirror- totally not my fault before you even think of saying anything, I have a cast-iron alibi- and the wheel pulls-literally- right.) back onto the road. It was a washboard road, which is a technical term that dates back to when women pummeled their clothes on the river bank and got the dirt out of them by scraping them- along with any unwary or unfortunate knuckles or fingers- on a washboard, made with waved layers of metal framed in wood. When a road resembles this washboard of pioneer days, it's a washboard road. You probably know this but everyone needs a reminder.

On Monday my family decided that they needed to hurry things along or I was going to actually learn how to drive before they got rid of me. They decided to have me drive (on back roads) from our house to Fort Worth to 'visit your aunt'. I love my aunt, or they never would have gotten me in the car.

The thing about back roads? They think straight lines are for the unenlightened and passing lanes are for citified wimps. And the speed limit is an uninformed suggestion. I was driving at the break-neck speed of 47 whole miles an hour for maybe ten minutes before I had someone trying to climb inside my tail-pipe. (So, all you sweet people who turn into frothing, raging maniacs whenever you're stuck behind someone who apparently can't read the road signs? That's me you're crowding. Metaphorically. Consider what follows your last dire warning.)

So hear I am on this windy road, going faster than I've ever gone before, with an increasingly grouchy (I know he's grouchy because calm people know better than to get that close) driver behind me cussing me out for being a little old lady. And my only support in this time of national emergency is completely unaware that anything's wrong because he can't see our friend (missing right rear view mirror, did I mention) so he starts playing with the GPS so that it will stop telling us to turn around at the next opportunity. Which, incidentally, means I now don't know how fast I'm actually going. (The speedometer is also broken. The GPS tells me how slow I'm going.)

It is in these circumstances that I come to a fork in the road. And this is where I make a really dumb mistake that, if I had been calm and cool and collected and free of distractions I totally wouldn't have made. I saw a sign blur past that I thought was for the road I wanted. I whipped the car around to make the turn, going somewhere between 40 and 50 miles an hour. The (does it matter if I call it a car when it's a truck?) vehicle went into a skid

The truck ended up with the passenger side wedged on top of a culvert and my side up in the air. Those billboards that talk about click it or ticket aren't kidding. I wedged myself in place, since I figured landing on my grandfather would probably be an infraction of the fifth commandment and I might not have much time left to repent. The guy who had been tailgating us stopped, strapped us to his truck to keep us from rolling over- the car was teetering and shaking and all in all it wasn't much fun at all- and gradually winched the car from being at a ninety degree angle to a forty degree angle. He and another passing truck driver helped us out. A lady (who mysteriously had reception when no one else did) stopped and called a tow truck for us.

The first official to arrive was a constable. Then a fire truck. Then another fire truck. The firemen replaced the kind tailgater's strap with some heavy duty chains. The tailgater, who was also a deer hunter, left at some point. Neither of us noticed him go. I was busy crying and sobbing that it was all my parents' fault, it was an assassination conspiracy, and I wanted to go home. Well, not out loud, because I didn't want the police to think I was drunk, but I was thinking it very loudly.

The sheriff's deputy and the ambulance arrived at roughly the same time. The ambulance left again pretty quickly when they realized neither Grandpa nor I were bleeding to death. Then came the tow truck. Then the state trooper. Meanwhile I was wondering if I really had survived, or if this was the newest ring of hell reserved for beginning drivers. Grandpa claims there were three firetrucks, and since it was his truck I crashed, and his life I endangered, I'm not going to disagree, so we'll pretend it showed up now. At one point I saw the police- don't ask me which ones- measuring my skid. It looked impressive to me, but maybe it wasn't. I wouldn't know.

The tow truck lifted the truck out of the ditch. Once it was out, the firemen lost interest. I heard one of them ask someone "Can we go now?" Like me when the Teacher drags me to one of her ultra-boring whatevers. They did eventually go. When Grandpa opened the hood of the truck I freaked out because there was this huge gaping hole right there. Grandpa told me it was supposed to be there before I had time to hyperventilate too badly.

The fun now over, the emergency responce vehicles evaporated. (We didn't really need them, but it's nice to know that if I ever do, they'll show up then too.) I got two warnings. One for making an unsafe turn. One for the expired inspection sticker.

I sang the first verse (which was all I could remember off the top of my head) of 'How Great Thou Art' as we drove away. It seemed appropriate.

Grandpa drove for the next half hour while I convinced my body that I was alive after all. I took over again on 16 (which is a 70 mph road) and drove almost all of it up to 20. At that point I figured the worst had already happened and I might as well just get on with it.

The fastest I went all day was 66. I stepped on the brake as soon as I noticed.

Now I'm just waiting for the whole thing to show up in the newspaper.


  1. Next time I see a slow driver in front of me, I'll shake my fist from a safe distance. (:

    Seriously, I'm SO glad you (and Grandpa) pulled through that okay. Guess your parents will have to come up with an alternative scheme. (;

  2. Curses! Even after my cunning plans involving pickled dark chocolate disguised as a tasty fungus failed, I did not give up hope. Now my optimism begins to waver (but only slightly).

    My next plan shall be simultaneously foolproof and spectacular. I will not fail again!

    But first, I need to gather a few common, harmless, ordinary everyday household items....