The Day I Hydroplaned Without a Car


Cats and dogs... The rain was coming down like cats, dogs and guinea pigs for good measure. (Nothing can output liquid like a guinea pig with an ambition.)

It was spring, in college, and I was on my way to an evening screenwriting class with a friend we'll call "Annie."

We leapt through the poodles and Persians, Annie and I-- umbrella-less and carefree. Proving once more that higher education and good sense don't necessarily go hand-in-hand. Or even live in the same neighborhood.

In fact, most of the time, good sense lived a few miles away and had to take the bus to catch up.

And it didn't have exact change.

The dorm lights this night reflected gold on the slick sidewalks of the campus. And in spite of Pittsburgh's reputation as one of the U.S.'s most rainy cities, Annie and I were still somehow surprised by the Noah-like flood conditions. (The cats and dogs were now coming down in twos.)

We were drenched in an instant.

Hair streaming in our faces, jackets plastered to our arms, the light at the corner was about to go green. And that's when I figured, if I gave it some effort, I could make it.

In my black flat shoes, I put on a burst of speed, leaving Annie soaked and blinking behind me. Yes, I sprinted, laughing as the rain slapped me in the face, and I made one great enthusiastic leap over the flowing gutters onto the sidewalk and...

That's when the world went sideways.

Physics experts would undoubtedly speak of things like speed and weight and slope and energy and friction.

I can only speak about the great whooshing sound as my feet sought traction-- and found none-- sending a shoe up and left, my bag off and right, and toes liberated from their confines and skyward.

That's when I began to make some serious distance. Because as the rain coursed off the curb and into the street, I shot up the incline in the entirely opposite direction, along with a roaring a gush of water. Warm and frothing in my wake, I body-surfed clear to the steps of Warner Hall in my own impromptu Slip-n-Slide.

By this time, the light had changed and from Annie's vantage point on the other side of the street, I was roadkill. Which would probably bum my parents out a little when she told them.

Later, she would recount tales of the sight of me, running, gliding, and accessories flying like Charlie Brown trying to kick the football.

But when she got to me, I was apparently still laughing. It had been like the best water-flue ride our amusement parks had to offer. I didn't even mind giving the blooper reel moment to all the cars driving by.

Once you've publicly hydroplaned, one does not speak of pride.

I do remember Annie's face peering down on me, pale, drawn, her glasses speckled with rain. "Are you all right?" she asked, breathlessly.

"That was fun!" I told her, in fits of hysterics.

Annie wasn't finding the fun herself this moment. But then she'd just made memorial service plans for me a moment or so earlier. So it was hard to switch gears.

Well, Annie grabbed my bag, and I peeled myself off the sidewalk and tracked down my shoe. The current had swept it into the gutter and was making good time toward the drain.

That's when I noticed I'd taken a large chunk out of the side of my foot.

Annie and I went to class, anyway, because, well-- I grew up with a father who felt any injury or illness could be cured by "doing a few squat thrusts." Pulled your back out? Do some squat thrusts. Have pneumonia? Do some squat thrusts.

I have no barometer for personal mercy.

And so we sat there in class and dripped, and I bled, and the professor-- having not seen anything so grotesque since we'd watched the torture scene in Marathon Man only the class before-- sent one of my classmates for some Band-Aids for me.

Funny, but I still recall the moment fondly. My foot hurt for weeks and seeped, and there was a big knob on the side of it for several years.

But the sound of the roaring water, the rush, the exhilaration...There's just nothing like the little surprises that step in, pants you, tickle your sides, and remind you you're alive.

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22 comments:

Prefers Her Fantasy Life said...

There's just nothing like the little surprises that step in, pants you, tickle your sides, and remind you you're alive--great line.

Shame that as we age, thrift-shopping has replaced so many of those moments. Well, at least for me.

Jenn Thorson said...

Meg- Oh, they still sneak in sometimes. I prefer they don't result in physical injury to me, but I take what I get. :)

And nothing wrong with thrift shopping!

