The Funny Side of Fate

Have you been showered with a fair share of fate yet? I certainly have . Let me give you an example.

In the latter 1990s one of my ‘hobbies’ was being a South African Police Reservist. I’m not going to go into that right now and only mention it because at one point I was working for a reservist colleague but soon found that I wasn’t enjoying it so much.  Whilst I never had a problem with him, I didn’t care for the way he treated what few other employees he had.  And I was forever having to make apologies to people concerning his unkept promises or unpaid accounts – which he always seemed to have an excuse for.  In February he went to Zimbabwe on business “for 2 weeks” during which time I did not work.  He only returned at the end of March! 

As this was clearly a very informal employment arrangement, I had no qualms about looking around for another job during his absence, and this was where the fun began.  Actually, I blame my son Leon for the entire affair.

He drove a candy-pink VW Beetle, the Pink Panther, and one night the clutch cable snapped.  He did manage to drive it (in 2nd gear) to the repair shop as there wasn’t much traffic about.  But with the place being shut,  he asked me to deliver the keys and a letter of explanation the following morning, after he had caught a bus to work.

Husband Ziggy had decided to have a lie-in that morning, so I used his Monza, being easier on petrol than my old Merc. I duly returned from the trip, but was somewhat distracted upon my arrival home. 

Ziggy, fresh out of the shower, was at the front gate, removing the newspaper from its little box.  Upon seeing me pull into the driveway, that’s not all he removed!  Quick as a “flash” the perv whipped off his towel.  Thankfully there was no-one walking down the street at the time.

He eventually left for work.  I had a job interview at 09:30.  At 09:15 I was ready to leave the house for the appointment, which was only 5 minutes drive away, but I could not find my handbag containing, amongst other things, my car keys.  After a frantic search, I realised that I must have left my bag in Ziggy’s car. Obviously, due to the “distraction”, my mind had been on things beyond removing my bag from the car at the time!

Another frantic search, this time for spare car keys, proved equally fruitless and I resorted to telephoning my interviewer to apologise for late attendance, explaining that I would attend, if con­venient to her, as soon as I had (a) tracked down my spare set of keys or (b) got Ziggy to return my handbag to me. The woman suggested that if neither (a) nor (b) worked out, we make the interview for 9 o’clock on Wednesday.  In the event, the more I thought about that job, the less I liked the sound of it. It was working as a clerical assistant to eleven educational therapists, so I later withdrew my application.

Anyway, now being stuck at home I had plenty of time on my hands, so thought it would be a good oppor­tunity to clean my car.  However, the car was in the garage, so I needed to move it into the garden in order to wash it.  Luckily, it was not locked.  All I had to do was push it for about a metre, to where the garage sloped down to the garden, then it would go by itself, as it were.

Yes, I know what you’re thinking!

Unfortunately, the car was facing away from the garden, and as it would be travelling backwards, it would hardly be safe for me to open the door to get in to put the brakes on.  But no problem, I could access it through the window.

I took off the hand-brake and put the car into neutral (it’s an automatic).  Then sitting on the bonnet and jamming my feet against the garage doors, I  pushed the car until it reached the slope and started to roll downhill.  Once on its way, I rushed down to catch up with the car, which by now was travelling pretty quick.  I hurled myself through the window and tried to slam the gear-stick into Park.   It wouldn’t.

The angle I was at meant I couldn’t reach the hand-brake, so I wriggled in even further, in order to push down on the foot-brake.  What I had not taken into account was that the pneumatic steering and braking system does not kick into place unless the ignition is turned on for which one requires keys.  My car rumbled on until  CRUNCH.   Oh, SHIT!

At the time of impact I was still stuck – legs pointing up / head way down – through my car window, so I had no idea where I’d ended up (if you’ll pardon the pun).   With much difficulty, I clawed my way over to the passenger seat and tumbled out on that side of the car to find myself on top of the daisy bushes with the car’s arse-end poking through our next-door neighbour’s garden wall. DOUBLE SHIT.

I peered through the trees on the other side of the broken wall, and saw two teenagers wandering down their garden to see what the noise was.  I poked my head around a bush and waved.

“Hello.  Just had a bit of an accident here.  Please ask your Mum to phone me when she gets home.”

