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Monday, February 14, 2011

Locked in My Car and No Way Out!...

Brings back memories...
Last February, way before I started blogging, I experienced one of the funniest and most surreal circumstances in my life (and that's saying a lot), which I took the time to put on paper (pardon me, on computer) to share with friends and family.  Since it is Valentine's Day, I thought I would share the romantic tale of a man and his car (I should say in his car)...

In my life, I have been involved and experienced many awkward and funny situations but I think today’s predicament was one of my finest. In fact, it was so surreal, comical and, at the same time, nerve racking, that I had to share it.

Chalk up another chapter in the misadventures of Carlos Espinosa. 

The rainy South Florida morning started off sluggishly for me. I ran late getting my son ready and couldn’t make it to morning Mass. I was also in a bit somber mood since I had to attend the burial of an uncle, who died at the young age of 61.

After the burial, I drove off to work and that’s where my story gets interesting.

After leaving the cemetery in Opa-locka, as I came to a stop at red light, my car appeared to lose power briefly but then the power surged right back. I thought it was odd but was already late for work and was hoping to make it to the office before the car died on me. So, I kept going (a usual response on my part; worry about it later!).

As I approached the traffic light coming off the expressway exit, I came to a complete stop and my car totally shut off. I'm talking absolutely no power; the radio, the air conditioner, the ignition. Everything was eerily turned off. But worst of all, I couldn’t open the windows, doors or, even, sunroof for that matter. I was trapped inside my car (with no way out!).

By this time, it was almost noon. The rain had subsided and the sun was really starting to blaze, not to mention the heat from the South Florida humidity. It must have been more than 95 degrees (at least, it felt that way inside the car).

The guy behind me started honking; I couldn’t even turn on the hazard lights. I gestured with my hands across my throat that the car was dead. The traffic was particularly congested that morning but he was able to drive around, only to have another driver pull up behind me and having to repeat the same scenario.

I started to sweat, and the first thing that crossed my mind is, “this is one fine mess I got myself into.” I chuckled internally at the absurdity of the situation. However, just as quickly I thought, “I can suffocate in here!”

As I started to get uncomfortably stuffy very quickly (probably my own nerves and mind playing tricks on me), I really began to wonder if this was how my life was going to end. I thought about my wife having to cope with her husband suffocating inside his own car. What would she tell our friends? It was actually funny to me but not really. I gathered my thoughts and came to my senses and thought there’s no way God would let me die in my car! I began to pray for strength and remembered the Divine Mercy motto, “Jesus, I trust in you,” which I started repeating in my head. 

Despite the short amount of time that had elapsed, my mind was racing with all sorts of thoughts. What I could do? Was God testing my faith? Should I kick out the windows? No, too much damage; it’s an expense I didn’t want to have to go through at this time (we just paid for the kids school registration and now have a leak in our roof). I would leave that as the last resort when I had barely any oxygen left, I thought (hopefully I would still have the strength by then).

I decided to call my wife to let her know that I was trapped inside my car (thank Heaven for cell phones, which I had been in the process of recharging when the power cut off). I just wanted her to know, in case anything were to happen (although I believed everything was going to be fine and had faith, I wanted her to know the pickle her husband was in). She started laughing. Nice. She asked me how I got locked out; I said, “No, I’m not locked out, I’m locked in. I can’t get out!” I went on to explain what had happened but as we talked, I thought that I needed to contact 9-1-1 and work. She was going to contact our friend and the owner of the dealership where I got my car.

I then called work to let them know my dilemma so they knew I was going to be later than expected. After I explained that I was locked “in” my car with no power or way out, I hung up and called 9-1-1. (I later found out that after I hung up with my co-worker, all hell broke loose at work as my other co-workers burst into uncontrollable laughter. That is, except for the one who had answered my call and had heard my explanation, probably sensing the urgency in my voice). This was funny but no joke! She started getting concerned.

I then called 9-1-1. I explained to the operator that the power in my car had completely shut off and I was locked in my car in the middle of the roadway. She said, get this, “Open the door.” If it wasn’t for the seriousness I felt, I would have laughed too. Despite my concern due to the heat and stuffiness in my car, I realized it was just too funny to be real (except it was!).

Several minutes went by. I started praying to try to calm down and not think about the sweat dripping profusely from the sides of my face. I may not have been sweating at the level of Jesus Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane, but I was starting to drip all over the place.

And, to top it off, unlike most days, when I wear a dress shirt and a pair of jeans, I had dressed up with a jacket, dress shirt, slacks and dress shoes for the funeral. I even wore socks!  By this point, I had already taken off the jacket but felt the sweat dripping inside my shirt. It was hot!

After what seemed to be an eternity (probably less then 5 minutes), still no cops and people were still driving up behind me and honking. At least, fish have cool water in their tanks, all I had in mine was sweat!

I decided to call 9-1-1 again. I started explaining my situation again and, before I finished, they told me an officer was already on the way (it was a different operator so my guess is that since he knew what I was referring to, all the 9-1-1 operators must have had a nice laugh after my first call). I stressed the fact that it was HOT in the car!

Shortly thereafter, the first cops (a man in his 50’s and a woman in her 30’s) drove by in a squad car and I waved them down through my closed window. They probably weren’t the ones assigned to rescue me but pulled up in front of my car anyway (they must have seen the sweat on my face).

As they were approaching, our car dealer and good friend, called me on my cell. “What happened?” he asked. I started to explain my situation. As I talked to him, more officers showed up. Through the glass, I explained that I couldn’t open the doors or windows (Marcel Marceau would have been proud).

Meanwhile, my friend told me that there was a latch in the trunk that opened the trunk and an access to the trunk through the backseat. More cops started showing up. I think there were five or six by that time.

I climbed into the back seat.  The sweat was pouring from me.  By this time, I was drenched. I opened the back seat access to the trunk while my friend tried to explain what I needed to do. Meanwhile, the cops outside were in a flurry of activity. One was trying to jimmy the driver’s side door to get me out. Another one told me to “Sir, calm down” as he saw me scurrying from the front seat to the back and trying to reach into the trunk. He must have thought I was starting to freak out. I explained what I was trying to do.

After trying without success to open the latch of the trunk (my friend kept telling me where it was but, in my anxiety, and with the amount of junk I have in the trunk, I couldn’t find it).  One of the officers suggested I try to open the hood.

I climbed back into the front of the car (I’m not exactly the most svelte guy) but this time I was more proficient, having climbed into the back just minutes before. Once I got to the front, I realized that not only could I open the hood, but I could also open the trunk from the inside (they’re not electrical).

As soon as the hood was opened, the officer noticed that the cable that connects to the battery had completely come off. He promptly reconnected it and told me to try the door again. As soon as I did, the doors clicked open.

However, probably, from playing with the lock so much, the driver’s door lock was jammed and wouldn’t open. Another officer opened the passenger door and I was able to get out. Freedom! Hallelujah! Thank you, God!

While I went around personally thanking my heroes, one of the officers tightened the lose cable with a pair of pliers.

Finally, after what seemed to be an eternity, the loss of about ten pounds of sweat, and although, aside from that, showing no other sign of ill effect, except to my ego, I was able to start driving back to work.

What a day and what an adventure...

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