“How do you know that won’t roll backward over you?” I asked.
I asked, “Shouldn’t you put something behind the tire?”
I added, “That doesn’t look safe.”
These were just a few of my comments as the Man I Married worked behind his motorcycle and double-wide sidecar on our sloping driveway.
I didn’t say, “I have nothing to wear to your funeral,” because the risk looked merely injurious, not fatal. Unless infection set in with an open wound. I’d just that week looked up “lockjaw” in our medical manual (leading to an interesting discussion about “hammer toes,” which two days later I became convinced I had). I couldn’t be 100% certain that the Little Man was up to date on his tetanus vaccine after slicing open his thumb on a garden hose (yup, it’s somehow possible), but figured we’d know right away if he was experiencing symptoms, because lockjaw would be about the only thing that could get this kid to stop talking.
MIM looked up over his big rig at me and gave me the Frightened Family Expression, an exaggerated look that is part of our marital sign language. It’s shorthand for his childhood story, in which his father did construction work up on second-story scaffolding. His mother expressed concern (in imitation, MIM raises his voice to resemble Julia Child’s), at which point his father began wildly waving his arms and tottering on the planks, as if he were about to fall, looking terrified.
The look means, “The issue here is your personality, not my lack of precaution. This is about your anxiety, your worry, and your chronic concern about safety, not about any real and present danger. I’ve got it all under control, baby.”
* * * * *
This is not the first time a vehicle on a slope has reared its backward head in our marriage. Years ago, ferry personnel directed me to park on the steep side ramp to the upper deck of a Washington State Ferry. I pressed down hard on the foot pedal for the emergency brake of our manual transmission Ford Ranger and parked it in first gear rather than neutral. We were the second-to-last car on the ramp, with our truck’s hood pitched much higher than our tailgate and another car squeezed in behind us.
The ramp slants at such a severe angle that the car doors won’t stay open; gravity forces them closed again if you don’t manhandle your door open with a hand or knee while you simultaneously climb out, like struggling up out of a beanbag chair while a St. Bernard tries to climb into your lap.
I expressed panic over driving off again without rolling backward. The Ranger’s safety brake release was located awkwardly to the left of the steering wheel, beneath the dash, so leaning forward and down to slowly release it while working the gas, clutch, and stick shift was not an option; particularly on a steep hill, it required the dexterity and coordination of a cat licking its nethers while working a treadle sewing machine (whoever designed it is probably now a successful politician). MIM, in the passenger seat, gave me the “There, there, dear, what can possibly happen?” hand pat and offered to drive when it was time to depart. Of course I accepted. I plot circuitous routes around our city’s mountainous terrain in order to avoid stoplights on hills: I traveled miles out of my way to avoid one.
When the ferry reached its destination, the car ahead of us, on the flat part of the ramp, purred away, and the deck hand gave us the all-clear to drive away. MIM put the pick-up in gear and without hesitation took off.
The tailgate of our extended-cab truck slammed into the front of the vehicle behind us: a redneckish vehicle driven by a redneckish, stocky, tattooed, and hairless individual, who yelled the gentlemanly reaction of, “FƱﻞµɥCK!” He banged out of his car (he had no trouble holding the big door open while leaping out) and stomped uphill to his hood to evaluate the damage. His car looked to my city girl eyes like some sort of offroadish vehicle, convenient for dumping bodies in out-of-the-way ravines.
“Oops,” MIM said to me. He wrestled his way back out of the truck and apologized to the man. He suggested they drive off the ferry and then phone the police in order to file a report for the insurance.
“No!” the man barked to any suggestion of police. He clambered back into his car, backed his All Testosterone Vehicle as far as he could without reversing off the back of the ferry, and sped off through the lower center car deck, now empty; we were the only two remaining vehicles.
“That didn’t go quite how I envisioned,” a contrite MIM, back in the truck, said to me. One thing about MIM, he’s never shy about admitting error or apologizing. This time MIM’s takeoff was flawless, and we purred off the ferry. Instead of traveling straight along the main route, MIM turned off the arterial and took back roads. We sure didn’t want to run into that guy, who might be lying in wait to ambush us and use us for target practice.
“How many outstanding warrants do you think he has?” I asked.
“Don’t know, but let’s not add another one.”
And now I was more wary than ever about starting from a stop on hills.
* * * * *
The Little Man left to take the dog for a walk. He returned thirty seconds later shouting, “Mom! Mom!”
I prepared to lecture him about sticking to his chore rather than barging back into the house to tell me about this or that bird.
“Dad’s motorcycle rolled down the driveway and backed into your car!” he shouted! “There’s a big huuuuuuuge enormous gigantic dent in the side!”
I looked over at MIM, who rose slowly up out of his kitchen chair. He rolled his eyes at himself. “Oops.”
We walked to the window together and looked out. The big rig, a foot wider than my car, indeed was now wedged back into my car. MIM had parked my car sideways in the street at the foot of the driveway while he’d worked on his bike.
“At least it didn’t hit a pedestrian on the sidewalk,” I said. “Or roll into the street and hit a bicyclist. Or roll across the street and hit the neighbor’s expensive car.”
As far as calamity was concerned, it was a best-case scenario.
Good thing I’m so apprehensive about disaster or I’d consider it a bad day.
“Of course,” I pointed out to MIM, “maybe I’m worried all the time because I’m married to you.”
* * * * *
Ferry Ramp Photos: http://www.southwhidbeyrecord.com/news/278079961.html#, BEN WATANABE, South Whidbey Record Langley, Clinton, arts and entertainment, features,email@example.com or 360-221-5300 ext. 5066.
Car and CRV photos by Jennifer D. Munro.