This is a brief account of what was, at the time, one of the worst days of my life, but has since turned into a great anecdote. All I had to do to get the story was drive my wife's car through her house on the day she got fired. Oh, it's just that bad...
Everyone does idiot things behind the wheel of a car. It's inevitable. You stick a human in control of two tons of metal that can move faster than a cheetah, and it's only a matter of time before things go pear-shaped. I have my fair share of mishaps behind the wheel, but I have yet to hear a story that trumps the day I drove my wife's car through her house on the day she got fired.
See, I say that and you immediately want an explanation as to why and who is this angel I married that didn't stab me on making eye contact post-incident? I make it sound straightforward, and perhaps it is, but I feel once I explain it to you in detail...you'll think I'm an even bigger idiot and my wife an even more glorious angel. I'm referring to her as "my wife", but at the time this incident took place (2005) she was my fiancee. We were just starting out, and the house we lived in had originally been the servant's quarters of the house in front of us. Small. I'm saying it was small. I had just moved across the country from Virginia to California to be with my beloved, and was unemployed in the sense that, despite all my efforts, no one would hire me. I mean this as separate from the “I sacrificed a baby seal on my desk so now I’m unemployed” kind of unemployed. The distinction seems petty, but when you’re on month 10 of unemployment, I assure you it matters.
Unemployed Dave around month 10 was having a bit of an ego crisis. I had moved to California to be with my lovely and talented fiancee. I had just graduated with my master’s and obviously someone was going to snap me right the heck up. After 10 months of being extremely unsnapped, I was coming a bit unhinged. Jan, my fiancee, had a busy job in a dermatology clinic that required a ton of her time (because she’s a superstar at what she does) and energy since the people she were working for were hell-spawn (I don’t have that substantiated nor will I post their real names, but trust me on their quality as people). I didn’t have a car, I didn’t have a job, and I spent a great deal of time lying on our bed trying to find meaning in random splatters of plaster on the ceiling. That brings us to November 29, 2005, when Jan gets up for work and her car decides won't start.
Our only car at the time was a 1992 Toyota Paseo, named Petey (the car didn’t tell me its name, Jan told me the car told her its name…don’t be absurd). Petey died when Jan tried to start it, and she’s panicked because she cannot be late. The hell-spawn went berserk when anyone was 30 seconds late, so she had a friend pick her up. However, she had a slew of post-work errands to run, so she asked me to get it fixed by lunch. I, being a man of substance and know-how, looked under the hood, assessed the problem, diagnosed it, frowned in a manly fashion, and called AAA. The AAA operator said the problem likely wasn't that the car's engine was filthy (thus dashing my hopes of having deduced the primary dilemma) and dispatched a technician to our house.
We needed a new battery (the technician just gave me a dead-eyed stare when I mentioned the cleanliness issue). To install it, the car (which is a stick shift) was pushed out into the street. Upon completion of the replacement, the car needed to be parked back in the driveway. Needed to be moved. No more than 15 feet. I feel before we continue and you crown me LORD OF THE IDIOTS, I should mention that I’d been up for 40 hours worrying about soon-to-be relatively inconsequential matters. I know nothing about driving stick shifts, but I thought any moron could move it a few feet forward into the driveway. So…I turned it on, popped the clutch, and the next thing I knew the car was BOUNCING OFF THE DAMN HOUSE! Well….no, that’s not accurate. "Bouncing" indicates that the house put up a fight. It did not. I think the car was just as startled as to what I’d done and ended up where I’d originally wanted it out of sheer pity.
There I sat. Looking through the Toyota-shaped hole in the wall at my stepson's room. Ben (my stepson to be) was not home at the time. I imagine he would have been startled that I inserted a compact foregin-made automobile into his bedroom. I certainly was. I don’t say “shit” a whole lot. I try not to, though if I’m going to swear it’s the one I use. I “shat” my way from the car inside the house, and when I saw the damage to the inside of the wall, I nearly acted on my favorite naughty word. From the outside, it looked like a little three foot hole. On the inside, the whole wall was pushed in and plaster and beams and nails and house entrails were everywhere. I said “shit” a few more times. Didn’t help much. I didn't see the point in surprising Jan with my handiwork, and hiding it was out of the question, so I reluctantly called her at work.
“Are you coming home for lunch?”
“I’m coming home for good. They just fired me.”
“Did you have something to tell me?"
"Could you make it quick, Dave, I'm throwing everything in boxes here."
"You said that, seriously, honey, they're watching me and want me out so what is it?"
“Um….I sort of drove the car through the house.”
“The car. I drove it into Ben’s room.”
“Are you joking?”
“No, mine are usually better than this.”
“You HAVE to be joking!”
“Is it bad?”
“AND THE HOUSE?”
“There is a hole.”
This was not one of my better days. Quick circumstances review. Jan rented. I was not on the lease. I was not covered by auto insurance, nor was I driving my car. So, if we tell the landlord, the first thing he’ll do is kick me out and sue me. And, I swear to the chuckling Good Lord above, it looked like $10,000 worth of damage. Minimum. I honestly thought the whole wall and maybe the whole room was going to have to be replaced. The house's foundation actually moved four inches, which doesn't exactly speak to the quality of the construction. Nevertheless, telling the landlord wasn’t an option, not telling him wasn’t an option (cuz…it’s a hole in the house the size of a Paseo), and I didn’t think I could afford to pay to fix it. Oh, and now we have no income.
Jan's job ending was something for which we'd been preparing. It was a bad situation, and while we weren't counting on the hilarious timing, the hell-spawn had made it clear that her refusal to break the law and lower her ethics to theirs (not an exaggeration; for example, they were flushing fat from liposuctions down the office toilets). My wife sat on several dermatological boards for the county and our financial woes were the only reason she hadn't reported them. However, the hell-spawn saw her failure to join in the jolly VERY ILLEGAL fun as a failure to work and play well with others. She'd basically been told she was on the way out eventually. Timing-wise, that day was not ideal. So we’re praying our butts off (which if you’ve never tried, is advisable in situations where you have nothing more substantial to offer than “shit”). We had NO clue what to do. On the upside, I did take her mind off being fired rather quickly, so....go me!
We (and by "we" I mean "Jan") kind of inserted the Paseo into the hole just enough so that if we covered the front of the car with a tarp, and you were very drunk, you wouldn't notice a thing. For the first day, we kind of just worked our way through the medical stages of shock, then day two we just started calling contractors in the hope that maybe, possibly one of them could come out and tell us ballpark what kind of monetary hit we’re looking at here. One guy said he was coming to our neighborhood right then anyhow so he’d come in and look it over. “Yikes” is not really the first thing you want to hear come out of a contractor’s mouth. However, that was followed by, “actually this isn’t that bad I can do it for $700.” I do not as a rule hug strangers. I broke that rule. It turns out he was not a hugger, but that really didn't matter to me.
He came out the next day, and by that night it looked like nothing ever happened. Except I took a $700 hit for being a meathead and now we had no income. Jan was beyond angelic about my idiocy and was a bastion of understanding. Just as a relationship note to men: if you find a woman who will marry you, after you crash HER car into HER son's room in HER house on the day she was fired from HER job, you have a woman to never let go.
So, that is the tale of how I drove a car through my (her) house. Things all worked out very well in the end. The car ran for another eight years, the house has been replaced by a much nicer one with our landlord never being the wiser, and someone did eventually take pity on my over-educated, semi-functional self and hire me. There is no great moral to this tale, beyond praying really isn’t a bad emergency plan, but at the very least I got an extremely expensive story to tell at parties and any time someone wants me to be a designated driver.