‘The Day My Car Ate me’. I know it smacks of those outrageous British tabloid headlines – like ‘I’m having a martian’s baby’ or ‘Adam and Ed – gay couple were first humans’.
Now that was a scoop.
On a quiet news day Fleet Streets tabloid sub-editors ferret around in the weirdest recesses of their imaginations and come up with a ‘what the hell?’ headline to sell newspapers. It was an artform.
‘Man buried in 1967 still alive – hasn’t aged a day’. That’s a good billboard. Of course you want to know more. Even the bowler hats poring pretentiously through the Financial Times on the train to their London stock brokerage would be titillated.
‘Aliens abduct cheerleaders’, ‘Hillary Clinton Adopts Alien Baby’ and ‘Statue of Elvis found on Mars’ – lots of extraterrestrial-flavoured headlines with a caveat that the facts couldn’t be independently verified.
What about ‘People Sticking Random Things Up Their Bottoms Cost Taxpapers $700,000 a year’. Like what and why?
‘Grounded Beef – fat people not allowed to fly’. It’s not okay to vilify the marginalised, however great a headline.
A staccato of clicks
Now – returning to reality and ‘The Day My Car Ate Me’… It consumed me, literally.
I climb into my car in an internal garage at home. Pitch black about 5.45am.
Put the keys in the ignition, a light flashes ominously followed by a staccato of clicks – four of them. All the doors had locked on me and I couldn’t UN-lock them. Felt like Jonah – swallowed whole by a sperm whale for three days and nights. In this case a Honda CRV. Try to start the car and all bedlam breaks loose – alarms wailing, lights flashing and me thrashing about on the brink of an industrial-strength panic attack.
Ever had one? Now they’re a joy.
I live in a townhouse with lovely neighbours only a building block away on either side. I can imagine they’ll be sitting bolt upright and wondering what the hell’s going on. Then my alarm starts wailing again. They’re designed to blast wax from your ears. And that oppressive darkness.
Even if the neighbours do respond, they can’t get in. I am sitting here, perspiring freely and my heart beating a tattoo on
my rib cage.
I hear you – what about your phone or the manual instructions to stop the alarm? Too obvious. I prefer to respond to a crisis with panic. That’s the way I’m wired. After the third round of wailing alarms I’m waiting for the fire crews to burst through my garage door with the jaws of life. Or the cops to beat down my front door. What a mess!
I had my own little Armistice moment 20 minutes later when calm fell on the Western Front. Alarms went silent, garage door went up, a shirt drenched in sweat was changed and angst levels eased. It’s a wonderful sensation coming out the other end of a panic attack.
Neighbours told me later they didn’t hear a thing. Bloody lovely! I could have died in there and no-one would have known!
Later that day…
Later the same day, same car, different issue…this time road rage! I’m exiting a slip lane into Chapel St, about to “merge like a zip” when a small zippy car undertakes me.
I made the mistake of tooting.
Next minute there’s a two-finger salute from the driver’s window. She’s mouthing something pertaining to sex and me being born out of wedlock.
Things scale up – a half-full plastic bottle of Coke is lobbed from the driver’s window.
It was perfectly executed, because it arced and smashed into the front of my car.
Then came the cartoned remains of a KFC meal – bones, potato and gravy. She was angry and I got the full menu.
A hundred metres up the road at the traffic lights, the door flies open and a young woman in a onesie and bare feet strides toward my car. She’s florid with rage, fists clenched, nostrils flared – I suspect my toot is going to cost me a good slapping. I hit the central locking – this time by choice.
A third party saved me – “Don’t do it lady!” he yelled, and she didn’t.
Scary – I was shaking.
A wee bit of patience and a little road courtesy would have cost nothing. For my part, it wasn’t a long, angry toot, more a surprised ‘what the hell?’ toot. But you never know how it will be received.
Wait! There’s more!
Five hours later when leaving work I discovered someone had swiped my rear fender. No note, no sorry; nothing.
Just a $400 insurance excess bill, a whole lot of inconvenience and another major mood shift. Have a happy day everyone!