Friday, January 13, 2006

Sink or Swim

I have a freakishly good memory. But there are times when my fond memories, recounts, or even photos of an event are simply not enough – I need videographic evidence. The following is a true story that, had I had the foresight to memorialize on video, would surely have won me the $100,000 grand prize on AFV.

Many years ago, I lived in Utah. I had a friend whose parents owned a ski boat, and we would often take it out on one of the many nearby lakes to go wakeboarding.

This particular summer day, we were meeting some friends at the dock for a day of fun in the sun. My friend suggested that the two of us should launch the boat, so that we’d be ready to go as soon as they arrived. I explained that I had neither backed a truck/trailer, nor driven a boat, into a lake before. But he assured me that it was easy, and promised to walk me through it from the driver’s seat of the boat. So I reluctantly got behind the wheel of his 1981 Bronco.

Things were going well at first. I was heading slowly toward the ramp, and the trailer carrying the boat seemed to be backing straight into the water. This is a snap, I thought. Why was I so intimidated? When my friend told me we were far enough in, I obediently pressed the brakes.

This is where everything fell apart.

Why am I still moving backward? The brake pedal is floored. I must need to apply the parking brake. Nope. Not helping. Let’s try pulling back out. Interesting – still sliding backward, despite my attempt to drive forward. This can’t be good.

My friend and I were yelling back and forth, trying to figure out what to do to gain traction on the mossy ramp, when I was suddenly slammed against the driver-side door. My friend had jumped over the bow of the boat and climbed through the back of the truck into the driver’s seat to try to do it himself. Not surprisingly, he had the same trouble I had.

But then it got much worse.

My feet are wet! Oh my God! There is water gushing in through the bottom of the doors! “We have to bail!” he screamed. So I gathered as many of our things as I could in 1.3 seconds and climbed out the passenger window.

Less than a minute later, I was standing on the roof of my friend’s truck, knee deep in water, in the middle of the lake. (Okay, not really the middle, but pretty far out from shore.) I couldn’t see my friend. Where did he go? I wondered. And then I spotted him.

He was diving in and out the water, trying to grab hold of the front bumper to pull the truck back to shore. Finally, he realized that, while he worked out every day, he was simply not strong enough to swim a truck, a trailer, and a girl to shore without a little help. So he swam back to shore, leaving me standing on the truck. Still knee deep in water. Crying.

After catching his breath, he started to laugh hysterically, when we both realized that the boat (thankfully, it was already detached from the trailer when we started sinking) was floating away. So he ran to the dock and jumped in to swim after it. As he docked the boat and called a tow truck, I decided that I couldn’t just stand there on top of the truck all day. So I swam to shore, fully clothed, through water that was now full of gasoline and oil.

And with perfect timing usually only found in movies, our friends pulled up at that very moment.

Amazingly, after being successfully towed out of the water and drying out for the next 48 hours, the truck still worked! And this little bath even fixed the broken radio! (But, as a trade-off, the headlights were permanently shut off.)

Years later, I was telling this story to someone, and their response was, “I can’t believe that was you! That story is famous around here!” And that’s when I realized that this would have been a winning video clip. But, of course, I didn’t think it was all that funny while I was immersed, so to speak, in the situation.


Paul said...

Holy crap, that is my worst nightmare -- having a car fall into a lake. And no matter how many times Dateline NBC shows you how to get out of one, I would still freak out.

C. said...

Oh my gosh Nicole... That is a scary feeling for sure.. It had to be.. I have endured something similar.. Me and a friend of mine got stuck in a low water crossing, the jeep started filling up fast inside.. We were in the middle of nowhere and I ended up crossing the swift water on foot, and running about 3 miles to get help... This was when I was a teenager and before I became a firefighter.. I did tell him that we weren't going to make it across though..:) Great story Nicole.. Thanks for visiting my site too.. Come back anytime:) Have a wonderful weekend!


Nicole said...

What's funny is that all I could think about at the time was that I was responsible for sinking and probably ruining my friend's car. It didn't even cross my mind that it could have also been a life-threatening situation. Adrenaline is pretty powerful stuff.