Margaret Ann Gordon Valenta
© Copyright 2018 by Margaret Valenta
After the appointment, driving back home, I made a wrong turn. When it comes to my sense of direction I’m at a loss. When I should turn right, I am positive I should turn left. Noticing the houses were getting scarce, and little or no traffic, I soon realized I was lost. (In 1955 we had no cell phones so we had no way of contacting anyone in an emergency.) Coming upon a car stopped in the road, with the driver standing outside his car, I pulled up behind him, got out, told him I was lost, and asked for directions.
He smiled and said, “I’m Bill Potter. I need a push to get my car started. My battery won’t turn the engine over. If you will give me a push, then you can follow me to where you need to go.”
I was so relieved and agreed to help. “I know nothing about cars. I don’t know if I can. What do I have to do?”
“You just line up your car with mine. Then when you get your car going about twenty miles an hour, with your car pushing mine at that speed, my car should start.”
“Well,” I replied, “that sounds easy enough. Twenty miles an hour?”
“Yes, that should do it.”
I gave him my home address and we got in our cars. It looked like I was lined up directly behind his car, so I backed up to what I thought was far enough to get my car going twenty miles an hour. I put my foot to the floor on the gas pedal. I saw Bill glance in his rear-view mirror and I will never forget the look on his face. His mouth dropped open and his eyes widened. He looked frantic, like he didn’t know whether to jump out of the car or stay with it. With a loud crunching bang, I hit his car.
No one could have been more surprised than I was that we didn’t keep on going. I turned off the motor and we both got out. Looking at his car, his bumper was smashed up against the dented trunk, and one side of the bumper was almost touching the tire.
He said, “Lady! What the hell were you doing?”
We looked at my car. Both fenders were completely dented in. One side of my front bumper was pointing towards the ground. He looked at me, looked at the cars, looked back at me and started to laugh. He laughed until he was bent over with tears rolling down his face.
“No one is going to believe this,” Bill gasped between his hysterical laughing.
“My husband is going to kill me,” I said.
After he paced back and forth alongside of the cars, he managed to pull his bumper away from the tire, but then it struck straight out at a ridiculous angle. He said, “I’ll push your car back a little and I’ll try to fix your bumper so you’ll be able to drive.”
After a lot of pulling, pushing, and a few choice words, Bill got my bumper more or less in place. On reflection, I think it was good that cars were made of steel in 1955, and not what they are made of today, or those cars would have ended up in the car-graveyard.
Bill said, “If you think you can help me out here, I still need to get my car started. I’ll get in your car and line us up. Your car will be touching mine. Then you will put your car in second gear and start very slow and increase the speed slowly to about twenty miles and hour. My car should start. Then follow me and I’ll direct you home.”
“I’ll try,” I said. “I’m so sorry, I should have thought more about what I was doing. All I could think of was I had to get my car going at twenty miles an hour.”
Bill shook his head and got in my car. He tried to match up the bumpers. It didn’t work, so he got out and again pushed and pulled the bumper of both cars until he got them lined up enough to enable me to give him a push. I got in my car and took a deep breath to calm myself. I thought, ‘Joe is going to have a fit! How will I be able to explain this?”
As soon as Bill got in his car, I put the car in second and gently stepped on the gas. We were moving. His car kicked in and we headed to whatever fate awaited me.
Arriving at my home, I asked Bill if he would please come in and help me explain to Joe what happened. “Maybe Joe can fix both cars,” I said. “He’s a good mechanic and just finished getting the dents out of our car fenders last night.”
Bill agreed, looking skeptical. Shortly after we went into the house, Joe burst in and shouted, “What happened to the car and whose beat-up car is behind it in the driveway?”
I glanced at Bill who introduced himself and said, “In a million years you’ll never guess the bizarre incident that happened. Let’s go look at the cars and I’ll explain.”
I watched from the window as the two men were looked at the cars. They seemed to be having a deep discussion about the damages. Joe had a look of disbelief on his face as Bill talked. I was glad he was explaining what happened and I didn’t have to. I don’t know why I didn’t realize what the result would be when I backed up the car and sped forward. It still embarrasses me today when I think about it.
Bill and Joe spent many weekends together repairing the cars and soon became good friends.