My friend Greg and I were sitting in the bank parking lot dividing our money. We’d just cashed our paper route check and were talking about what we were going to do with our share. Greg commented that where we were stopped could block someone moving through the lot, so I put my Renault R8 in gear and pulled into one of the rows of parking places and shut the car off. No sooner than I did that we heard the screeching of tires burning rubber and saw a big Oldsmobile swing in from the street and rocket through the spot we’d been in just moments before. The car sped ahead and literally climbed over another car, taking flight and landing atop another car before hurtling back onto the pavement where it screeched to a halt. The driver put the heavy car in reverse and burned rubber again, this time backwards, and slammed into three more cars before it was stopped. Once again the driver put it in drive and squealed out, again climbing over a parked car before smashing nose first into the wall of the bank. “Holy shit.” said Greg.
“We’d have been hit if we hadn’t moved.” I noted.
“Yeah.” replied Greg and we both sidled over to where the rather dented up Oldsmobile sat steaming away atop the last car it had hit. The driver’s door opened and an old man stepped out. Of course, there was no ground to step on and so he fell flat faced on the parking lot pavement. More people were running towards him and I heard one of them mumble “I hope he’s got insurance.” Looking around, the old guy had done serious damage to eight cars and cracked the brick side of the bank.
As we sidled up to the circle of people we saw the old fella was on his feet, a handkerchief pressed against a bloody nose. “I thought I pressed the brake.” he said, explaining his accident. This made everyone look at him, look around the parking lot and then back to the old guy again.
“And then what?” someone asked.
“I thought I pressed the brake.” he said again. A police car rolled into the bank lot and edged up near the clump of people. The officer stepped from his unit and asked if there were any injuries. “It’s just a bloody nose.” said the old guy. “I get ‘em all the time. It’s okay.”
“So, what happened here?” asked the cop, surveying the scene.
Everyone started talking at once. Well, everyone but Greg and I. We were slowly backing away from the front to merge in behind others. The cop waved his hands in a calming gesture and told everyone to speak one at a time and turned to a lady who gave a reasonably accurate account. Another man stepped forward and said he’d seen the whole thing. A load of crap, Greg and I saw him pull in to the lot after the big Olds had come to its last stop. He told a similar story to the woman but added that he’d seen the old man staggering as if drunk as he got into his car. There was a murmur of background conversation noise and it stopped instantly when the guy said that. Everyone who’d seen the incident knew that the old guy had just arrived and had never gotten out of his car. “That’s not true at all,” said the woman who spoke first. “He was just pulling on off the street. There’s no way this man saw him stagger like a drunk.”
“I must have seen someone else and mistook them for him.” The fake witness stammered. A few people grabbed him and shove him into the crowd, who kept pushing until the guy was outside the ring of people. A few more told the cop what they saw, and their words matched what Greg and I and the lady had seen.
The cop turned to the old man, who was leaning against a Ford Fairlane that was acting as a pedestal for the old guy’s Olds. The cop asked the man how it all happened but the man, looking at the ground, didn’t reply. “Sir?” asked the policeman, “can you tell me what happened?” Again there was no response. The cop reached out and took hold of the man’s arm, asking if he was alright. At the touch, the man’s knees folded and he fell into a sitting position, still leaning on the Ford. The policeman reached out for the man’s wrist and took his pulse, looked closely at the man’s face, and then reached up and closed the old man’s eyes. Apparently he’d had a stroke and then a heart attack, or some sequence like that. That would explain his bizarre driving and the fact he was now dead.
The cop started asking who saw the events and had them stand in a little group in the shade of the building. Neither Greg or I indicated we were witnesses. Enough people had seen what happened and so we really didn’t have anything to add. We also didn’t feel like being held around for a statement, especially when it wasn’t necessary. The cop told the group that if they didn’t have a statement to make to please go about their business and so we hopped in the Renault and left.
“What do you think were his last thoughts?” asked Greg as we cruised up Interstate Avenue on Portland’s north side. We were headed for the Portland – Vancouver drawbridge on I-5.
“I don’t know.” I answered. “Seems like he was out of it, you know, saying how he must have hit the gas instead of the brake. He might not have been aware of his surroundings or what a totally spectacular accident he had.”
“That was pretty amazing.” said Greg. “It’s like that Oldsmobile was trying to fly.”
“Yeah, trying to deliver the old guy right to the pearly gates.” I quipped.
“That’s a big boat of a car. I’m surprise he got it airborne. Twice no less.” Greg said with a bit of wonder in his voice. I took out a cigarette, lit it and nodded.
“Not the kind of accident you forget. It was really strange that he was dead standing up. I know that fall couldn’t have helped much. What was that, like a five foot drop?”
“About that, yeah.” replied Greg.
A week later we happened to be back at the bank, again cashing our paper route check. There was no sign that the accident had taken place, even the crack in the wall was fixed. The brick sported a brand new coat of paint. We’d been checking, but never saw any mention of the accident on TV or in the newspaper. A surprise, given the unusual nature of all of it. You’d think it would have at least deserved a mention.
We got our money and I stopped to divvy it up. “Pull over there.” said Greg, pointing to parking lot corner.