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Learning how to fly (03/17/2014)
By Sarah Squires
Learning how to fly

I was 21, the sun was rising, and I was cruising home from my overnight shift at the group home, wind tearing through my hair. Raisin, who was a puppy at the time, was in the passenger seat. I was loopy with sleep deprivation, but hey, I was young.

In this iteration of my driving career, I was in the famous gold Cadillac, the ‘90 Deville with seats plusher and more comfortable than my bed. I remember I was wearing a loose dress and no shoes; Raisin was ill-prepared and leash-less, as well.

Suddenly, the V8 hopped into full-power, pedal-to-the-metal, only my foot wasn’t even on the gas. It takes about 10 seconds of full-throttle V8 to get you to 90, and by the time I realized that my car was possessed, we were going about that fast… on the outskirts of St. Cloud on a couple-mile stretch of highway, about to enter the city and the 40-mph zone.

I was literally standing on the brake pedal with both feet, brake pads fighting the V8 and losing, kicking up gravel on the roadside. I’d gotten her down to about 35 when I yanked the emergency brake, which did nothing. I kicked it into park. I should have gone into neutral for a smooth landing, but when panic mode sets in, sometimes you just do whatever you think of first. Raisin hit the dash, while I was more prepared and caught myself on the steering wheel. I turned the roaring motor off and we sat there, stunned. Turned the key; it shook with unbidden power still, and I knew we needed to hitch a ride and leave the infected car until a doctor — or exorcist — could be located and afforded.

Err, I wasn’t wearing shoes. Raisin, a runner-style puppy, had no leash. I had no purse, people didn’t have cell phones back then; it was 7 a.m. So I squat-walked, holding Raisin’s collar, stepping on glass, for the two-mile trek until we got to Menards, the closest location that was open and might have a phone I could use. Of course, while I used the phone, my leash-less puppy continually entered Menards back and forth through the sliding glass door, and for about an hour I couldn’t find anyone with a car who was awake. But we were safe, at least.

Then there was the time when Lindberg and I had to sleep in the woods after my car broke down. Or the car the mechanics called “the black hole,” which was actually a better runner than the following vehicle, which they didn’t name because they continually hoped they would never see us pull up (or call for a tow) again. Every time something was “fixed” on that car, a belt would fall off, the power steering would go out, and every last drop of the transmission fluid would gush out — all within a mile, but all about five minutes after said mechanic’s shop had closed. I don’t know, maybe they just flipped the “closed” sign every time they saw anyone resembling a frazzled Sarah walking (rarely driving) up to the shop.

We just got rid of the broken power-steering-fluid-leaking, transmission-fluid-gushing car. It was joyous, because we got a nice little truck that is mechanically sound. With a motor and transmission that works (I am literally knocking my forehead on wood as I write this), it is only natural that non-mechanical components of this wonderful vehicle would immediately fail. And it’s not as if it’s even surprising that this would happen, but I got two — TWO — flat tires in one day. For a gal like me, that’s barely a single eyebrow raise worth of trouble, but it is a little funny.

What I can be thankful for is that I haven’t been involved in big car accidents during this 15-year, bad-luck period. I can’t help but remember that, and remind you: be careful. You never know when the driver behind you is going to have an unexpected brake versus V8 battle, or when her tire is going to fly off, or when her transmission fluid is going to flow like a river while her power steering takes a dive, on a huge curve. In winter. With a puppy flying through the air. 


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