Not long ago, I went to a party at a friend’s house in Pittsburgh. I was running late (as is my unfortunate habit). I have been to this friend’s house many times and know the way well, as long as I’m coming from my house in Butler. On this particular evening, I was coming from my apartment in Pittsburgh, so I didn’t know the way well.
Already you can see that there’s trouble on the horizon.
I got a bit lost, of course, took a wrong exit here and then couldn’t spot a key street sign there, so I was later still.
Eventually I got back on track, found the street, found the house, and parked. This particular street is quite steep, but having lived in San Francisco I’m an old hand at parallel parking on steep streets. I pulled next to the curb, parked, jumped out, locked up, and trotted off to the party.
It was a lovely party.
Eventually the evening had to end, so I bade my farewells and headed back out to go home. I looked up the street to where I’d parked. My car was not there.
I looked down the street and saw my car. It was not parked by the curb. It wasn’t running. It was sitting smack in the center of the narrow street, completely dark, no one in the driver seat.
You know how, in movies, when a vehicle has nearly gone off a cliff but somehow stopped and is dangling, the wheels hanging off into space, the vehicle bottomed out on the cliff or the broken edge of bridge or tree limb or whatever? And the hero of the movie is trying, very gently, to get out of the vehicle, or to get into the vehicle to rescue the frightened child inside? And the vehicle shifts just a bit, and there’s a sound of metal rubbing on metal or rock or asphalt, a sound of metal stretching and bending and about to give way?
My car made that sound.
I remained calm. I walked out into the street, around the car, to the driver side. The door was locked, as I’d left it. I slid the key into the door, unlocked it. I pulled up the door latch and opened the door. The car didn’t move.
I felt like some horse whisperer, standing next to a spooked horse, getting ready to put a foot in the stirrup and swing aboard. No sudden movements, I told myself. One foot in, butt on the seat, pull other foot in, get feet on the brake. OK, I said to myself. Now.
And into the driver’s seat I went, both feet immediately on the brake. Not a stir from the car.
Key in ignition, press in the clutch, start her up, and off we rode.
As dramatic as it was, it also felt very mundane. Oh, my car is not-quite parked in the middle of a steep street, rolling slowly as a snail down into traffic? No problem, let’s just deal with that.
Despite having caused the whole situation by not parking properly, I felt heroic having gotten myself out of it. Surely, if I can save an escaping car, I can do anything.
You can be damn sure that I’ve been extra careful when parking on hills ever since though.