When I walked out the door to go to work this morning, there was snow on the ground. Less than an inch, but enough to cover everything—cars, grass, and pavement—in a fairly smooth layer of white.
Our driveway is a hill leading up to the house. My seventeen-year-old Festiva was at the top, and our newer Saturn parked behind. This is a frequent and annoying situation, since I am always running late for work. I have to either back the Saturn out, then back out the Festiva, then pull that Saturn back in, then get back in the Festiva; or I have to just back the Saturn up a little and then maneuver the Festiva over the grass, which is bad for the lawn, especially if the ground is wet. And the car juggling is even more annoying when I have to scrape frost off the windows of both cars.
I put my lunch in my Festiva and then backed the Saturn down the slick driveway and onto the street. Then I sat in Festiva again, started it, and put it in reverse. I didn’t give it any gas, I just took my foot off the brake—and the car didn’t move at all. I realized I had forgotten to move the concrete block from beneath the front left wheel (did I mention that my car has no emergency brake?). So I killed the engine and got out to kick it out of the way.
I half-closed the door and kicked the concrete block. The car started to roll backwards down the hill. I had accidentally left it in reverse instead of park.
I always turn the wheel when I park in the drive, just in case the car does in fact start to roll by itself. I’d rather have the car roll over the lawn (and possibly into our tree or our mailbox) than for it to roll straight backwards into the other car, or across the street and into the neighbor’s house. Therefore, my car was rolling at an angle into my lawn.
The car started moving the second I kicked the block, so I yanked the door wide again with the intention of finding a surface against which to push to hold the car in place. However, in the fraction of a second it took for me to open the door and reach for the doorframe, the car was rolling too fast for me to have any hope of stopping it that way. Worse still, the ground was icy and my work shoes have no traction.
So I found myself caught behind the open door of a car that was rolling driverless down an icy slope. I sensed mortal peril as I tried to regain control of the situation. I grabbed the near edge of the steering wheel with my right hand and threw my right leg into the car as I hopped backward with my left, trying to keep pace with the car. For an instant my goal was not to stop the car, but simply to get inside it, since if I were inside it, it would not run me over.
I’m not sure how I did it, but I think I used my right arm to yank myself most of the way onto the driver’s seat—I must have pulled hard, because my arm hurt afterward. It was dark, so I couldn’t see, so I started stomping blindly where I hoped the brake was as I hung on to keep centrifugal force from throwing me out.
Luckily, I hit the brake, and was able to raise my left leg in time to block the door from swinging shut on my arm or ankle. I had skidded to a stop in the middle of the lawn and had not run over the mailbox or hit the tree. I briefly glanced down and moved my extremities to make sure I hadn’t hurt myself without realizing it.
It was dark and snowy and 6:30 a.m., but somehow the neighbor from two doors up had managed to witness this little event. He was walking toward me as I exited the car.
“Are you O.K.?” he called out.
“Oh, yeah, I’m fine. Thanks for asking. I—uh—accidentally left the car in reverse when I got out to brush off some snow. I’m O.K…thanks.”
I stopped trembling after a minute, pulled the Saturn into the driveway, drove the Festiva off the lawn and came on in to work.