July 6, 2012

It isn’t every day that a writer has a story land practically right in their lap, but that is exactly what happened to me when we lived in North Carolina.

One of the few indoor jobs I've had in my life was in Wilson, North Carolina. I was a typesetter with Stallings Printers - a small but very busy print shop in downtown Wilson. It was a rather nice late August day, not as humid as your average summer day in coastal Carolina. So, I decided to take a break from the shop and spend my lunch hour outside. I walked to Miller Plaza, a large park-like area with fountains and such, right across the street from the Amtrak Terminal.

There I was, munching on my M&Ms and enjoying the nice weather when I heard a loud crash. A large luxury vehicle made a wrong turn and jumped the curb, stopping on the sidewalk at the top of the wide stairs leading down to the plaza. The car was stuck and could not back up – so the driver just proceeded to drive forward ... right down the long flight of stairs and onto the pedestrian plaza.

All the scraping and crunching attracted a lot of attention including that of the Wilson Police. The cops caught up with the car on foot, and the slightly bewildered driver still was not aware of the predicament he was in. Apparently he didn’t know that there was no way off the plaza except via stairs. His partner joined the police officer and as they began to survey the situation, they broke into gales of laughter.

A crowd gathered and spectators watched and giggled as the story continued to unfold. After all, right in front of the Amtrak Terminal is not exactly the most inconspicuous spot in the city.

“How did that car get there?” mused newly arriving viewers.

I began to feel a bit sorry for the dazed, but humiliated driver. Police radioed for assistance and soon the traffic division arrived. The traffic officer did not find the situation quite as humorous as the other officers. Unmarked security soon joined the other cops, and people on their way back from lunch stopped to survey the situation. Each person had his/her opinion about what should be done.

“Oh, boy,” I thought, “with all the sidewalk supervisors involved they will never get anything done.” Some people snapped pictures of the stranded vehicle to take home as to show the family and neighbors. TV crews with mini-cams arrived.

A tow truck was called, but after much cell phoning, hum-hawing and head scratching, the driver was unable to figure out a way to rescue the car. Office workers in the plaza ate their brown bag lunches and enjoyed the free lunch hour entertainment, wondering what would be next.

Eventually, a larger tow truck came, traffic was stopped, and a flatbed tow truck removed the car. The audience applauded. Office workers drifted away back to their cubicles and paperwork. The unfortunate driver appeared to be receiving some paperwork of his own; undoubtedly they were throwing the book at the old guy. City workers inspected the concrete steps for damage, and will probably make the suggestion at the next town meeting to put up vehicle barriers in front of the stairs.

And that’s the story just the way it happened, folks, from your eyewitness humor columnist, on the scene with up to the minute coverage of minor auto mishaps and brown bag lunches. Once again we have proved there’s never a shortage of funny news when it comes to lousy drivers.