Monday, February 24, 2003

Not Everyone in Silicon Valley Is a Rocket Scientist

One night last week, Sonja and I were standing on the porch when the screaming started. The wordless bellowing was coming from across the street. We ran over — me barefoot, as usual — to find one of our frat-boy neighbors pinned under the right rear wheel of his old Cadillac. The wheel was hung up on his thighs. The engine was still running, the door was closed and locked, the keys inside.

By now one of the guy’s housemates had come out. Sonja ran to get the other one, while the housemate and I tried to lift the car off the trapped boy.

Michele came out onto our porch. I yelled across to her, “Call 911! And get Paul!” Who is not only strong, but used to be an Army medic.

As Paul crossed the street to the scene of the accident, I went across to give Michele details for the emergency services. Sonja and the other housemate came out, and the four people lifted the car off. Naturally, since the car was still in gear, as soon as it was lifted free of him, the car started moving. It turned in a flawless half-circle and smashed into the van in their driveway, then stalled. Sonja had been dragged a little way; her jeans were ripped at the knee, and she was bruised and bleeding.

Paul checked the kid over, while we fetched pillows and a blanket. He told us what had happened: the emergency brake wouldn’t let go, so he decided to disengage it at the wheel. He left the door swinging open, but he must have automatically hit the Lock button as he got out. Unfortunately, he forgot to take the car out of reverse or to turn it off, so the second the brake was off, it started up, running over him. The door swung shut too.

The ambulance came and took the kid away, and we all went inside. About half an hour later, the other roommates came over with a bottle of champagne and an unopened box of Valentine candy, along with a little note scribbled on lined paper, thanking us.

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