I flick on the TV to watch a rerun of “Without a Trace” and some news guy — the geeky, stand-up kind who gets the sidebar gig, not the hard news gig — is reporting from a research facility about what to do if your car gets swept away in a flash flood. With you in it.
Apparently there is procedure to deal with this.
I live in the desert, so I never give much thought to the possibility of me landing my hatchback nose-down in the drink. But out here among the cacti, dry creek beds suddenly swell into raging rivers of water, sand, and debris. I prop my feet on the empty milk crate to watch.
Some guy in the white coat with the plastic badge over his heart says, “First thing, open the windows and let the water in.”
Are you fucking kidding me? That Geo gives me claustrophobia as it is.
The geeky, stand-up reporter lets his brows furl together. “Isn’t that counter-intuitive?”
The researcher plays with his badge, then remembers he’s on camera. Looks up. Flashes a smile. “Yes, of course, but it’s essential to prepare as many exits from the vehicle as possible.”
Hypothetically, I’m strapped in an automobile that weighs two-three-thousand pounds, dragging me deeper every second, and he wants me to take the time to prepare.
Let the water in, my ass.
The researcher senses my panic. He looks through the camera right at me sitting on my futon, slugging down my Kilt Lifter ale, and says, “Stay calm.”
Stay calm? I finally meet a woman I can tolerate — she’s in the shower right now running her hands over her Poppy Montgomery breasts and I’m out here trying to get the 411 on how to save myself from drowning in the fucking desert? Calmness is not part of this equation.
Wait. On TV, the guy in the white coat is helping a woman into a cable car-looking thing suspended over a huge tank of water. What did I miss? What’s the geeky guy saying?
“According to researchers here at the institute, in order to open the door of your vehicle under water, you will have to wait for the pressure on the inside and the outside to equalize.”
Wait! Let me get this straight.
I open the windows and sit in my beater until the water on the inside is the same amount as the water on the outside. Are these people insane? I’m plummeting into oxygen-deprived liquid and this asshole wants me to wait?
What’s he saying now?
“Be sure to keep your seatbelt on so you can remain in control of your movements, especially if there are small children with you.”
Seat belts on. That doesn’t sound right. Wouldn’t I need to release the seat belt to swim out the open window? But I’m riveted. They’re showing a seat-belt slicing tool with a safety edge. Is this something I can pick up in the automotive section at Wal-Mart?
Now the woman who climbed into the experimental cable car thing with the help of the leering white-coated man is up to her eyebrows in water.
“Why is she keeping her eyes closed?” asks the reporter. Good fucking question.
The man in the white coat smiles. “Visibility is poor so it’s better to deter the oil and pollution in the water from damaging your eyes by keeping them closed.”
Let me recap.
In case of plunging into a river during a flash flood, I should do the following:
- Open all the windows and let the water in.
- Stay calm.
- Keep my seatbelt on.
- Keep my eyes shut.
- Wait for water to fill the car.
I switch off the TV. Climb into bed and pray for drought.
By the time the woman with the Poppy Montgomery boobs slips out the trailer door, snagging the twenties I left on the counter, the pressure on the inside and the outside is just about equal.
Gay Degani has been published in THEMA, The Best of Every Day Fiction 2008, and two mystery anthologies well as on-line at Every Day Fiction, Night Train, 3 A.M. Magazine, 10Flash, Flash Fiction Online, Tattoo Highway, and Salt River Review. Stories forthcoming will appear in The Battered Suitcase, 10Flash, and W. W. Norton’s Hint Fiction Anthology. She is still working on her mystery novel.