I got stuck in my car. It’s a 1987 Chevy Chevette, dark blue, and it’s falling apart. It was freezing cold this Indiana morning, and there was a thick layer of ice over everything. I made the mistake of not looking outside at this inclement weather before I got dressed for work, so I was wearing my good long overcoat and my best leather shoes, and I had put everything in my briefcase rather than my backpack before setting out. I also had my lunch in a separate bag, and I was carrying five library books that I needed to return.
The doors were frozen shut; both of them. They were unlocked, and the handle was working; the latch was loose, but the rubber of the door was frozen to the sides. By this time I was dropping the books, so I set the books, lunch, and briefcase on the hood of the car.
I kicked the door to try to get it free. (oh, yeah, also because I was mad. and cold.) When I kicked the door, everything that I had set on the icy hood slid off onto the ground. So I retrieved it all and set it on the top of the car.
The doors were impossibly stuck. So I went to the hatchback and opened it up. Of course I still had a bag of recycling in there, and three 25-pound bags of cat litter so the car would be weighed down in case it snowed, and a box of car supplies, like oil and antifreeze, which I was highly tempted to pour all over the outside of the car.
I had to move them, because I was going to have to climb in. But then I had no where to put my coat, which I had to take off to get in, so I fidgeted a bit in the cold trying to figure out what to do with it. I finally set it on top of the cat litter and hoped it wouldn’t get messed up.
I climbed into the hatch without any problem, but I couldn’t get over the back seat, so a spent what seemed like an eternity trying to unlatch it to flip it down. I finally did that, and was able to crawl through. I got over to the front seat, and remembered that everything I needed to take with me was still on the top of the car.
So I slithered back out and retrieved those things, in a jumble, because they were almost too much to carry. I set them ahead of me in the car and started to climb through. Instantly, I kicked my briefcase and it fell down on the floor between the front seat and the back, upside down, and all my papers spilled out.
I cursed, but ignored it, and continued climbing. I push the front passenger seat forward, so that I could climb over the stick shift to the driver’s side. But first, with great Insight (or so I thought at the time) I moved my lunch bag to the front passenger seat so that nothing would happen to it. [ foreshadowing…. ]
Now I had a dilemma. How to get both my legs through the narrow gap between the seats? I decided I could do it. I sat down on the backseat, and put through my left leg first, thinking that I would just slide through and my right leg would follow effortlessly. Unfortunately, I miscalculated the width in the near-dark; my left leg slid into place, and my butt did too; however, my right leg, or rather my right foot, stopped just behind the front passenger seat.
So I was sitting in my drivers seat, with my right leg folded behind me and my foot locked, and stuck in the back seat. And I was wedged there. In what was probably the most unnatural position I had ever been in. And my possessions were strewn behind, haphazardly in my wake.
I tried reversing the process, but I didn’t have anything to push backward from, and nothing to grab to pull myself up. I tried working with my foot, but to get it loose, I would have to break my leg, or twist it at an angle that no human leg should go. Damn, why didn’t I see this would happen before I started?
I started to panic, and remembered suddenly the last time I was stuck somewhere; in college when we were trying to carry my couch up a narrow set of stairs to my new apartment, and we aimed the couch at the wrong angle; I was stuck behind it for half an hour as I and three other English majors tried desperately to recall any physics principles that would help get the couch free, and thus me as well.
“Think. I’ve got to think.” I told myself, and I remembered; the doors. They may not open from the outside, but from within? I pushed on the driver door forever, but I couldn’t free it. So I stretched over to the passenger door, which, with a little wrangling, popped open. Promptly spilling my lunch out of its bag, into a puddle of water on the ground below.
I was too frustrated to swear anymore; by pulling myself across the seat, I could free my foot and get out of the car. So I wasn’t stuck, but I wasn’t driving either. I took the time to pick up my briefcase and sort it out, as well as retrieve my soggy lunch, before I tackled the task of getting over the stick shift.
This time I kept both my legs together (always a wise choice, it seems) and swung in from the roof of the car like Tarzan. “It’s working!” I thought delightedly, as I glided through the air, but my glee was short-lived as my butt landed with a sickening crunch between the two seats. “Oh, my god, I broke the emergency break.” I thought, “how do I explain that to a mechanic?” as felt around beneath me trying to determine the exact cause of the plastic cracking sound.
But it was only the plastic cup holder, which I could afford, so I climbed on through and shoved the pieces on the floor behind the seat, where I throw everything these days. I started the car and sat for ten peaceful minutes listening to the radio while we both warmed up. Then I drove to work calmly, deliberately, pretending that Nothing Had Happened. Nothing At All.