Because of the trees and bushes, they couldn’t see the extent of what had happened without coming up close, which fortunately they didn’t.  They strolled off, whereupon I removed myself from the rubble and promptly collapsed, in fits of laughter.  The thought of what this must have looked like – had anyone had the good fortune to witness it – was just too much.  It must have been a good five minutes before I could compose myself sufficiently to assess the damage.

The old lady Merc sat on top of three daisy bushes, between the japonica and the don’t-know-the-name-of-it tree.  Luckily the daisies had been recently pruned. 

It appeared that I might need assistance to remove old Betsy from the flowerbed.  But even if I could move it, I decided to leave the car where it was.   The whole scene was just too unbelievable.  I really couldn’t keep this one to myself.

Once I had suitably recovered, I fetched the camera and took a snap of the carnage.

I awaited the arrival of the first home.  It was Ziggy.  I saw him arrive in the driveway, so I went to meet him in the garage.  As he stepped out of his car, and spotted mine, halfway down the garden, he said,

“What the f… happened here?”   I explained. 

His reaction was almost identical to mine.  Even down to saying that I must leave it where it was “so the kids can see it”. 

Thereafter, for the rest of the night, not one single sentence was uttered by him which didn’t include words like  REAR; REVERSE; BACK; DRIVE; WALL; BRICKS; GARDEN; SMACK; DOWN-HILL; SMASH; HIT; BUMP; BRAKE; STOP; CRUNCH; CRASH; FAST; RUSH; RUN; BANG.   I thought he’d swallowed the bloody thesaurus!

If I could have written it all down, I could have filled half a book with his quips – and sold them to some stand-up comic for a fortune. They came out quicker than rounds from an AK47 on fully automatic!  Sadly my shorthand’s not that fast.  I have never heard him on such good form, and it was all lost – so spontaneous even he later couldn’t remember what he said!

I had to wait up quite late to give the boys the low-down. Luckily there was a full moon for them to view by.

And I don’t suppose for a minute I’m going to get away without putting you  ‘in the picture’!  ACTION REPLAY….

The next morning all the men disappeared off to work before I’d crawled out of bed.  Half a dozen attempts, and several bricks under the wheels later I realised I was not going to extricate the car from the daisy bushes by myself.

I then decided to phone my policeman friend, Casper

“Hi Casper, where are you?”

“In Randburg, why?”

“I need a bit of help with my car”

“Why, what’s wrong with your car”

“I’d rather not go into it over the phone, but it’s at home”.

“OK, well I have a couple of complaints to go to,” (that was when I discovered he was on duty), “I’ll be with you in about an hour.”   

50 minutes later he and his police partner in anti-crime pitched up in an SAPS van. 

“What’s wrong with your car?”

I led them into the garden.

“What the hell… ?”      

“What did Ziggy say?” 

I told them.  

Cory, Casper’s partner, said “Jeez, you must have one helluva understanding husband!”

Casper’s first question was whether or not I was able to get the engine started. I replied in the affirmative, but mentioned that it did make a few strange grating and grinding noises when I had put it into gear (must have been the daisy bushes).  We tried it out, and the sound effects seemed to have stopped.  He suggested that he and Cory got behind it, and with a lift and a push, would assist it over the daisy bushes. 

I would not normally dream of questioning Casper’s judgment, but this is a 23-year-old heavy metal-and-chrome Mercedes.  I suggested praps it might be better to tow it out. He assured me Plan A was worth a try, and after all, “did you not personally witness me extracting a Kasper (that bloody big SAPS vehicle pictured here) out of a ditch?”  I did, and had to acknowledge his superior experience in these matters but suggested that the daisy bushes be pruned back a bit more, as at least two of them looked as if there were about to sprout up from under the back seat.  Cory was delegated this task and, suitably equipped with a bow-saw, proceeded to “lop off” lumps of (very established) bushes from a fully prone position beneath the car.

Anyway, they eventually got behind the Merc, I got behind the wheel, started the engine,  and on the shout of “GO” thrust the automatic gear into drive and put my foot down.  As the engine whirred, I heard choking screams coming from behind me “Stop, STOP, STOP”.  

Frankly, I couldn’t see what was going on.  Casper and Cory were hidden by a combined fog of exhaust fumes and dirt being kicked up by the back wheels.  As requested, I stopped.

They decided to revert to Plan B.  But first we had to get the police van into the garden.  And that was much easier said than done, as the police van is about 2” taller than the clearance of our roll-up garage doors.  But this chap is a genius, eh!?

