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I was on my way back to the office, driving from Stouffville to Bradford, which meant that I went through Newmarket, past the Jones of New York store right at lunch time. What could I do?

The lure of the January sale and possible bargains was strong, so I pulled into the large parking lot of the strip mall, deep in melting slushy snow left over from the morning's snow fall. I parked my car as close as I could to the store, and splooshed my way across the parking lot with all speed.

I can power shop with the best, and less than half an hour later, having tried on about ten tops, I emerged with a zippy little black and white top that I liked, for only $14.99.

I fished in my purse for my automatic car starter, pointed it in the direction in which I had left my car and pressed the buttons that start the car and unlock the doors; then I started the hunt for a car with a running engine. I spotted it. The engine wasn't running but the doors were unlocked. I need to buy new batteries because it doesn't always work first time.

As I got in, I noticed that the hand brake was on. I never use the handbrake, so I thought that someone had been in the car. My snow brush was still down on the floor on the passenger side, but I glanced around the car to make sure my briefcase was there as I released the handbrake.

Three things happened simultaneously then. I noticed blue gloves on the back seat, and mine are black; I realized that this was a standard shift car and mine is not; and I perceived that the car had been left in neutral, because it was rolling forward into the lane between the rows of parked cars! As the realization dawned that I was in someone else's car, I desperately hit the brakes to stop it going any further.

The car was stopped halfway across the lane between the rows of cars but I had no way of getting it back and no way of knowing whose car it was.

So I sheepishly put the handbrake back on, got out, closed the door, and went back to innocently looking for my own car; all the while imagining what the owner would think when she came back and found that her car had moved forward by several feet.

The owner of the vehicle that was parked across from it decided to leave just then. I noticed that they had great difficulty backing out, but was relieved to see that they managed somehow.

It wasn't until I was back in the office confessing the whole story through tears of laughter to a coworker, that I thought that I could have left a note of apology on the windshield. I was truly too embarrassed at the time to think of that.

So that was the news from Belindaland. I guess my offering for today is laughter. Somewhere out there is a very puzzled car owner. I laugh every time I try to imagine her reaction when she found it. And I am sure that from now on she will lock it.

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