Sunday, June 25, 2006

Driving Stories

A vital piece of news, from the Kidman-Urban wedding in Australia:
Australian movie star Hugh Jackman was the first guest to arrive, though his black European sedan almost missed the entrance. The car stopped and reversed back to enter the venue.
Aren't you glad we have such diligent reporters on the scene?

Here's an equally vital vignette from my own past.

It was early winter of my Grade 12 year. Our class and the Grade 11s went to Regina to see a Shakespeare play at the Globe Theatre. I don't remember what play it was, but I can still see in my mind several short pieces of the journey home.

I was driving my mom's K-car, with my friend Twila on the passenger side. In the back seat were Grade 11 student Gord, and our English teacher Mr. Burland.

Somewhere in those mind-numbing miles of straight flat highway between Regina and Stoughton, we noticed a car pulled off on the shoulder. Thinking it was another carload of Arcola students, we decided that I should pull in behind to see what was wrong. When my headlights illuminated the student standing partway down the ditch, we decided I should just pull back into the driving lane and keep going.

The resulting bit of levity shortened the miles remaining before Stoughton. At the second turn there, where we would finally reach our homeward Highway 13, that other carload caught up to us.

As I pulled out through the left turn, I looked down and noticed the engine light glowing red. With an inexperienced driver's rather grinding thought processes, it took me a moment to decide that I should stop and check what might be wrong. Meanwhile I had gathered a bit of speed.

I signalled right, and pulled onto the shoulder. A little too sharply and too far, it turned out; my wheels caught in the snow on the roadside and pulled toward the ditch. I'm sure if it happened today, I would just hold the wheel steady and stop, but at that time, with my head full of all the cautionary tales about how easily one can roll a car at the edge of the road surface, I played it by the book. I drove down the ditch.

Gord immediately took command from the backseat, urging me to keep it moving, pick up some speed along the bottom of the ditch and drive out again. There wasn't very much snow, and I accomplished that task without difficulty.

Back on the pavement, rolling along, I checked the dashboard. The engine light was off.

I signalled left, pulled into the driving lane, and carried on.

It must have looked pretty funny to the carload of students behind us.

It wouldn't have been funny if we'd got into trouble on that bitterly cold night. Back in Arcola, I stayed overnight with Twila. The next morning I found a blistered spot on my arm, where I must have frozen it against some cold steel while reaching under the car to plug in the block heater. It wasn't a bad wound, and yet the scar lasted for many years.

The story has stayed with me longer. At my graduation the next year, Mr. Crump introduced me with words something like this: "With all her practice driving up in the hills, Laura has become an excellent driver. I hear that she even signals to go into the ditch."

1 comment:

Granny said...

I'm just getting a picture of you in and out of that ditch.