He decided that if we disconnected the electrically controlled bar which raises the garage doors, he can roll up the one side a further 3”.  This done, Cory and I shouted encouragement as Casper eased the police van – being particularly careful not to remove the blue lights – through into the garage.  No bits lost.  GREAT.

He proceeded to drive through to the garden when I realised that he had to go under another manually operated roll-up door, on the other side of the garage, and this one was drooping about a foot lower than the one under which he had recently squoze.   (Squoze ???)  The combined frantic yells of Cory and myself managed to stop Casper just before the blue lights bit the dust.  We tried to roll up the door higher, but unfortunately it has not been touched for years, and all its bits were rusted.  It continued to droop, but we were not to be thwarted.

The side of the garage we were working in is quite narrow, but luckily Cory is a slim chap.  With Cory breathing in on the one side and me standing on a tin trunk (fortunately Cory is also tall) we managed to flatten the roll-up close enough to the roof to allow the van to pass under.

By some strange coincidence (I must be tele-pathetic) I had purchased a brand new tow rope just a couple of weeks before.  Casper attached this to the two vehicles and, declining my assistance (can’t imagine why) he and Cory managed to drag poor Betsy out of the daisies. Amazingly there was not a scratch nor dent to be seen on Betsy’s bumper. I loved that car.

After a little light (ale) refreshment to get rid of the dust, we had to go through the process of getting the SAPS van back out through the garage.  This time we narrowly escaped losing the police radio aerial when it got stuck up the roll-up.

As they left to return to normal duties, I expressed my eternal gratitude.

They said they would never forget it either!

Yes, Leon had a lot to answer for – not to mention Ziggy!

Later that evening I had a call from my next-door neighbour, who asked when I was going to get the wall fixed, as she couldn’t let her piddling Jack Russell out of the house unattended as it would be able to squeeze through the temporary barrier I had put against the hole-in-the-wall and would likely attack my three Rottweiler-x-German Shepherd dogs.  I promised to get onto it the next day.

Luckily that was my gardener’s day, so I decided to see if he could help me fix the wall before resorting to calling some overpriced builder.  All we had to do was reposition the vertical concrete post and slot the (broken) concrete panels back in.  That’s all.   Whilst I was waiting for the gardener to first finish mowing the lawn I  proceeded to glance through the local freebie newspaper.

People talk about fate. I now believe in it fully.  Apart from resulting in innumerous people (including you) being given the opportunity to have a bloody good laugh at my expense, this incident with the Merc resulted in my applying for a job that sounded just what I was looking for.

The headquarters of the Watercolour Society of SA, was at Norscot Manor, a lovely community-type centre just down our road,  and they were looking for a mornings-only Girl Friday. It would be only five minutes walk away if you were able to scale the 8′ fence which blocked off the end of our road for security purposes.  Anyway, I phoned and spoke to a woman called Moira about an interview.  She asked if I could go there and then. 

I explained that I had to mend a hole in the wall, after which I had to go out somewhere for half an hour (to the pub to recover, though didn’t tell her that), but could call on the way back as long as she didn’t mind if I turned up a bit scruffy.   She sounded very friendly and said she didn’t mind at all, but asked me why I was repairing a wall.  I said I would explain once I got there.

When I arrived, the first thing she asked me about was the wall.    I told her. 

I swear that’s what landed me the job!

Moira was about ten years older than me.  She had been the Administrator/Curator for the WSSA for over twenty years.  I think someone on the Committee realised that if she croaked, no-one would know what to do and the whole Society would be likely to fold.   They suggested she get a part-time assistant, to help out at their gallery and in the office, and whom she could “train up”.   When she phoned me later, she said,

 “Actually, I didn’t want anyone as OLD as you”.      “Well, thank you very much,”  I replied (I was only 48). 

She continued,  “But given that you’re a Police Reservist on a horse, and have this aptitude for leaping through car windows, I figured you might be more athletic than you looked”.  She offered me the job.

This woman had a wonderful sense of humour.

As I said, the entrance to Norscot Manor is on our road which is not exactly straight.  Moira took great delight in introducing me to people as “This is Ann – she’s round the bend you know!”.

For a woman who only drank tea and went to church every Sunday (her not me!) we got on surprisingly well. I eventually took over her job when she retired a couple of years later.

Funny how fate works, isn’t it?

5 thoughts on “The Funny Side of Fate

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