Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Flippin' My Lid


(Flashback from 2009: This was the most popular story that I posted when I was a blogger with the Seattle Post-Intelligencer Newspaper {before it went Ka-Blooey}.) 

Monday was one of those rare occasions where both Admiral Karen and I had evening appointments – in opposite directions. So she took Hymie the Hybrid and I resurrected our second car, a ’94 Toyota that only gets used every month or so.

It had been at least that long, and the windshield was pretty gross. And the wipers had been installed during the previous millenium. So before going to work I cleaned the windshield with paper towels and Windex, even kneeling on the hood to get the far side. 


I went to work on the freeway – no problem.
 Got to work. Survived the day. Left work in the evening, get on the freeway, accelerated up to highway speed…..


And I don’t know what happened.
 
I heard a gigantic BANG noise that seemed to come from the entire car. Simultaneously it seemed there was a huge dark shape in front of the car, which instantly disappeared. I drove on, trying to figure out what had happened. Then I glanced down at the car’s engine, trying to see if anything was obviously wrong there.
....
And then I realized that I shouldn’t be able to look down at the car’s engine.
The hood was gone!
! I looked in the rearview mirror and sure enough, there it was, hanging out in the slow lane, far, far behind me, rocking slowly back and forth after its maiden flight.
It took my wee brain a few more seconds to register all of this, and by then I was much too far away to stop the car and go get it. So I took the next exit (shaking with adrenalin), did a couple of lefts, got back on Highway 1 going the other way and so on till I had done a complete 360.
This time I entered the freeway slowly, flashers on, poking along in the slow lane. And I couldn’t find the hood!

So I went home, knowing that traffic was safe. I wasn’t sure if anything else was wrong with the old car so I wanted it back safe, and besides I had an appointment to keep: It was video games with Mykey night, and these things are important.
You can just see the light colored dent all the way
across the roof, just above the top of the windshield.
The timing of the failure(s) was that precise.
I checked the car out later in the evening, with Admiral Karen and a flashlight: The Toyota now had a sizable dent all the way across the roof of the car, about 8 inches from the top of the front windshield. When the front hood latch failed, both rear hood hinges had given way at the exact same moment.
This morning I got up early, got in Hymie the Hybrid and headed back to the freeway on ramp. This time I parked the car and got out to investigate thoroughly. I found the hood down the grade in some foliage. I guess some nice driver had flung it there.
One of the front corners was pretty mashed up, presumably where it had hit the asphalt after its wild flight. 
I dragged it back up to the roadway and then picked it up and carried it back to the Hybrid.
As I was doing so I was dreading what would happen, and I was certain that it would. With almost perfect sitcom timing I heard behind me the unmistakable sound of a police loudspeaker being cleared.
 A curious, but polite voice said simply: “Sir?”

I turned, carefully, not knowing how close the cruiser was behind me. The last thing I wanted was to munch the front of a cop car with my hood.*
 I looked at the bemused officer behind the wheel. He put down the radio receiver, leaned across the car and said out of the passenger window: “Um, is everything okay, sir?”

Several rejoinders popped into my head but I decided to play it straight. “Yes sir. This came off my other car last night, and I was just taking care of it.”

He nodded once, very slowly, Uuuup and dooowwn, and then his mouth opened and closed a couple of times. Then he moved back behind the wheel and merged back into the morning traffic without another glance in my direction.
Driving back home with the hood in the back seat I recalled my very favorite moment on the old SportsCenter, back when Keith Olbermann was (still relatively sane and) calling baseball highlights.
He was reading the diagnosis of an injured shortstop, and his condition was listed as ‘day to day’. Keith read that and then a strange look came over his face. “You know”, he said philosophically, “We're all day-to-day”.
I believe I came within about 8 inches of dying yesterday. 
Life is precious boys and girls, and Death, random, arbitrary Death can come for us at any time, in any number of atrociously goofy ways.

Might as well be nice to one another, create things of value and worth, and have all the fun you can – while you still can.

Angus McMahan
angusmcmahan@gmail.com
@AngusMcMahan

*Discussion question: Does hitting a car with another car's hood count as a vehicular collision?


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