Chicago, IL

"Stunt Driving" in the Suburbs

Sherry McGuinn

A cautionary tale

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Okay. This doesn’t really fall under the heading of “fun in cars.” Certainly not the kind of "fun" that other people experience, but it’s funny. In a "mystical" sort of way.

I’ve had a couple of near-death experiences in my former car, a Subaru Forester. A great vehicle and, as it turned out, a lifesaver in that it never failed me — even when I failed it.

Case in point. One blisteringly hot summer day, I was driving home from work, on Route 59 and in a real funk for a number of reasons. I wasn’t feeling well, for one thing, and my anxiety level was sky-high. I can’t put a finger on why, but it doesn’t really matter as I’m generally anxious about something. But with that said, I seem to recall that my nimrod of a boss had something to do with my dark mood.

The windows were up and the AC was cranked, along with the radio as I felt myself getting drowsy. The sun nearly blinded me as I struggled to stay awake.

It was rush hour and cars were whizzing around me. I really can’t say what transpired next, other than, after what I can only describe as “losing time,” I “woke up” to find myself in the oncoming traffic lane. Even though the radio was on, I remember complete and utter silence as I quickly yanked the wheel, steered back into my lane and slammed on my brakes so as not to plow into the car in front of me. The light had turned red. I was safe. And so were my fellow commuters.

Miraculously, no one honked at me. Even when I was in the wrong lane. It’s hard to express what I was feeling at that moment, but I started to shake and as soon as I got home, I dissolved into tears as I told my husband what happened.

FUN!!!

This next incident, the one that really brought out the "stunt driver” in me, happened during the dead of winter. I was on my way to work this time. (“Work” seems to be the common denominator here.)

The wind chill was below zero and there was a ton of snow. Nothing new for the Chicago area.

The company I worked for was situated off of North Avenue in West Chicago, the suburb, by the way, not the city. Now, anyone familiar with that highway knows that there are lots of big-ass trucks barreling back and forth. It was a high-accident area so safe driving was imperative.

I like to believe I’m a safe driver, but my head must have been firmly jammed up my butt that morning as, while I was preparing to make a right turn into my company’s lot, I fell short of the actual driveway and found myself climbing up the side of a massive snow…stalagmite. That’s the only way to describe it. I still don’t know how I didn’t see the damned thing.

I recall I was boppin’ along to a CD and then I was at the top of this snow monster. It was at least six feet tall. I’m guessing here, but it was massive.

As I hovered at the top of this beast, I realized that I was probably going to die as my trusty Subaru started to list to the left, meaning I would tumble into the highway and most certainly get crushed by a well-meaning-but-pedal-to-the-metal-trucker. They are, after all, on deadlines.

Strangely, I didn’t feel any panic. Just a sense that, “Hey, the car is rocking and I’m going to roll into the street and be killed in a horrible fashion. And my co-workers will see me out here, crushed and bloody. And they’ll feel really, really bad for about a week.”

Then, and I can’t explain how or why this happened, but a sense of peace came over me. My hands were on the wheel, not really doing much of anything but resting there like dead carp, and suddenly — my car went up and over the tip of the snow stalagmite and rolled down the other side!

As I turned into the parking lot, shaking once again. I saw one of my co-workers standing next to his car, his eyes like saucers.

He waited for me to get out of my car and rushed over asking if I was alright. He said he’d never seen anything like what just happened. He added that the whole thing looked like a movie stunt.

What can I say? When I want to have a little fun behind the wheel, I don’t mess around. But don't do as I do, folks. Pay attention, please. And get to where you're going, safely.

© Sherry McGuinn, 2021. All Rights Reserved.

Sherry McGuinn is a slightly-twisted, longtime Chicago-area writer and award-winning screenwriter. Her work has appeared in The Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun-Times, and numerous other publications. Sherry’s manager is currently pitching her newest screenplay, a drama with dark, comedic overtones and inspired by a true story.

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Chicago, IL
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