Automatic Locks

The years of my youth are recalled in snippets of significant events these days. This morning, as I was fastening my seat belt, I had a flashback to days when seatbelts were a luxury. Yes boys and girls, there was a time when a person paid extra for those items. Since my family never had a new car until my later years, we never had the option to purchase seat belts with the car. We simply had cars that did not have the belts.

In the late 1960’s some genius engineer also made the determination that the best method to manipulate door locks was to make them automatically UNLOCK when one attempted to open the door from the inside. That's a good plan as far as safety during an accident but without seatbelts...well...it just wasn't that good.

During that same time, suburban Huntsville was growing and our area had developed a weblike network of neighborhoods that were beginning to sprout up around the original housing and growing outwardly. My Mimi lived a few blocks away and we often loaded up in the old wagon and headed over to her house to visit.

Each trip in the wagon began with bartering over the front seat until Mother developed a scoring system that was simply based on the next one's turn. On one particular trip, it was my turn and I was thrilled. It was early fall and I got myself dressed up in the new pantsuit Mother made for me and patiently waited in MY SPOT in the front seat. I felt like a queen having power over even my older brothers at that point.

We headed to Mimi's and began navigating the turns from one subdivision to another. One particular navigation entailed a sharp right turn followed by a sharp left turn. Mother was so used to the trip, she could take these turns without having to slow too far down except for the dip at the end of the second turn.

One fact of life is that double knit and vinyl do not mesh well together. As a matter of fact, double knit will slide on vinyl like iceskates over fresh ice! As we headed around turn one, I began sliding across the wide seat and bumped into mother. This was funny except to Mother who not so gently pushed me back over to the other side and advised me I would lose my privilege if I continued to "play around". So, as we rounded turn two I did the only thing a 30 pound kid can do who is in danger of sliding like a greased pig - I grabbed the door knob and clung for dear life. At the same time, Mother somehow miscalculated the speed, probably as a result of being distracted by my sliding antics and she sharply yanked the car back onto the road.

There are physics involved in what happened next but I have no concept of the exact laws and theories. I do know that the law of the door automatically unlocking as the knob is pulled first played out and the lock popped up. I remember the moment when I realized that the loosening of the lock would soon be followed by the loosening of the door but that double knit gave no leverage. The door flung open with me still holding to the knob.

I flapped in the wind at this point like a small paisley flag until I could no longer cling to the knob. Upon my release, I realized that double knit does not SLIDE on pavement but rips and tears as one's body rolls across the street, up the curb, over the sidewalk and into the grass which finally provided enough friction to stop the rapid spin of my tiny body. I landed right in front of man who was pushing his mower and still recall his horrified look at my little self. I was expecting pure and outright sympathy - perhaps a medal - a badge - the awe of my family - I would be famous!

I failed to realize that my Mother's initial reaction to any situation was to blame the kid for disrupting the plan o-d-day or I might have cried a little louder over the cuts, scrapes and bruises. She got to me before I could completely stand up and before the little old man could emphasize the danger of my previous predicament. As she picked me up, I was mentally evaluating the pain points so as to present to her the most outstanding one and she realized how lucky she was that I was still alive. She stood me on my feet, looked at me and then...did what any Mother in such a horrifying situation would do - whipped me all the way back to the front seat, slammed the door and yelled all the way to Mimi's about how she had TOLD me to NEVER grab that knob!

My only victory in this event was that I was Mimi's chosen one and as we walked in, I first showed Mimi the rips in my new outfit and then the scrapes and bruises. This gained me a raisin pie and coke while Mimi ran for first aid supplies. My brother had been quiet up to this point and he finally burst out laughing at the entire scene which calmed my Mother's nerves and gave her the opportunity to realize the situation was over and quite entertaining upon reflection.

To this day- nearly 40 years later, I USE that event when my Mother has "something" on me. I remind her of the pain upon the pain from the whippings and then we both bust out laughing at how horrified the little old man was at the entire scene. She never spoke to that man or acknowledged he was there. I just wonder ... did he KNOW we were all crazy!


Nancy M. said...

The first car I remember had seat belts, but we never used them. My dad built me a little wooden booster seat to sit on in the middle, so I could see out. Still, no way of holding me in. I'm sure your mother was scared to death when that happened.

"JEANNELLE" said...

Oh, saddlegait, this is a very well-told recounting of your frightening experience from childhood! You could have been hurt much worse; I'm so glad you weren't!

You had me interested right from your first sentence......that is a good one! You are an excellent story-teller/writer!