Sam at the wheel.

Back in the day, before he got married, my son, Dirk, had a great dog, Sam. An Australian Shepherd. He was Dirk’s shadow They went everywhere together, except when Dirk went to work.

This is a story, Dirk told me recently about a grocery run with Sam along.

Dirk pulled his car into a space in the grocery store lot. Than, as usual, he turned off the ignition, shoved the gear shift, which was was on the steering column, into reverse gear. A common practice in lieu of putting on the hand brake. He rolled down the window enough to give Sam air but not enough that Sam could squeeze through. Told Sam to stay and went into the store.

Just as he was about to check out, he heard an announcement that the owner of a silver Toyota should report to the policeman outside. Dirk’s car. He went out right away.

The cop was standing there with a scowling man. When Dirk said the car was his, the angry man got in Dirk’s face.

‘Your goddamn dog almost ran me over with your goddamn car!’

Dirk was at a lose for words. He extended his hands, palms up, and looked at the cop, who stepped between Dirk and the man. Dirk’s first thought was the man was off his rocker.

‘Your goddamn dog almost ran me over!’

Before the cop could say anything, the man leaned over the cop’s back and repeated, ‘Your goddamn dog almost ran me over!’

Finally the cop got a chance to explain. It seems the car, which was no longer in a parking space but in the car lane and the dog was the only one in the vehicle.

‘If your goddamn dog can learn to drive, the goddamn dog can learn to watch out for people. He goddamned nearly ran me over’!

The three went to the car. Sam got all excited seeing Dirk. He began to jump around hitting the steering column several times.

‘See, your goddamn dog’s trying to run us all over!

Dirk looked in the window and saw the gear shift was in neutral. Sam must have been jumping around and knocked it into neutral. The parking space had a slight incline so the car coasted down into the driving lane…just as the man was walking by.

Dirk and the cop agreed that is what happened. The explanation didn’t matter to the man. He just walked away and shouted back over his shoulder, ‘Your goddamn dog! Your goddamn dog almost ran me over’

Dirk said he jumped in the car and pulled it back into the parking space and the spent about five minutes laughing before going back into the store. And all the while he was laughing, Sam was trying to lick Dirk’s face. Before he got out of the car, he put the shift into gear and put on the parking brake to boot.


The Old Hand:

I watched a man trying to back his SUV into a parking space at the mall. There was at least six spaces empty on either side of the space he wanted. He tried about five times, finally just left it. One half of the SUV was in one space, the other half was in the space next to it. I noticed both spaces were posted for ten minute parking only. Since he was parked in two spaces, does that mean he can park there for twenty minutes?

I have a hard time understanding what is accomplished by backing into parking space. You might get out faster but since it takes the average driver seesawing back and forth about three, four times, whatever you gain in time on the exit, you’ve lost on the entrance by a long ways. And then if you want to put groceries etc., in the trunk, you probably have to pull the vehicle ahead. I saw a customer with van at a big box store loading plywood after he had parked backwards in the space. He had to actually pull the van into the driving lane, blocking any other vehicle from using the lane. He got the plywood loaded but he also caused a lot of horns to be honked and fingers to be waved.

I always get a leery whenever I see somebody back into a parking space when there is a bank close by. Is it because the driver might want to make a quick getaway?

Published St. Paul Dispatch- 7/14/13


Another story about a car of Dirk’s.

No, there was no dog driving this time. Fact is there was no one driving it…and this time the car wasn’t just coasting…it was moving under it’s own engine power.

As told to me by my nephew, Rick:

Rick had a few days off from touring with WICKED and stopped off in town to see his folks and family. He had a chance to work a quick easy stagehand call so he went to the State Capital Mall for a quick load out. He said he would go over to Dirk’s for a bit.

But when he got to his car he looked back and saw Dirk standing by his car. He drove over and asked Dirk what was wrong.

‘Won’t start. Won’t even turn over. Dead. Probably the alternator. Get it home and I’ll check it out. I got Roadside Assistance. Might as well use it.’

Something went right that day…the tow truck arrived quickly. Rick and Dirk sat on a bench and didn’t pay any attention to the driver as he hooked up the cable to the rear of the car.

But he got their attention as soon as he pushed the button to start the wench. He swore and jumped back. The car’s engine had started and the car shot up the raised tow-bed.

The large trailer hitch on the car’s rear bumper hit the tow-bed’s front safety barrier with a resounding crash. Luckily the barrier held and the car’s engine died…otherwise the car would have ended up on the roof of the cab.

A perfect storm. Dirk had left the car in reverse and the key turned on. No biggie! The car wouldn’t start anyway.

But the tow truck driver committed two cardinal sins of towing a vehicle. Check the key. Make sure the ignition is not on. Pocket the key so it doesn’t get lost.

Make certain the transmission is in neutral. Had Dirk’s car been winched forward it would have ruined the transmission. Could you imagine if a Jag or Rolls were pulled against their gear setting what the cost would be?

