In the story The Night We Hunted Our Own, I describe my friend Richard’s car. It was an 1976, blue, Plymouth Volare, with hot-pink double windshield wipers. I don’t know why the wiper blades were hot pink. I do recall that in the ‘90s, neon colors were all the rage. And, I think I recall Richard mentioning how well the double wipers worked—when compared to a single wiper. This was decades ago and wiper technology has seriously improved since then. But, I digress…
It was somewhere in late Spring to early Summer when Richard, Erich, and I decided to go for a drive. Well, more specifically, they had been driving around and thought that I should get to witness the amazing phenomenon that they had. At the time, it sounded like a kind and friendly gesture. At the time.
There was a brief period during this season when the North end of Manti’s Main Street had a bit of a flooding problem. I had never seen anything like it before, or since. Maybe the drain was blocked? Maybe there was just too much water to be absorbed by the neighboring soil? Whatever the reasons, there were tons of gallons of H2O flooding the road and maximizing the opportunity for either some fun or possibly an accident. We opted for the fun—but understood that the other option could be exercised by Mother Nature at her discretion.
See, Richard and Erich had already taken a few passes through this possibly placid pool of potential peril. And, so far, they had survived. Thanks, guys, for being willing to risk my neck too! (so thoughtful) Regardless, they had both described to me the sheer excitement of what it was like to have waves of water wash over the wagon. “Waves! I’m tellin’ you, they were huge! They almost covered the whole station wagon!” I was sold. I needed to be part of this.
Now, some of you may be thinking, “Well, that’s just stupid. You could easily get in a wreck and damage your car, or hit somebody else.” These are legitimate concerns. Truly. However, one thing I learned (we all learned)—all those years ago—(and that I still teach to my children) if you’re going to do something stupid, do it safely. And, that’s exactly what we did.
Because the water had settled on the East side of the street, only the Northbound traffic was affected—specifically, the far right lane. That lane was pretty much off-limits. Even if you had a truck raised high enough off the road, the sheer volume of water would slow anybody down. Like a wall. This did not stop some people from trying. They did not succeed. A few almost got stuck. I know because I watched ‘em.
In the story Here There Are Monsters!, I show my house location relative to the curvature of the road. I could sit on my balcony and watch the trucks try and drive through the small pond that coated the road. They all thought they could do it. Some got about halfway and discovered that physics doesn’t care about how much you want something. Physics says water is tricky. Physics says water can resist and distribute energy in interesting ways. Those truck… Well, those trucks had to move over into the left lane in order to keep moving. One truck almost went out of control and crashed into the grassy field. Idiots.
Regardless of what all those idiots did, we three idiots (I know what I wrote) knew better: You gotta test things.
Since the test flights had already taken place with Richard as the pilot, and Erich as the co, they knew the flight path. They knew how to navigate the hazard: A little bit at a time. One adjustment at a time. One lane at a time.
With a station wagon, there is plenty of space. It was Richard’s vehicle (and he was the only one with a license) so, he was in the driver’s seat. Erich, as the copilot, sat on the passenger side. Now, older vehicles have what are referred to as bench seats. That is a seat that extends all the way from one door to the other. So, I could have sat in between them. But, I’m a dude, so… No.
The ideal place for me was behind Erich. This way I could see the tidal wave up close and personal. This was a good idea. Truly.
On the first pass, we stayed in the left lane. We did this so I could get a sense of the power. Even as the passenger, I could feel the water resisting us. Then, as we would near the intersection that would either lead us out of town or bring us back in, we would turn right. Right back into town. Another right: Head for Main Street. Another right: Do it all over again.
The beauty of this specific scenario (see the above picture for reference) is that Richard could focus on the road. He could set his lane and speed. Feel if the right side wheels were disconnecting from the road (it’s called hydroplaning). Erich could look for oncoming traffic. This way, if anything went wrong it would only be us that got maimed or killed. Think safety! With me, I could look behind us for any following cars for similar reasons that Erich was looking forward. If all systems were good, Richard would move more into the pool and apply more gas to the engine. Speed, baby! Speed!
When conditions were perfect, the wave was awesome. It would go reasonably high and away from the wagon. When conditions were unsafe, we slowed down and made a couple right-hand turns so as to try again. It didn’t take long before we got bold.
The main reason we did not want other vehicles around was not just the safety. But, because when hit with enough force, the wave of water went onto the car windshield and obscured our view. So, I guess, the main reason was still safety. Whatever. Still, my two friends had a working system and a new body to help watch out for hazards. We could go bolder. And we did.
Tsunami: A long high sea wave caused by an earthquake, submarine landslide, or other disturbance. Or, an arrival or occurrence of something in overwhelming quantities or amounts.
We were the “other disturbance” and there was most definitely an “occurrence of something in overwhelming quantities or amounts”. Oh yes, sir. There was.
Richard had discovered the sweet spot in the road where he could keep two wheels on solid ground, two wheels in hydroplane mode, and guestimated the correct amount of speed to generate an automotive-land-based tsunami. He hit the water hard. There was enough speed that we all felt the water resistance. The puddle exploded in front. Dropplets shot everywhere while a wall twenty feet high rose up and swallowed the station wagon. We were gonna die. It wouldn’t be the first time I had a watery vehicular death…
Previously, the automotive-waves had moved up, up, and away (Superman…) from us. Erich and I could have our windows rolled down. We might get a drop or two on us. No big deal. This time… This time was different. That palisade of Adam’s ale lunged at us with no reservations—as if to destroy us. The mass of its impact actually knocked the floating tires back into contact with the asphalt. This did assist Richard in his vehicular control. The water never touched Erich. He was able to fully enjoy being locked in the barrel of this man-made force of nature. I still recall watching the profile of his face as it lit up with the joy of our phenomenon. I was also able to fully enjoy it. Fully enjoy it.
Because the road curved. Because the water was on the right side. Because I was on the passenger side of the wagon. Because of all the subtleties that came into play for us to achieve such magnitude. Because, because, because… Because of all that, with an window open, that tsunami was soon on me. I was saturated. Drenched. Gallons of H2O flooding me, right through that open window. There was even a small puddle at my feet.
That was a good prank. Truly.