Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The day I made the paper

Little did I know when I awoke that March morning in 1968 that the events of that day would result in a front-page story in the Abilene Reporter-News entitled, "Yes, Upside-down Driving Can Get Expensive". It was the ides of March so I shoulda known. I was going to get one more morning class at ACU out of the way, pick up Carole, and head home for spring break.

I had some free time since we weren't going to leave until mid-afternoon. So I decided to take care of something that had been bugging me for several weeks. The dashboard lights were out on my '62 Chevy Bel-Air and I thought I'd replace them. I enlisted the help of my roommate, Terry, and we got started. My car was in the dorm parking lot. Now getting to dash lights can be problematic. The way I did it was to hang my legs over the top of the front seat and lower my head down until it rested on the brake pedal.

I swapped out good lights for bad and pulled out the light switch. Terry told me that the dash lights still weren't working. That's when good ole Terry uttered some fateful words, "Why don't we start the car and see if that helps?" So I took my right hand and pushed back on the clutch pedal, and then reached up and started the engine with my left hand. When I let up on the clutch, my right shoulder pushed the accelerator to the floor. Unfortunately, I had not put the car in neutral before we started this comedy routine. The car was in low gear.

The vehicle took flight. The car was parked angled-in to a median. Across the median were other cars parked parallel to the median. Poor Terry hung on for dear life, because he had been standing next to the open right door, with one foot on the car frame and the other on the ground. With acrid smoke filling the air from the rubber burning off my rear tires, my sweet little Chevy roared over the median and started the process of plowing into a VW Bug parked on the other side of the median. All this time, I'm upside down, knowing something terribly wrong is happening. I pressed the back of my head on the brake pedal and pushed down as hard as I could. Eventually, the eternity of those five seconds was over. I backed up my car over the median and returned it to its original location. Terry and I literally picked up the Bug (hey, we both had a lot of adrenalin pumping) and put it back next to the median. It was badly smashed on the driver's side.

I left a note in the windshield telling the owner how to find me. I figured I didn't have enough space on the note to explain how it had all happened. Later that day, I had to tell Mom and Dad the whole story. Dad was not pleased. A month or so later, my journalism teacher overheard me telling the story of the flying Chevy to a friend and asked for permission to write an article about it. Since his 2nd job was as a reporter for the Abilene paper, it was no surprise when the story appeared a couple of days later. And the headline was indeed, "Yes, Upside-down Driving Can Get Expensive." And it seems like he won some sort of award in a contest for feature stories in Texas.

Amazingly, Carole was sympathetic that day and, to her everlasting credit, married me four years later. The VW got repaired, paid for by the befuddled insurance company. The color returned to Terry's face about 3 weeks later.

1 comment:

Brooke said...