I started going to the gym again. I’d been dodging it for a variety of excellent reasons, but it was time. After a recent workout, I returned to the cottage–which is built into a hillside–and drove down the steep dirt driveway to the narrow flat of grass where we park our car. There’s a small rise on one side and a sloping drop on the other heading toward the stream and pasture. Re-exiting requires making a series of forward-reverse movements so as not to have to back up the hill.
The cleaning lady’s car was in my spot. I’d come back to get Carson for an outing in Braga, so I put my pup in the Honda, welcoming the challenge of getting out of the driveway with an immovable object in my way. I was sure I could back out, but kept getting just shy of the top, then stalling in the standard shift car we now own. I drove back down the hill and wiggled the vehicle around to drive out front first, but was in danger of slipping over the edge of the sodden earth from recent heavy rains. Eventually I did back up and out, but the angle left me pointed in the wrong direction on the road, and there would be no turnout for some distance.
Instead of heading to Braga, I went back into town–Famalicão–and noticed a sign at a roundabout where I’d taken a wrong turn yesterday. (This happens more often than I like to admit.) It read, “Quintães” (“Keehntainsh”) a name so cute and fun to pronounce, I had to check it out. I paid attention to my surroundings so I could find my way back, and at worst, if I couldn’t retrace my path, I knew the main road, N14, would get me home. I followed winding roads past terracotta tile-capped homes, seeing no people, no cars. But I did know where I was: out in the farmland I overlook from N14 when driving along that route.
I noticed after a while that I was on Rua de Quintães, but found no town, simply homes, and still no people or cars. It was time to get back to civilization. Looking above and to my left I saw a main road in the distance (N14?) with trucks speeding along it. If I could just keep going in that direction, I’d be back on track. Edging slowly up the snaky roads, it seemed at each turn the main drag would pop into view. At the last turn what popped into view was…laundry.
I was in someone’s backyard, a few feet from clotheslines holding pants and tops, towels and sheets, and a brilliant display of unmentionables. On the far end of the yard was a stone wall, to my left was a stone wall, behind me was a stone wall, and I was on an incline of about sixty degrees.
After a surreal moment of profound fear, I pulled the hand break up, got out of the car, and assessed my options. Once back inside, I attempted to maneuver out of my predicament, but was terrified of crunching the car on one end or the other. (Dare I mention stripping the gears?) I thought about looking for someone more experienced in this sort of situation, but I still hadn’t seen a soul. Finally I decided—I am serious—that our Civic would have to be airlifted by helicopter. (Is that even possible?) I blamed my wobbly knees on the morning’s leg presses, got back in the car, whispered a quick prayer, and miraculously got turned around, escaped disaster, and returned my buggy to its home.
What did all this teach me? Exercise can be hazardous to your health.
Have any stories you’d like to share? I’d love to hear them.