The saying in our family is “Reverse is not Dad’s best gear.”
To that I must plead guilty.
I have backed cars into brick walls, posts protecting brick walls, trash cans, and my favorite, other cars. Of all my performances, my least favorite was backing my car filled with well-dressed family and friends into my daughter’s car which was innocently sitting in our driveway. ‘Twas Christmas Eve, on the way to church. I will never live that one down.
Sadly, the arrival of the backup camera has not cured my malady. As my family will gleefully tell you, the camera only provides a front row seat to the crash. While a better cinematic experience, insurance agencies have no discount for artistic expression or a dramatic collision starring the policy holder.
Hayden and I lived in Old Town Alexandria in 2010 and 2011. When you live in Old Town, you get a lot of practice parallel parking. In the 19th Century the town homes had hitching posts rather than driveways, and today on-street parking is the standard in the city.
I was already a pretty proficient parallel parker, but with all the practice in Old Town, my hubris began to swell. I unfortunately mentioned this mastery to my cousin Erik on one of his visits. Sarcasm lives within our family’s DNA, so when, with benefit of a backup camera view I slammed into the car behind us, Erik looked over at me and deadpanned, “You ARE very good at this.”
The legend grew.
You’ll recall that it was my daughter’s car that was the victim of my Christmas Eve performance in the family driveway. Well, I had borrowed her car when mine was in the shop for some mechanical repairs, and my most famous performance was behind the wheel of her Honda Accord. It was also a rare accident going forward rather than backward.
It was a bright sunny Summer’s day and I was running late for a flight out of BWI Airport in Baltimore. Hayden, who had much more business travel experience than I recommended an off-property private parking lot near the airport on Elkridge Landing Road. That was my destination.
I was heading northwest on Elkridge Landing Road and saw the sign for FastPark to my left. As I approached the turn-in for the lot, I put on my signal and slowed down to make the left-hand turn. There was one car headed southeast in the facing lane and either in a brain fog caused by flight-time anxiety or a fatal miscalculation of relative speeds, I took the left in front of the other car.
The Pauli Exclusion Principle says that two electrons can not be in the same state and the related law of physics tells us that two objects cannot occupy the same space at the same time. I had proven this maxim at various speeds in reverse. On that fateful day, I proved it at full speed in drive.
And, to make it official, when the other driver emerged from his smoking car, I realized he was wearing a police uniform. I had just had a head-on collision with a police car.
By the time I disentangled myself from the deployed airbag and emerged from my vehicle, there were two other police cars at the scene. Then three. Then four. Then more.
It quickly looked like the shopping mall chase scene from the Blues Brothers Movie. Brown and Green marked police cruisers with flashing lights surrounding two cars joined at the grills in the middle of Elkridge Landing Road. Bizarre.
Where the hell did all these cops come from? Had I hit the lead car in a State Funeral? A parade? A high-speed chase?
No, as it turns out, the National Park Police had been to a training conference at the Holiday Inn just up the road and my victim was just the first of many to exit the hotel parking lot when the class dismissed for the morning.
To his credit, the first emotion displayed by the police officer was concern for my health. Was I OK was his first question, and not who taught you to drive? That was comforting, but joy was fleeting. He just kept shaking his head in a WTF kind of way. His fellow officers didn’t help much as they emerged from their vehicles laughing. Yes laughing.
This part of the tale is delicious irony. You see part of the training these officers were receiving was a refresher on the principles of defensive driving. Defensive driving. And 60 seconds after leaving the driveway of the training venue they come upon one of their own, enmeshed in a head-on collision.
I gleaned this information from the chuckling banter of the police officers as I pulled my daughter’s registration from the glove compartment. “Expect other drivers to make mistakes” was one old saw I overheard playfully hurled at the young officer.
Phone calls placed, reports written, photos taken, cars towed, Enterprise Rental car arrives, I head for home. At some point that day, I knew that my legendary driving record would make me famous in the family. I hadn’t set out that morning to execute a head-on collision with a federal law enforcement official, but that is exactly what I did.
Hey, anybody need a ride somewhere?