Pick a Door, Any Door
“GED room, Mr. Parent speaking,” I said into the telephone receiver.
“Mr. Parent, this is admin. We need you to go out and look at your car.”
I didn’t recognize the voice but the request was troubling to say the least. My fears were reinforced by two different people who stopped me and said they were sorry. Crap, I thought. And for those of you who know me, yes, I did think “crap” and not something stronger. I got my coat from my locker and ventured outside. It was not easy as Colorado Springs was experiencing hurricane force winds. My car was parked directly in front of the entrance to my work. This was unusual for me. Typically I park in the farthest lot both for privacy during lunch time and for the extra walking. But today I was supposed to teach a training session off site. The need to get to my car easily and my fear of all of the debris, especially sand and rocks from the quarry across the street made me choose a more sheltered area in front.
This turned out to be a bad decision. First of all, the wind had knocked the power out and my class was cancelled. And secondly, because the same wind that had knocked out power had torn a 3 ft. x 5 ft. door off of one of the air handlers on top of our five story building. Accelerated by both gravity and the 60 plus MPH wind, the flying door had landed directly on top of my car. Crap. What the hell is it about doors? As I have written before in “The Persistance of Doors” and “The Persistance of Doors Redux,” doors have played a significant role in my life. The maintenance crew gathered around my car. They had been on the roof when I had come to work earlier but the wind had chased them off.
It was quite a sight and the physics of it caught my attention first. I know this is odd but that’s the way I see the world. The door had landed corner first on the seam where my windshield and roof joined. I don’t know exact figures but a rough calculation put the energy transfer at 5000 joules. Enough to shatter my windshield and punch a hole in my roof. After losing most of its energy trying open my car like a tin of sardines, the door then flipped over smashing my fender and taking out the side view mirror on the car next to me. Holy crap.
“Aren’t you mad,” asked one of the workers.
“No,” I answered.
It was true. I wasn’t angry. First of all, I knew I wasn’t the only person Mother Nature was messing with. The next few days confirmed that suspicion as reports and pictures of wind damage popped up on different media. Three dozen semis got turned over by the wind and nearby Ft. Carson looked like a battle zone. But more importantly, I knew how close I had come to standing right where that door had landed. Had the class not been canceled I would have been standing there about the time the door landed. I never would have known what hit me. A forty pound object falling at that speed would have put me on the front page of the Gazette. And that’s a place I do not want to be. Being upright and able to talk to an insurance adjuster was a much preferable use of my time.
Doors play an important role not just in my life but also in our culture, language, and mythology. There are sayings such as “God closes a door and then opens a window.” Doors are the featured image in many aphorisms about knowledge, love, and morality. And being at death’s door is a traditional euphemism for dying. I don’t know of any sayings about flying doors. There’s Aladdin and the “Open Sesame” door which leads to a flying carpet. But maybe that’s too much of a stretch. We humans try to find meaning especially in situations where there is none.
It didn’t matter to the wind or the universe whether my car had been parked in that spot or someone else’s. I don’t even attribute my misfortune to the really crappy year that my family and I have experienced. Some might even say that this particular car has a tendency to attract other objects. It is, after all, the fourth time in a year that it has been damaged. But I don’t believe in that either. Cars have no more capacity for luck, good or bad, than a hammer or screwdriver.
“You sure are taking this well, Mr. Parent,” said the lobby officer when I came back through the metal detector.
“What else is there to do?” I said as I shrugged my shoulders. “Getting angry won’t stop the wind or fix the damage.”
“I know, but my car is my baby. I’d be furious,” he said as he searched my coat and hat for contraband.
“I understand,” I said. “But to me a car is just a tool.”
There was a time when that wasn’t true for me. Growing up, I owned a muscle car as well as a British sports car. But Vietnam changed my perspective about transportation. I still like cool looking, fast cars. But reliability and economics top looks and thrills for me now. Maybe if I had Jay Leno’s money it would be different. Instead, I prefer the attitude of a rancher friend of mine. When he gets a new vehicle for the ranch, he takes a sledge hammer and puts a good dent in the vehicle.
“That’s so nobody thinks they have to baby it,” he said when I questioned him about the dent in his new pickup.
I taught my son to drive in a big old Crown Victoria. It had enough dings to keep him from worrying about a few more. It was also safer and the cost of gas kept him from being too crazy with the accelerator pedal. The only thing safer would have been a tank. And it only had two big ol’ doors. When he left home, the first car he bought was similar–a Mark V Lincoln Continental that was also a two door.
See, I have an obsession with doors. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going out to my rental car to listen to Jim Morrison’s rendition of “Break on Through to the Other Side.” It’s one of my favorites.