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#5: Nearly Killing My Father-in-Law

Growing up, my best friend and I put lots of energy into various sports cars, and then made a habit of driving them around back roads at super-legal speeds. One of our favorites was a ’72 Datsun 240Z, which he had modified rather dramatically with suspension upgrades and body work.

Unfortunately, as our teenage years faded into our past, we had less and less time to devote to keeping the cars in good shape. As luck would have it, the Datsun sat in his garage for a couple of years, awaiting repairs to various things. After he took a new job, he was going to junk the car, and offered it to me instead. Naturally, I accepted.

Now I had a problem. I had to find a way to get the Datsun from his house to mine. As I said, it needed various repairs, and wasn’t currently driveable. However, my father-in-law had a trailer and a truck, and was willing to help me go get it. We picked up the car, pushed it onto the trailer, and off we went. At the house, we pulled the car off the trailer, and prepared to put it into the garage.

At this point I should point out that the driveway was severely steep, dramatically downhill from the street. It wasn’t a long driveway, but the view from the second-floor windows looked out almost at street level. It was steep.

So as we get the car off the trailer, I look to my father-in-law and say, “You want to drive it into the garage and have me push, or me drive and you push?” He was more interested in driving, but emphasized, “I don’t want to try to steer it into that tiny garage of yours.” Fair enough. He hops behind the wheel, and I start to push.

Did I mention that the driveway is steep, and that my father-in-law didn’t want to pull it into the garage? Did I mention that the car had been sitting for a couple of years? I didn’t mention that it was very dark by now, in a car with a dead battery, that didn’t run.

As we moved into the driveway, I was ready to let up so we could switch. Before I know it, I am chasing the Datsun down the driveway, as it is quickly accelerating toward the open door. Faintly, I can recall hearing my father-in-law screaming, which was a very rare thing indeed.

Coming to the bottom of the drive, the car screamed through the open door, zoomed into the garage, and slammed into the stuff in the back. Fortunately, there were about five or six cardboard boxes of clothes, waiting to take to the local clothes closet. These absorbed most of the impact. I stopped as the car went through, running into the brick facing surrounding the garage. (For the life of me, I can’t imagine why I was chasing the car. What would I have done if I caught it?)

As the smoke cleared, I rushed to the driver’s door, yanked it open, and pulled my visibly shaken father-in-law from the car. “Are you OK? ARE YOU OK???”

Fortunately, he was fine. Amazingly, so was the car, with the exception of the front spoiler. Even more amazing was the fact that he had steered the car into a very narrow garage, at very high speed, and somehow missed the edges of the door, but also the bicycle that was parked on the side of the garage.

When he finally gathered himself, he said, “I tried to let you know that the brakes were out. I pumped them several times, but by then, we were already heading down the hill. I tried to find the emergency brake, but it was dark, and the garage was coming up pretty fast.”

How could I have not checked the brakes to see if the fluid had somehow leaked out? (It had.) How could I have let him pull it into the drive to begin with? (Fortunately, I did. If I’d been driving, it would have probably taken out the brick between the double garage doors.) How was I going to explain to my wife that I had very nearly killed her 63 year-old father?

After we looked everything over, and realized that nothing was severely damaged, we had a good laugh. We’d both had a good scare, but there didn’t seem to be any permanent harm.

For some reason though, he never has driven another car that belongs to me.

Comments»

1. litlove - June 2, 2006

I think I might drive by yours one day with my mother-in-law…

2. Tim - June 2, 2006

Well, I can do a good mother-in-law eulogy. 😀 – Tim


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