when cars dance

Or, Why You Should Leave Your Door Unlocked So People Can Borrow Your Butcher Knives.


When the kids and I drove into town this afternoon to go to the library, the roads were icy. For several country miles, we followed along behind a nondescript car going a nondescript speed. Everything was normal.

Until it wasn’t.

Coming out of an s-curve, the nondescript car slipped into a sideways slide. Its back end fishtailed into the left lane. I said something profound like, “Whoa, guys. Look at that.” And then the car moved forward off the road to the right, except there was a steep embankment in its way, so it reared up and then flipped gracefully over onto its back, crunch.

I don’t remember braking. I do remember jabbing wildly at the emergency lights, barking orders at the kids, and thinking, I am the only responsible adult here, oh crap.

I sent my older son up the road on the other side of the car to stop traffic. My younger daughter ran back to the house we just passed (which happened to be the house of our long-time friends), and I told the younger two that they were not to move, not even to unbuckle their seatbelts. Every single child obeyed me to the letter. This rarely happens, so I’m noting it here. Applause is appropriate.

I ran up to the car. There was a woman in it, hanging upside down by her seatbelt.

Folks, there is something grotesque about a belly-up car with a person in it smack in the middle of the road. It’s disorienting. Cars are meant to roll on wheels at all times. Somersaulting and sticking their spinny legs in the air is simply not acceptable. What’s next: talking cats and dogs?

The doors wouldn’t open. I had to crouch down on the pavement to see inside. How many people are there? I yelled through the glass. One, she said. She was cool as a cucumber.

By this time, my daughter was heading back, the neighbors in tow. Except it wasn’t the neighbors we knew, but guests that were staying at their house. I hollered at them to call 9-1-1 (“I never heard you yell at anyone to call 9-1-1 before!” my kids told me later, all impressed), and then we started working to get the woman out.

Me, being all first responderly with some blankets.* 

Her door finally opened (maybe she figured out how to unlock it?), and the neighbor/guest helped her turn the car off. We still couldn’t unbuckle her seatbelt, though. So I sent my son back to the house to get a knife.

“They never lock their doors,” the houseguests confided.

“Yeah, I know,” I said. “We sometimes stop by to grab rags for dog vomit or to use the bathroom.”

It was reassuring to know that in the midst of flipping cars and freezing temps, we had a fully-stocked house at our fingertips. It was a piece of sanity in a sea of weird.

Soon my son came running back (yeah, I know, running) with two knives. The neighbor-who-is-not-really-our-neighbor cut the belt, and he and my son carefully extricated her from the crunched cave. We sat her on a towel and wrapped her in a blanket, and a couple minutes later the ambulance arrived. (And then another. And then a fire truck and two cop cars.) I wrote out a statement and off we went to the library.

The end.

*Photo credit: the neighbor/houseguest.


  • Anonymous

    Kudos all the way around! Sounds like your kids have some new found respect for mom-in-crisis-mode now, too. Not a bad thing, since you all certainly made a very effective team.

  • Rachelle

    Good to know your kids know when a situation is serious and will follow directions. And you gave them a good example of how to act in an emergency! Someday they'll use those memories if they have to deal with something big.

    It's scary watching a car flip over in front of you. No joke.

  • Michelle @ Give a Girl a Fig

    Good job for stopping…it seems people are so afraid to HELP these days for fear of being sued or something that they don't bother to help. I'd have done the very same thing…I'm sure the lady was so grateful that you stayed with her.

  • Rose Shenk

    Only you can make something as horrific as a rolled car so funny! Glad you and the kids were there when it happened. Nice blog post.

  • Mama Pea

    You also get the Good Driver Award for not following her so closely you folks ended up as part of the accident on that slippery road! I want you with me in case of any and all emergencies. You done good, Responsible Adult Person!

  • Becky

    Wow! Great clear thinking and fast action on all of your parts!!! I'm sure she was so grateful that you all were there! How scary!

  • melodie davis

    And of course we're trying to figure out the spot. Smart to keep your two youngest in the car, what with the fact that bystanders sometimes get hit after an accident like that. Good job! Later in the day I saw you heading into the grocery store with your two girls and thought: my they are going to be tall and willowy like their parents. 🙂

  • Tricia @ The Domestic Fringe

    Oh, my goodness. So crazy. Thankfully you were there and it was near your friend's house!!! Good job first responder.

    *hands clapping* Congrats to your kids for being awesome in this crisis too.

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