Monday, February 22, 2010

Whoops! Fest blog entry

Thanks to Laurel over at Laurel's Leaves for hosting the opportunity to shake our heads and laugh out loud at how stupid we can sometimes be! My character Lara from The Shadow Scribe is no exception. Despite the fact she can't drive in England, she's 'borrowed' her husband's company car and headed down to Manchester to check out some original documents...
My phone rang and I guessed it was David. I didn’t answer, but instead kept driving, concentrating so hard it made my head hurt. As an hour edged by, I could feel my shoulders creeping to my ears and sweat gathered in the small of my back and under my arms, despite the cold that permeated the dark car. I had no idea where I was and was painfully aware that no one else did either. I almost cried with relief when lights appeared out of the blackness and I passed through what could only be loosely called a village. There was also a road sign directing me on to the A1, still some twenty miles away. The road opened up a bit from there, still narrow, still dark, but somewhat straighter. I could feel some of the tension leaving my shoulders and I relaxed a little. I leaned against the head rest, blinking and rubbing my burning, tired eyes.

I was suddenly blinded by headlights that seemed to come from nowhere. A car appeared before me and I swerved to my right just as he, too, swerved to my right. With a flash I realized that I was on the wrong side of the road. I yanked the wheel to my left and felt the leather pull against the still-healing burns on my hands. The car spun around, skidding on stones and crumbly pavement before coming to rest with a bump on the side of the road, one wheel hanging over a deep ditch.

The other car skidded to a halt just beyond me. In the light of my headlights, I could see a man in a waxed Mac jacket jump out, shouting and waving his hands. When I shakily opened my door, his words reached me.

“…killed us both! …idiot! What were you playing at, on the wrong side of the road?” He suddenly stopped and bent over as if trying to catch his breath. I jumped out of the car, worried he was having a heart attack. I almost tumbled into the rocky ditch beside me, my knees so weak and shaky I could barely stand.

“Are you OK?” I stuttered.

He looked up and waved a hand at me. “Fine, no thanks to you.”

“I’m sorry…the lights, I guess I was dazzled.”

“Damn American,” he swore, catching my accent. “Shouldn’t drive here if you don’t know what side…”

“I’m sorry…” My knees continued to shake and I thought I might throw up. Instead, I burst into tears.

He stared at me for a moment. “You OK?”

I managed a few deep breaths. “Yes, just rattled. I’m really, really sorry.”

He looked over my shoulder at the green car with one wheel over the gully. “You might have some trouble there.”

I looked too. Great. David would be seriously ticked off if I messed up the car. A small moan escaped me.

“Try to drive it out. If you need, I can winch you out,” my near-victim ordered, gesturing to his battered Land Rover.

I walked back to the car, clutching at the warm hood to steady myself.

“You sure you’re OK, love?” he asked, his ire replaced with touching concern.

I nodded and slid behind the wheel. With some tire spinning and a spatter of gravel, the car pulled forward onto the road. I did an appallingly bad four point turn to get it facing in the correct direction and then got back out of the car.

“I’m so sorry…” I started but the man didn’t let me finish.

“It don’t matter. But take it easy. These roads are dangerous even if you know what you’re doing.” Which you clearly don’t, was his unspoken message, but I was grateful for his kindness and understanding.

“Thank you,” I said as he climbed back into the Rover and pulled away, no doubt swearing at me and my country as he went. I got back in the car and closed the door, allowing myself the luxury of a good cry for five minutes before sedately, carefully driving on.


  1. Aw! Poor Lara!

    Very nice scene! I really like the stranger's character, and his interaction with her.

  2. This was really good. It makes me want to take a vacation to England. I liked your characters. Both were very interesting. Great job!

  3. Driving is something I never attempted in England. I pratically hyperventilated anytime I had to be a front seat passenger!

    Love the interaction with the Brit. Great use of dialect and catchy narrative voice. Thanks so much for participating in the fest and making it fun!

  4. Thank you all so much for visiting! And I have to say this was written from experience. I drove that rode, but fortunately never came upon another driver or the results might have been the same. I'm happier to be back on the right.

  5. You illustrated the confusion of the near accident really well in this scene! I'm interested in the guy she almost hit. Does he appear later?

  6. Hi Amalia,

    Thanks! No, Mr. Waxed Mac only appears in that scene, which in a way is kind of a shame because he is one of those characters that is very real to me. When I lived in England, I would meet people like him all the time. Very salt of the earth, gruff, but with a real teddy bear interior.

  7. Oooh. That could have a much worse whoops. I'm betting if hubby finds out there will be another whoops. Lara has a great voice, and your descriptions are well done.

  8. I lived three years in Germany and obtained my international drivers liscence within three months of arrival. Germans, like Americans, drive on the proper side of the road - albeit at an outrageous speed on the autoban. I just loved 90 minimum speed limits!

    I wasn't stupid enough to drive my own vehicle in any European countries that drove on the opposite side of the road. I road the bus when I toured. And lived through the experience.

    I was so in her position as she drove down the road. No German National was nice to me as an American; except when a crisis happened. Then they're all about taking charge and fixing the situation.

    Brits really are unusually polite. I know from personal experience. I love the way the national was so offended, then acquiesced when he discovered her foreign.

    What a great post. Making a mistake in a foreign country is really embarrassing.


  9. Tara, Yes hubby was less than pleased. Much bigger whoops!

    Donna, it took me seven driving lessons to be ready to pass the UK driver test. Even though I had been driving for 17 years. They are extremely restrictive in the test and their first time pass rate is only 42% (pleased to say I passed the first time!)

  10. Hi again. When you get a moment, could you pop by my blog and let me know where you heard about the Whoops! Blogfest? I'd promised a prize to my best shout-out helper, but I can't figure out who to thank. Gracias!