How's my driving?

When it was all over, and we were driving back to the boat, Barry asked me, “Do you want to write about it, or should I?”

I did it. I guess I should write about it. Ouch.

We’d just enjoyed a fabulous dinner at Jon’s house. It was the kind of relaxed evening where we all chopped vegetables and peeled shrimp around the huge kitchen island, then Jon whipped up a yummy stir-fry. He’s the kind of guy who ranges from expert to downright capable in everything he does.

In November, I’d called him about surveying our boat, despite the fact his North Carolina office was about 350 miles from the South Carolina boat.

Once we’d cleared up the fact that I knew the difference between Beaufort (Bow-furt) and Beaufort (Byoo-fort), he checked his schedule and found a coincidence, or maybe a miracle. He and his girlfriend had plans to drive to Florida. On the day we needed a survey, they would be returning, right past Hilton Head.

So we lucked into the best surveyor on the east coast, and then found that we had more in common than boats. We also decided that Beaufort seemed like the best place to refit our boat.

So this is how I happened to go aground in the driveway of my marine surveyor. He had an early morning planned, so a little after dinner, we said our thanks and farewells.

It was an untimely time to leave.

The storm began after dinner. We peered out the front door at thunder, lightning, sheets of rain, and the all-pervasive darkness that comes with heavy rain at night in North Carolina. I got drenched running to the van, even though the driver’s door was only about ten feet away.

Then I realized I was going to have a tough time driving out of there. In the dark and pouring rain, my mirrors were useless. I backed out slowly and carefully, not wanting to hit Jon’s nice truck, or his nice house, or his nice landscaping. Then I put the van in forward, still creeping slowly, so it all happened in s-l-o-w–m-o-t-i-o-n.

I cringed as my side of the van brushed a nice bush. What I didn’t realize was that it was not a nice bush. It was mean, nasty bush, camouflaging a deep, not-so-nice ditch. The left front wheel went down, and down, and down, and then the van stopped moving. I turned off the engine and turned to Barry, saying, “We’re stuck. Let’s go back to the house.”

I was sitting the driver’s seat, and he was in the passenger seat. The strange thing was, he wasn’t sitting next to me. He was above me.

Barry clambered up to the passenger door and out. I was briefly alone, and then I frantically scrambled up to the passenger door, too. There is little more terrifying than being left alone in a vehicle that feels like it’s about to roll over. The driver’s door seemed to be dangling over a cliff.

Then I stood, openmouthed, in the pouring rain and stared at Squidley’s right rear wheel. It was about three feet off the ground.

Hysteria set in. I started laughing, and I couldn’t stop. Our stately Squid Wagon was nose-down in a ditch, with one wheel thrown up in the air. It was like seeing a prim and proper lady on her back with her skirts askew. In the flashes of lightning, I could see things on her underside that I usually don’t see.

We went back to the house and knocked. When Jon opened the door, my face was red with embarrassment, and rain was streaming down from my hair.

“I hate to say this, but I’ve gone aground in your driveway,” I said. Over my shoulder, he sized up the situation. We had his driveway completely blocked, no way to get his truck out. He gave us some towels to dry off, then phoned dozens of places, trying to find a tow truck. Finally an outfit in Havelock, 20 miles up the road, sent a truck.

The nice thing was, the tow truck driver wasn’t just effective at extricating 1-ton vehicles, he also knew what to say to make an embarrassed driver — me — feel better. “Wow, is this a 1990 van? It’s in such great condition!” he enthused. I wondered if wrecker driving school included a section on psychology.

In the pouring rain, the three of us stood behind the van, watching the process. Suddenly, my eye fell on our row of bumper stickers — and I started giggling all over again. The second one from the left, bright yellow, with a picture of an alien and a crashed spaceship. The text says it all: “How’s my driving?”

You don’t have to answer that question. Barry drove us home.