In my blog post “Stubborn? Who, Me?” (2/11/18), I mentioned that the primary instigator for my tale of tenacity was “another story for another time.” Well, folks, that time has arrived. Enjoy this week’s entry. As always, thanks for stopping by.
I consider myself to be a man of above-average intelligence. My multi-faceted career in the automotive field spanned more than thirty years and progressed from shop mechanic to research and development lab technician. Besides operating the family car and truck, I’d successfully piloted a variety of vehicles, from two-wheeled motorcycles to forty-foot charter buses. Therefore, driving to my latest employment with the National Park Service shouldn’t have posed a challenge––except for one day.
The sun rose over the eastern ridge of the Colorado Rockies and cast a warm glow. Shafts of light peeked through the branches of the Ponderosa pine onto the front side of the remodeling battle zone my wife and I called home. Like any other work day, I’d awakened, showered, and donned my uniform. Following a warm breakfast, and dental hygiene, I grabbed my keys and gear, then entered the garage. After stumbling down the steps, I climbed into my Nissan 4X4, buckled up, started the engine, and hit the garage door opener. Morning light crept inside as the chain and motor drive lifted the horizontal panels. After spending the last three days helping my wife scrape and prepare our abode’s exterior walls for paint, it was going to feel great to get back to my job in the park.
The rear-view mirror reflected the image of an elderly man out for his morning stroll down our street. Puzzlement seemed to influence his gaze and occupy his thoughts as he observed the garage door squeak and rise amid a collage of scratched bare wood, white primer, and the few remaining spots of dirty-beige paint that previously covered my mountain abode. The man’s squint-eyed glare seemed to indicate pain, initiated by both optical and auditory insult.
At first, the gent’s opinionated stare offended me. Upon rethinking his objection, I had to agree. Currently, my house was not a thing of beauty. If compared to dog breeds, my home was a scraggly mutt amidst a gathering of pedigrees. I shook off his unspoken criticism, then silently apologized, and promised that the unsightly mess would soon disappear.
The truck’s engine idled smoothly. The portal to the outside world had opened wide. With visual confirmation of the fully raised door, my brain shifted into automatic mode. Like a well-programmed machine my appendages began moving. Left foot depress the clutch. Right hand guide the shifter into reverse. Left hand hold the steering wheel steady. Right foot on the accelerator. The identical routine my body performed every day I backed out of the garage.
After easing out the clutch, the truck slowly emerged from its overnight confinement. Once the nose of the pickup cleared the doorway, the choreography continued. Right hand switch from shifter to opener remote and press the button. Left foot depress the clutch again. Right foot swap from accelerator to brake pedal. The moves briefly made to ensure that the garage door had begun its decline.
With the closing process confirmed, my feet feathered the throttle and clutch once more, while my hands slowly rotated the steering wheel counterclockwise. The 4X4 continued rolling backward in a perfect arc down the inclined driveway toward the turn-around spot––like it did every time we journeyed from home together. As the orchestration of limbs progressed, my head faced forward, my mind focusing on events of the upcoming day. No need to look behind me, because there was never anything there. Oops!
The truck approached the bottom of its arc. Before my feet could depress the clutch and the brake, the pickup slammed to a halt. The sudden and convincing THUD jolted my mind from tranquil, automated numbness back to reality.
“What the hell?…Oh no!”
I turned around in the driver’s seat and confirmed my suspicion. The chargold-colored roofline of our Dodge Intrepid was barely visible above the top edge of the Nissan’s tailgate. Because of our house refurbishing project, stacks of wood, sawhorses, and paint supplies occupied the side of the garage normally reserved for the car. My wife had parked the sedan outside in the pullout the previous day, “so that it wouldn’t be in the way.”
“Damn it!” I shouted. “First the computer quits working, then the microwave craps out, and now I’ve smashed into the car.”
Inhaling deeply, I counted to ten, then slowly exhaled. It didn’t help. Shaking my head in disbelief, I shifted the transmission into first gear, eased out the clutch pedal and feathered the throttle. The engine revved, accompanied by a whirring sound like tires spinning on ice, but the truck didn’t move.
I jumped out of the cab to assess the situation and found the pickup’s spare tire taking a siesta on the Intrepid’s hood. The 4X4’s left rear wheel dangled above the blacktop. The whirring noise I’d heard was the elevated back tire polishing the car’s front license plate to a silvery sheen. I’d not only hit our low-slung Dodge, but nearly ran over it.
After the futile attempt at separating the two vehicles from their unplanned embrace, I locked the truck’s front axle hubs, climbed back into the cab, and slipped the transfer case into 4-wheel drive. This time, the pickup inched and ground its way to the pavement. The metal-on-metal grating as the truck’s bumper scraped the car’s hood tossed more fuel on the mental bonfire that already had my blood hot.
About the time I stormed out of the truck again to inspect the damage, my wife stepped onto the front porch to determine the cause of all the commotion. She arrived on the scene after my blood had reached the boiling point and found me jumping up and down in the driveway, dropping F-bombs like a B-17.
When I finally got the nerve to face her, my darling spouse was holding her hands over her mouth, trying to contain laughter. For her, the situation didn’t evoke fits of anger, depression, or heavy-duty foul mouthing. Instead she found it comical. I was shocked. Her reaction froze me in my tracks.
How can she think this is funny? With the financial outlay on our remodeling project, the last thing we need is another expensive repair bill.
My contorted expression thoroughly conveyed my disillusionment.
“I’m sorry,” my wife said, then paused to giggle. “But when I came outside and saw you jumping up and down in your Ranger uniform, cursing to high heaven, I had to laugh.”
Her description of my driveway performance planted an image in my head as well. I had to admit, if I wasn’t the guy wearing the uniform, doing the jumping and cursing, the sight would have struck me funny, too. Although it was a weak one, I managed to smile.
I glanced at the destruction, along with the oxidized paint on the car’s weathered and well-traveled engine cover. With my blood now settled to a simmer, I joked, “Guess that’s one way to get the hood repainted, isn’t it?”
“Well, that’s why we keep paying insurance premiums,” my wife replied.
Of course, she was right. After a more thorough inspection, I found that, except for the gouges and chipped paint on the hood and fender, the car showed no other damage. My wife’s sense of humor and calmer approach toward the incident ultimately suppressed my anger and disappointment. I hugged her, kissed her smiling lips, then proceeded to work. I’d concoct a good tale for our insurance agent later.
Both the car and I suffered that morning. For the Intrepid, its wounds amounted to easily replaceable body panels. For me, my ego had been severely bruised. In both instances, however, there were no injuries that couldn’t be healed––except for the more long-lasting humiliation I had to endure once word got around to family and friends that I’d “run over our car.”