And the fact it was in reverse and winched backward could have really done some bad damage had not the barrier held.

The Buck Stops At the Tow Driver.

Both Rick and Dirk ran over to the truck. But when they got within a few feet of the driver, they stopped and retreated. The driver was frozen in time. His face was ghostly pale and his pants were getting darker by the minute. And, oh, did he stink!

When the driver regained his composure, he managed to lower the flat tow-bed and get the cable taut and then had to get up on it to survey the damage. It was a sore sight to see him move with his loaded pants. Spread legged. Trying to make believe nothing was wrong.

‘The car’s okay!’ he screamed as he reached in and pulled the key and cracked the gear shift into neutral. He didn’t comment when he surveyed the huge dent in the safety barrier. Must have been doing a lot of silent swearing every time he had to move though.

At home, Dirk showed him where to put the car next to the garage and then both he and Rick stepped far back… and upwind of the guy. Nobody spoke as the car was unloaded and nobody said good by as the driver got in and drove the truck away.

‘Hope he stops off and cleans up before he has to explain to the boss about the dent in the barrier,’ Rick said.

‘Or the stink in the cab,’ Dirk added. ‘I guess that’s what they mean when they talk about being shit scared.’

And they both laughed.


Old Hand::

Since my wife doesn’t drive, and I don’t shop, I spend a lot of time in nice weather sitting in the car, read a little, snooze a little, observe the life of the parking lot. I see children mistaking the it for a playground, shoppers, with full carts, blindly believing in the right-of-way of pedestrians, and drivers whose only focus is finding a parking space. I see a lot of accidents waiting to happen.

A few lots have speed bumps in their entrance lanes to help counter some of these potential accidents.. Most drivers see the bump, slow down, ease over it, and maintain a sensible rate of speed. Some don’t notice the bump and go flying over it. It’s amazing how, when their tires return to the road, and their right hands can no longer hold onto the steering wheels, their left hands always manage to keep holding the cell phones tight against their ears.

But the drivers that really make me shake my head are those that avoid the bump altogether. They speed up, pull into the wrong lane, then quickly get back into the correct lane once they are past the bump. Such a shame when something that is meant to promote safety becomes an excuse to drive stupidly. But then, some people don’t need an excuse to be stupid when they get behind a wheel, it’s just second nature.

So when you go into a store parking lot, remember the warning of the old sergeant in Hill City Blues TV and

be careful out there‘.

Don’t be a part of the accident that happens.

Pub St. Paul Dispatch 4/23/09


Be careful out there is right.

There was 42,915 traffic related deaths in the US in 2021.

That’s almost as many deaths as gun related US deaths in 2021, which totaled out to 45,222.

Auto deaths are confined to roads.

Each year brings stricter laws to safeguard against traffic accidents.

Gun deaths take place anywhere, anytime, with or without a reason

And too often they are not accidental

And gun laws must not infringe on the 2nd Amendment.

There are 285.5 million cars in the US

There are 436.4 million guns in the US

Owning a car like a T Bird was cool

But owning an AR15 is the new cool

Joking about traffic is universal

Joking about guns is taboo

Guns makes the US unique.


30 thoughts on “SKID MARKS II

  1. I avoid most mall parking (and in-store) problems by shopping first thing in the morning (easy for me to say, as I’m retired). By the same token, I’m obviously missing out on some interesting (and sometimes hilarious) happenings. 😀

  2. Nice stories, Don. Like you, I am never concerned about reversing into a space at a supermarket or shopping centre, and have also watched people have 5-6 attempts and then drive off because they couldn’t manage it.
    The unsettling towing story I can remember is being towed for almost 10 miles by a breakdown truck using a ‘rigid bar’. I was sitting in my own car, forbidden to touch the steering wheel or brakes. That was a weird experience, having zero control over what was going on, for almost 40 minutes.
    Best wishes, Pete.

  3. Another funny coincidence Don!? Rose and I went over to the food store the other day and in the parking lot was a guy doing the same bizarre thing – backing his car into a space. The crazy thing was that there were several empty spaces where he could just driven straight in and then proceeded into the adjacent empty space -thereby accomplishing same thing much more easily. No need to back in at all – which was taking quite a bit more time and effort. I just to had to scratch my head and carry on.
    I grew up with guns. We had 4 shotguns, two 30/30’s, 4 22’s, and 3 handguns. We were taught proper gun handling and maintenance and respected them well. In my teens I had permission to take any of the 22’s and go shooting (if I could afford the bullets.) Later I was in the Calgary Highlanders Militia and did training one Summer at Camp Wainwright under the Regs (PPCLI). We shot FNC1’s FNC2’s, Sten guns, Bren guns, toss a grenade or two … and went on Maneuvers.
    After I left home I never shot or owned a gun. Still don’t. Hope I never have to. But I know how to do it.

