Wednesday, January 14, 2009

For Karen

This story took place on a dark November night a few years ago when I was driving alone into town for a party.

A deep, bone numbing, glacial chill hung over our area. The snow that had arrived several days earlier showed no signs of leaving but had settled in like a house guest who was overstaying his welcome. It crunched and squeaked beneath our feet as we huddled deep into our coats and jackets with shoulders hunched and collars raised against the biting wind.

As I approached the traffic light in the centre of town, I slowed to a stop as the light turned amber, but my teeth rattled in my head as there was a jolt and a thud. The car behind me, following too close and not expecting me to stop, had hit my bumper.

We both got out and the other driver, who was very apologetic, checked my car, but there seemed to be no damage, so I didn't bother getting his name and number.

The light changed and I drove on to my office where I had one or two things that I had to do before going on to the party.

The office was on the main street of the town, in an old building, over a law office. I let myself in and climbed the narrow creaky wooden staircase up to the second floor. The light from the street shone through the tall, narrow sash windows, throwing eerie shadows on the old wood paneled walls.

I took care of my business as quickly as I could and ran down stairs again. Opening the door of my dark blue Chevrolet Corsica, I flung my briefcase across the front passenger seat, put the key in the ignition, and...nothing. The key locked in the ignition and nothing happened.

I got out of the car and examined the back, where the other car had hit the bumper earlier. In the dark I could see no damage but now I wished that I had taken the other driver's number. I was sure there must be a connection between the bump and the fact that the car would not start.

I pushed the lock down on the driver's side door, slammed it shut and then unlocked my office door again, creaking up the lonely stairs once more.

I called the place where the party was happening, hoping that someone would be able to give me a ride. I could call Paul later and tell him about my car problems and get him to pick me up. But strangely no one was answering the phone. I tried again, but still no one answered.

I was doubly upset now. My car wasn't working and I couldn't connect with anyone for a ride. There was nothing for it but to walk, and I did. I set out into the cold night, walking down sidestreets with twinkling Christmas lights, past deep banks of snow, a good half hour's walk.

When I arrived at the house where the party was happening, it seemed that when I had called earlier they must have just left to get pizza. I was just glad to be there and in the warmth of the house. I told my friends about the bump at the lights and the effect on my car, but then I forgot about it for the time being.

Just about the time I was thinking about calling Paul for a ride home, the phone rang and to my surprise I heard his voice on the line. "I just had a call from the police," he said, "they have your briefcase if you'd like to pick it up."

"What?" I said, not comprehending.

"Yes dear," he said,"a man got into his car and found it on the front seat. He took it to the police station and they called your home number and got me."

The reality dawned on me with a mixture of horror and embarrassment. All along, when I was fretting about my car not starting, it was parked just behind the one I was in. The fix I was in was totally of my own making.

I got one of my friends to drive me to the police station where I reclaimed my briefcase and blushingly explained how I came to lock it securely--in the wrong car.

By now, after my car story of last week, you probably think I should not be out on the loose!

What I found interesting about that experience was my tendency to make sense of the "apparent" facts by constructing a reality to fit them that had absolutely no basis in fact! I use the memory of that experience to remind myself of the folly of imagining my own realities. I try not to do that if I can help it, although I did get caught in another car with another "reality" last week, didn't I?

My retelling this story is a result of Ang's comment on my "Confessions," post of last week. She wrote:

Hey B.,Haven't you done this before...?I seem to remember a tale a few years ago of a car, a key and a police station. Hmmm, the things our readers don't know.:-)HeeHee

And Karen asked, "Belinda, what was that about?" :)


Marilyn said...

Interesting, that tendency to construct a reality to "fit" what we see as the facts when, in truth, the facts can be quite different and yet unknown to us. Several situations that fit that description popped to mind as I read your post.

So often I don't know the whole truth of a situation and I have to keep myself from rushing to judgment. I hope I am getting better at this as I grow older.

Interesting tale. And to think you are beginning to number these incidents, Belinda! :-)

Laura Davis said...

So funny and yet I bet at the time you weren't laughing. Thanks for sharing. I thought I was the only one who did things like that. It's nice to know I'm not alone!

Laura Davis

Angcat said...

Still giggling.
Thanks for sharing so candidly Belinda.
It's our ability to laugh at ourselves that keeps us sane.
Love Ang