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Diatribe: A Tennis Ball Dangling On A Clothes Line Will Not Stop A Chrysler Cordoba And Old Men Shouldn’t Wear Flip-Flops When They Drive.

08/19/2014

Car in PoolIn the late 1970s, my folks drove a black Chrysler Cordoba.  The car was enormous.  It was one of Chrysler’s first upscale luxury sedans and had all the “bells and whistles” of the day.  Thinking back, I remember the doors to be about four feet long and extremely heavy.  It was the first car I remember the family driving that had electric windows!  I remember that our garage had two doors, it was parked on the left and had to be situated perfectly so its doors could open without hitting the post that is found in the center of so many older attached garages and that the garage door would close properly as well.  Knowing exactly how far to pull the big car in to the garage was a challenge.

My father, always the clever inventor, created a device by which a tennis ball hung from the ceiling of the garage at the end of a long piece of clothes line at just the right elevation so as to be seen when it was bumped by the front bumper as the driver pulled the car into the garage.  Once you touched the tennis ball, you knew you had pulled in far enough for the garage door to safely close without hitting the back end of the car.  (Everyone does this now … surely as a result of his genius.)

Tennis BallOne day, while pulling the car into the garage, my mother didn’t stop when she was supposed to and ran into the wall in front of her.  My parents didn’t speak much of the incident, as I imagine a few cross words were exchanged, but I remember there were some gas pedal/brake pedal confusion that day.  The big car left quite an impression in the wall.

But she didn’t plow right on through like an 85-year-old Altadena, California man did last Saturday.  He crashed his car through a rear garage door and into a backyard swimming pool where it quickly ended up fully submerged.  No injuries resulted as no one was in the pool at the time and the driver was able to escape the white sedan unharmed.

Clearly, he didn’t have a tennis ball at the end of a length of clothes line suspended from the ceiling of his garage.

He told authorities that the flip-flops he was wearing got caught in the pedals and caused him to lose control of the car.

If I remember correctly, the wall in that old garage was eventually repaired in order for the house to be sold but not before the story of my mother trying to smash through it became a family legend.

What can we learn from these adventures?  1) A tennis ball dangling on a clothes line will not stop a Chrysler Cordoba and 2) old men shouldn’t wear flip flops when they drive.

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9 Comments
  1. Driving in flip-flops. Yes, an 85 year old man should know better.

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  2. thedogs'mother permalink

    Being a good Unitarian I wear Birkenstocks. With socks in the winter (gasp!) and barefeet in the summer. I always kick the right one off when I drive.
    As an aside – there are people who can get into their garages??

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    • Carlos and I have a two-and-a-half car garage–where a half car comes from I dunno, but I digress–and we get two cars and a freezer and an outdoor sink and two shelving systems in there.
      I’m always amazed by people with garages who can’t use them for their cars!

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  3. paulo1 permalink

    I always understood that the tennis ball should be hung so that it touched the windscreen in front of the driver. Just nit-picking.

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    • My father’s idea from the 70s quickly evolved to the one you describe probably because it’s so much easier to keep your eye on the ball. I still remember thinking that was the most fantastic invention and he was the smartest man ever. I’ve always been very proud of him.

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  4. I have suffered a Near Collision Caused By “The Flip-Flop” Footwear. Not fun.

    That said if there was an award for best Blog Post Title, I’d nominate you for that one!

    Like

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