Them’s The Brakes
From a cover story about Cas Anvar, the actor who plays opposite Naomi Watts in the upcoming film Diana (see “The Royal Treatment”) - which tells the story leading up to one of history’s most infamous car crashes - to a blind date that takes would-be love birds from a limo to an old VW van to a hot air balloon, this transportation-themed issue of PacificSD celebrates how we all move through life.
In honor of all that is automotive, I’d like to tell the embarrassing tale of my first car accident.
My first car was a midnight-blue, ’65 Mustang. I found it in the summer of 2001, sitting in a field with a “For Sale” sign in the window. Having just moved me from the sun of San Diego to the suici... er... overcast skies of Seattle, my parents were easy to guilt into shelling out the two grand for the beautiful beast.
A few days later, Jack and Tim, my two best friends from San Diego, flew up to Seattle for a visit. I couldn’t wait to show off my ‘Stang. Because it’s all about the reveal, I decided to surprise them at the airport.
After a brief ruse, wherein I pretended my mom’s car was missing from where I’d parked it, I presented my shiny, new (to me) ride. We all piled in to cruise to my next surprise - dinner at Hooters, in Bellevue, Washington.
After dinner, when I pulled up to the parking garage exit to pay, I realized the car was still moving, even with the brake pedal pushed all the way to the floor. I had to work the clutch to keep from rolling away from the attendant.
VROOM. “That’ll be four dollars.” VROOM. “Thank you very much.” VROOM. “Have a nice day!”
In true adolescent fashion, I didn’t give the issue a second thought until we were halfway down the exit ramp. That’s when the panic set in. Surprise! The brakes were completely out.
Having lucked out with cross-traffic as we barreled out of the parking structure and onto the streets, my friends and I exchanged glances. Tim, ever the practical one, wanted to pull over and call a tow-truck. Jack had a gleam of adventure in his eyes.
Quickly doing the math in my head (downshifting plus emergency brake plus grass shoulder on the freeway equals complete safety), I ignored Tim’s petty safety concerns and began driving the remaining 20 miles home.
Not counting one red light, where we “stopped” three-quarters of the way into the intersection, we made it home and into the garage without incident.
I ran inside to brag to the ‘rents about my impressive driving skills and... they were furious.
When the tow truck arrived the next morning, all that was left to do was back the car out of the garage and into the street. Despite the apparent simplicity of the task, however, I found myself gaining momentum. Desperately trying to get the car into gear, I yanked on the emergency brake and... SMASH!
The emergency brake didn’t stop Old Bessie, but the telephone pole at the end of my long driveway certainly did.
I looked up to see my mother, mouth agape, watching the weather-worn, wooden pole sway above me. When she was sure it wasn’t going to topple over and crush me, she lowered her eyes, met my stupefied glare and slowly shook her head.