Prefers Her Fantasy Life said...

BTW, I was only joking about the PA trip. Have a great time!!

Shawn said...

I had something similar happen to me, except it involved slick mud instead of rushing water. I don't remember any rush or exhiliration, either. Only sweet, sweet embarrassment.

Jenn Thorson said...

Meg- Many thanks! It should be really fun.

Shawn- Hm... Maybe you didn't have enough speed going for the fun to outweigh the "sweet, sweet embarrassment."

Also, it helps to do this at nighttime, when it's pretty dark. :)

Da Old Man said...

Goodness, woman. This is at least the second story of yours that involved bleeding feet.
Talk about developing a blogging niche.
:)

Jenn Thorson said...

Da Old Man- It's true-- the feet have really taken one for the team.

Let's just hope I won't have other tales of foot injury in my future. I do not want this niche. :)

ReformingGeek said...

That does sound fun but I'll pass on the bleeding!

Squat thrusts? YIKES! With my grandmother, it was caster oil cures all.

Very funny, Jenn!

Jenn Thorson said...

Reforming Geek- Given my druthers, I would have skipped the foot injury myself. :)

Chaotically Calm said...

LMAO, I too have this on purpose klutz moments. I remember one time I was jumping over a relatively low hung chain at a grocery store having a ball all by my lonesome. Somehow in mid jump one of my feet clipped the chain and down I tumbled in front of tons of after church grocerholics. Nothing left to do but laugh. Luckily I didn't get hurt, the bleeding foot might have made me pass out, I have issues with blood.

chyna said...

jenn
That was hilarious, thanks for the laughs. Now to come up with a good cover story of why I'm grinning at work. :)

Jenn Thorson said...

Faith- Heh, I can only imagine the expression on the faces of those shoppers, too. :)

Chyna- Just tell 'em it's the voices in your head, and I bet they'll never ask again. :)

ettarose said...

Jenn, what a great story. I can just picture you sailing through the riptides with all your belongings scattered to the four winds. I think I would have peed my pants laughing, cuz that's the kind of friend I am. (I would have checked on you first)

Jenn Thorson said...

EttaRose- Hey, that's okay... I would have been laughing with you-- and then at you, because I would have been bleeding and you would have had wet pants! :) (I don't think we could have gone to class, in that new scenario.)

dani c said...

Great story, I can just picture it, sorry about the feet though.

Jenn Thorson said...

Dani- Ah, the feet have long since recovered... It was just a rough week or two right thereafter. :)

Kyra said...

This might make me an entirely unsympathetic person, but this entry was absolutely hilarious.

Jenn Thorson said...

Kyra- Hey, heck with the sympathy-- if you're not laughing at a humor blog, the post was written wrong. :)

Jay said...

Hahaha! Well, that's adrenaline for ya! LOL!

And that's what it's for, doncha know? To take your mind off the pain inherent in freestyle aquaplaning, so you can enjoy the moment. All this talk of 'fight or flight' is entirely secondary to the main action.

Glad you enjoyed your free ride. ;)

Babs (Beetle) said...

There's something about heavy rain, when you're young, that make otherwise painful and embarrassing moments such fun!

Jonny's Mommy said...

The description here was hilarious. It honestly sounds like something I might would do. I love the imagery of your friend looking down at you like she's planning your funeral. My friends would have done the same, only they would have already ordered the snacks and soda. Yeah, I'll have snacks and Pepsi at my wake, thank you very much.

Jenn Thorson said...

Jay- I do send my thanks to the ol' adrenaline glands, then. :) Hurray for them- though I do wish they could've sent a bit of their pain reliever my way later that evening when things weren't so darned funny! :)

Babs- It wasn't quite a Gene Kelly "Singing in the Rain" moment, but it was entertaining.

Jonny's Mommy- Hey, snacks and Pepsi are class, all the way! All the good wakes have 'em! :)