I’ve done it lots of times.
I spent most of my life thinking it was commonplace – thinking that it happened to everybody – until I told my sister a couple of years ago. She explained – between screams of laughter – that No. Everybody doesn’t sit into stranger’s cars. No. No. No. She has never done it. And no it isn’t commonplace.
I was surprised.
Even though I know they’re not reading, I’d like to take this opportunity to apologise to all those unsuspecting and terrified looking men behind the wheel of the many cars I have jumped into – uninvited – over the years. All those men innocently sitting behind their own steering wheels, after children’s football matches and in supermarket car parks and outside small shops parked on double-yellow lines. I now realise that the look on their faces and their white knuckled hands on the steering wheel were not to do with the cold weather or gentle surprise but rather because they thought they were being hijacked by a (very) strange woman. Sorry.
In this conversation with my sister I also discovered that it is also not all that common to sit into the driver’s seat of stranger’s empty cars in filling stations. That – to be frank – was a real killer.
I once sat into a very swanky car in a crowded filling station after paying for my petrol (gas to my American friends). I sat in and struggled for a few seconds to get the key in the ignition. Then I realised my mistake and had to get out and walk back to my much humbler vehicle while the people filling up their cars with fuel looked on in amusement. Some of them even laughed. I flicked my head and acted like I had meant to sit into the swanky car. Such a rebel. Such a joker. Such a daredevil. Such a felon. Nobody was fooled.
I have done this sitting-into-the-driver’s-seat-of-the-wrong-car-after-paying-for-my-petrol thing lots of times, but the weidest of all was when I sat into a car and my knees hit the steering wheel. I am a tallish woman (5’8″ – or 1.73 metres to my European friends). Did I think – “Oh no, I must be in the wrong car!”
I am embarrassed to say that exactly what I thought was – “Who moved the seat in my car for goodness sake!”
Which proves to me that my default position in the world is that I am right.
I come from a long line of people who think they are right (including that sister by the way even though she might deny it). Engage any of us in conversation and we’ll tell you that of course we know we aren’t always right. That we know we can make mistakes. That we are fallible and always learning.
But you know what they say – what does being wrong feel like? The same as being right – until you realise that nobody moved the seat of your car and in fact you are sitting into some other (probably) woman’s car and if she sees you she’ll think you’re trying to steal her car. Even if it isn’t very swanky.