    • Watching people park is one of the best ways to take the edge off of having to shop, isn’t it JC.
      I grew up with guns also and when I got out of the army I got rid of all my guns. My sons grew up in the absence of guns and never bought any.
      Glad you liked the post.

  4. Lots to think about in this post. Oddly enough, just last week I read an article written by a young American girl living in Oz who didn’t understand why we use our handbrake. I don’t know why we do. I guess it’s taught to us in driving school. It’s never occurred to me not to use it. It’s habitual and instinctive, and her article was the first time I realised it is not commonplace in the States.
    I usually prefer to back into a spot if the space is tight. So much easier to drive straight out when you’re done. But I think many of your cars are so much larger. And my vehicle has rear sensors. The first time we drove it, we couldn’t understand what the alarm sound meant, and my husband backed it straight in to a rock. I was ecstatic he had the first accident. Job done.
    When my brother passed, he left me two “real” vehicles and a stack of scale models. I still have half a dozen. Two are Edsel convertibles. They are gorgeous. A bloke offered me about $150 bucks for the two, but I wouldn’t sell. They live in the study with me.
    I feel sorry for the tow truck driver who had the “accident”. So embarrassing. And can’t have been comfortable. Reminds me I have to go for a top and tail next month – You know what I mean?
    By the way, in 2021, there were 1,123 road crash deaths in Oz. Up slightly from the year before, but down on the year before that. There were 20,726 gun related deaths, excluding suicides. The total includes “murders, accidents, and homicides that were ruled justifiable”. Not sure what that last comment means. Anyway, we have nothing to brag about, it seems.
    There was a hit and run a while back where the guy later went back with his mother to remove and hide the body. They were only found out because they left an arm behind…you can’t make this stuff up…

    • I never realized that Oz had that kind of gun violence. I guess our two countries have a lot more in common than I thought.
      Don’t Aussies lose their license for good if they get caught drunken driving?
      That hit and run is, excuse the lack of respect for the victim, is too funny. What a mother!
      I made sure that the last car that I bought would have a back up camera. What a great thing.

      • The figure surprised me, too. If I had more time I would dig into it. Perhaps it was a misprint. On the other hand, lots of accidents happen in the country. You know that feeling when you’re checking if the barrel is clean before checking the gun is not loaded? (okay, another sick joke). We don’t have mass shootings such as you experience. Not since Port Arthur which caused our gun reform.

        You don’t lose your license for life for drunk driving. It depends on the alcohol level as to how harshly you are punished. We have to stay under 0.05, which is about two standard glasses of wine over a two hour period depending on how much you weigh and metabolise. Then, depending on your driving experience, you are granted demerit points. The top is 13 such as I have. When you have any traffic infringement, you lose points. When you lose them all – you are definitely off the road. You get your points back after 3 years, but if you are an habitual offender the court will look back further than that. During holiday times, double demerit penalties apply. So it is possible to lose your license for life. The people who are in the habit of doing that, are usually those who are prepared to drive an unlicensed vehicle anyway. Worst case scenario you end up in jail with hardened criminals. But in the moment, when you are tempted into that third and fourth drink, those consequences are not top of mind…

      • I looked it up, Gwen. It was a misprint. For instance there was 222 fatalities in 2019. No mass shootings since gun reform after Port Arthur. An assault rifles are forbidden.
        your drinking and driving laws are about the same as ours have become.
        Stay safe.

  5. Well if I had met her earlier she would have learned., lol

    I am blessed to have learned at 14….on a stick…..I preferred stick my whole life. Vroom vroom

    I have even ridden in a tailwind through the mountains when a gear went out on my little car…blessed by a semi.,

    Now I no longer drive and miss it but. Not in Florida…worst drivers ever! Esp. TAMPA bay!

    • Oh, yes, driving is fun. I just got my license renewed even though I plan to keep my driving to a minimum.
      Thanks for your comments. And be careful down there in Fla, riding or walking.

  6. Thanks, Don….a great way to start the mornin. And, “YES!” I did put my old 51 Ford in reverse to hold it in place and, thank God, never left my dog in the car. They are a lot smarter than we know. Cheers, Tom


    • Glad you liked it, Tom. A good laugh is a much better way to start the day than the news or the obits.
      Reverse was a better option than fooling around with the parking brake, for sure.

  7. Great stories, Don. My partner loves to back into spaces for that quick getaway but I don’t think he would have done what the lumber-loving van driver did. I hope not! We each have a car – how American! But mass transportation is scarce here. We usually are parked one in front, one behind, in the driveway, and facing forward. Once he parked behind me on a different side of the driveway and I was half-awake as I backed out…and ran into his car! Ouch! Thankfully, both cars are older models and our own age has mellowed us out beyond the need for any angry tirades. 😉

  8. I don’t have a problem reversing into my designated parking bay, I had to learn to get good at it in one go because its right next to a concrete wall and I reverse in so there is space on my side to get out. It’s more difficult to parallel park when the road is narrow and there are cars parked on both sides and fast moving traffic, like most of London!

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