Column: Photo brings back memories

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, September 6, 2005

Tuesday’s picture of the SUV that crashed through the front of NAPA Auto Parts brought back some vivid memories. Of course, some say vivid memories, others say flashbacks.

I was sitting at my desk in Sweetwater, Tennessee a few years ago when a car came crashing through the front glass and stopped no more than a foot and a half away from me.

Our office was walled off with cubicle-like partitions and one of those separated my desk from the reception area this elderly couple mistook for a parking lot.

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I learned a lot of things about myself that day; foremost among those is that I possess no extra-sensory perception whatsoever.

If I had, it would have kicked in that day.

I remember clearly hearing the crashing, grinding noise as the car came through the front of the office nearly directly at me.

Rather like a deer in the headlights, I sat and literally thought, “Wow, that wreck is really loud, they must have been close!”

I don’t know how long it took for reality to dawn on me, but I know what did it.

The woman driving – who had missed the break and hit the gas – failed to let off the gas.

Her car continued to slowly plow through any obstruction our office had to offer.

Finally, the debris under the car picked the wheels up far enough that they merely spun, leaving skid marks burned into the floor.

It was this continuous grinding sound, the slow push of the car, that made me realize what was actually happening.

I jumped up and ran for the women’s bathroom in the back of our office, meeting my editor halfway there.

He had realized the danger much quicker than I had, ran into the bathroom and was now scurrying the opposite direction.

Neither of us cut a particularly manly figure, I suppose.

I think it’s something of an understatement to say it’s a bit surreal to come out and see a car parked where just seconds before had been an empty lobby.

But the real weirdness was yet to come.

The elderly couple, who were stopping by to pay their bill, just sat in their car.

They had managed to drive between our two receptionists, leaving one safely pinned behind her desk.

The man rolled down his passenger seat window and tossed his checkbook to her, asking her to fill out a check to renew their subscription.

Even as the police came, they stayed in the car.

We milled about, broke out the cameras and generally tried to contain fits of nervous laughter.

But the best was yet to come.

A policeman was climbing over the front of the car to check on our pinned in receptionist, who was covered in glass, dust and debris.

As he climbed over the car, he slipped a little coming down hard.

“Hey buddy, watch the hood,” the man said, as serious as he could be, leaning out his rolled down window and scowling at the officer.

They paid their bill, finally got out of the car and waited as a tow truck hauled the wreck away.

Family came and picked them up and we went back to work.

Somehow, nobody was hurt.

Had anyone been in the lobby or they driven their car three feet further or to the left or right, the damage would have been much worse.