Dunedin, New Zealand, my city - my people

Monday, December 8, 2008

"Dangerous minister driver in car park!"

In a split second I could see the headlines, "Minister runs amok in supermarket car park!" I had a horrible experience yesterday. It was my day off and just before lunch we went to the supermarket. As we were going in we noticed two frail women, with walking sticks, waiting by the door in the rain. We did our shopping and came out. They were still there and one looked even more frail. We enquired if everything was OK and she pointed to her car. She had parked her car, but another had come in beside it, leaving about 8 inches between the vehicles. Of course she could not get into the driver's side door, and was not confident that she could drive it out anyway. Well, being the good Samaritan type person that I am (I have a "knight in shining armour" complex according to one friend) I said, "No worries, I will clamber across from the passenger side and drive your car out for you." The poor lady allowed me to do it. In spite of my inflexibility I managed to climb in, over the gear lever and on to the driver's seat with my knees squeezed up between steering wheel and me. (The seat was a way forward... but I can do it, no worries!)

I started the car. It was an automatic so I selected reverse. Now the only thing I can think of that I did wrong was out of habit I gave the engine a bit of a rev, like you do in manual cars before you let out the clutch. I am not sure what happened but in a split second the car seemed to have a mind of its own and shot uncontrollably backwards at a great rate of knots, while I was trying desperately to untangle my foot from accelerator and get it on to the brake. I narrowly missed the car beside it and was racing backwards toward the row of cars behind. I just managed to come to a screeching halt before I hit a car. Every eye in the car park was looking at this "idiot"! I was extremely lucky. It was just good fortune that I missed scrapping the car beside. I was so so close to slamming into the car behind. The mind boggles about what would have happened if some poor unsuspecting shopper was walking behind me! It was indeed a very close shave and could have been a real tragedy. Until she heard the screeching of tyres, my wife just thought, "Oh he's doing that confidently!" little knowing that I had absolutely no control over the car. I was shaken. The poor elderly lady asked, "Oh did you get a fright?" I drove the car forward to a clear park, climbed out and went and hid in my van. She will never accept "help" from any body again!

The lessons learned...
1. Be extra careful and not overconfident when in a strange car.
2. When you see or hear of some "idiot" doing something strange in a car, that you think you would never possibly do... be generous, tolerant and sympathetic, one day that "idiot" could be you!

I went home, got a stubby of beer out of the fridge, and sat dumfounded in a chair sucking on it, still dazed. I am not a big drinker, (never been drunk in my life- I can make a fool of myself without the expense.) I never drink during the day, but somehow it seemed the only response.

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