There are things I infrequently do in life that I regret for a few hours, maybe a day. I’ve had unprotected sex outside of a monogamous relationship (is there an adult who hasn’t?), can be too lazy to recycle, and—on at least one occasion—have consumed just enough alcohol to impair my judgment without consuming enough to wholly prevent me from saying embarrassing things to people I don’t know. My sincerest apologies to the height impaired dude I once cut in line at Rasputin’s in Burlington before inquiring if he was, by any chance, amazing in bed to compensate for his Napoleonic stature. He never realized it was a backhanded compliment.
But once in my life, I did something so idiotically disturbing that, to this day, I harbor such regret it burns at my soul.
Not everyone is talented enough to run themselves over with their own car. It takes a precise combination of intrepid skill and careless stupidity. A cold March night, a few glasses of white wine, a reunion with a close friend who moved out West for the year, and a dark drive up a frozen, rutted dirt road in rural Vermont (where the only law enforcement official—Paul the Constable—moonlights as the town drunk) might just provide the appropriate planetary alignment for success in this endeavor. A house party smack in the middle of a week of ski races in which you get to watch your favorite people in the whole world try to pick up a paper bag using only their mouths can prove simply inspirational. It also helps if your car is both possessed and hates your freakin’ guts.
From the very moment I decided it was near time to sell my car and buy a new one, the 2002 Subaru Outback that had faithfully transported me over tens of thousands of miles got mad. I mean, really pissed. Then its anger manifested itself in a number of strange occurrences. First, the sunroof mysteriously exploded while my brother drove the car up the Garden State Parkway.
Then, I somehow managed to completely destroy both the exhaust and fuel systems, totaling over $3K worth of damage, by driving over a snow-covered boulder while backing out of my friend’s driveway. Clearly, the car knew it was headed for the chopping block.
Six months ago, when my car had turned against me for the absolute worst, I had the unique opportunity to run myself over with it. I cite this as a unique opportunity not because it was original or creative in any particular way. As it turns out, plenty of people make the same miscalculation that led to my car leveling and then dragging me down a dark, dirt road sans driver. The bit that makes my story distinct among the rest is the simple fact that I am still alive.
Many other people are not: http://www.chron.com/news/houston-texas/article/Car-rolls-over-kills-driver-2138625.php.
It all sounded heroic the following morning in Bailey’s & Burke, the country store with killer breakfast sandwiches in the middle of a no stoplight town, as I regaled my friends with the tale while suffering from a yet undiagnosed concussion and knee injury. The knee injury I had a distinct clue about. I couldn’t bear weight on my right leg, and was convinced I had suffered the standard skier’s injury—a blown out knee, consisting of a torn anterior cruciate ligament—with my antics from the night before. In a long athletic career of soccer, lacrosse, skiing, and Thanksgiving Day tackle football with all male cousins, I had somehow managed to dodge the seemingly inevitable ACL tear. An orthopedist once told me I had unusually strong and resilient ligaments for a woman. What a sexy compliment!
But there was nothing heroic about getting my all-wheel drive Subaru stuck on ice, four tires spinning, while exhaust poured out the tailpipe into the frosted March nightscape. I tried every trick in my quiver from the reliable floor mat solution to aggressive Drive and Reverse rocking, all to no avail. In an act of desperation, I phoned Troy who was staying in a condo just up the road with his team. Damsel in distress is not a role I play with ease, yet I pleaded for a rescue. He showed up moments later, assessed the situation, and got behind the car to offer a manly push. The car pulled right off the ice with his effort, but he was still behind pushing. I was ecstatic to be free of the tight jam in which I had found myself, and I wanted to both thank him for his help and tell him we were all good. In my haste, I shifted into Neutral, opened the driver’s door, and stepped out of the car.
Cars in Neutral on slopes don’t stay in one place. They roll in the downhill direction, following the fall line, much like an out of control ski racer in the midst of a high-speed crash. As my car proceeded to reverse itself down the road, my initial reaction from the driver’s doorway was to use my superhuman strength to hold back the 1+ton vehicle in motion headed for off-road doom. There are stories of people exhibiting unusual abilities in life and death situations, and Wikipedia offers a convincing list of evidence to suggest I was only moderately insane for instinctively thinking I could stop the car with my own body (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hysterical_strength).
Conventional wisdom prevailed in this case, and instead of holding the car back by bracing myself against the door, I was, instead, leveled and then wedged between the roadway and the undercarriage of the vehicle with my right leg bent backwards underneath my body. This position would lead to painful meniscus damage and a torn medial cruciate ligament, but it would also ultimately prevent my leg from winding up under the car’s front tire. I was caught under the car and was dragged across the ground while it rolled backwards down the dirt road until Troy–the genuine hero of the story–was able to jump into the moving vehicle, Hollywood stuntman-style, and put it in Park. From underneath the car, this felt like the passing of whole minutes. In reality, it was mere seconds. But I had struck my head on the frozen ground when my open door took me out, and I was legitimately in a haze. Even after the car was no longer moving, I still felt like it was. And then I uttered the most brilliant words of the night.
Railed with pain and stunned by a head injury, I couldn’t imagine how I was going to get out from under my Subaru. That’s when I asked Troy to drive the car off of me.
He didn’t heed my request and instead encouraged me to pull myself out from underneath the vehicle. Indeed, a much better idea.
My way of emotionally coping with coming as close as I ever have to killing myself and nearly earning my very own Darwin Award was as blunt and decisive as the conclusion of this epic. I replaced the demonic Subaru with a totally sweet Honda.
The new Element has just enough ground clearance to ensure I’ll never get wedged underneath. Run over? Still possible, though substantially less likely.