Stranger Danger

Have you ever sat into a stranger’s car by accident? 

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.

16 comments on “Stranger Danger

  1. It sounds like you are dissociating when you do that. Just giving you food for thought. I have done this a few times. And, no it isn’t normal. I don’t feel so weird now. I mean that in a kind way, not picking on you. But usually this happens because the person is not paying attention at all to their surroundings. DBT classes helped with this. I soon realized I was dissociating ALL THE TIME. The classes helped get that under control.

  2. As a worrywart, I think you should be a lot more careful. Loved the TED talk – it’s a lot harder to do than it sounds (getting out of our tiny terrified bubble of rightness).

    • As I said above I am a terror for being preoccupied – inclined to disappear into myself and you are totally right – I should be more careful. Mind you the poor unsuspecting men sitting in their cars probably lock themselves in now after having me jump in!

  3. katiecwilliams says:

    I really did do that, I got into a VW Jetta, while my car is a Golf. They were the same color and parked right next to each other. I tried to put the key in the ignition and was wondering why wouldn’t it look. The problem was, that when I looked around the car, the interior was identical. It was really a need to stop, look around and evaluate my position moment.

  4. momshieb says:

    Oh, my, I have done it, too! The scary thing is….sometimes I feel like I am very tuned in, marching along on my errands and looking perfectly put together…but my mind is deep in conversation with someone, or is busy solving a problem to be addressed the next day.
    Personally, I don’t think that we are nuts. I think that we are charming!

  5. Erik says:

    I’m glad I waited to comment until after watching the video… My original comment was going to be, ‘what if we started from a position of being wrong?’ ‘What if we immediately assumed that we didn’t know and that whatever we think we know, is subject to further unknowing?’

    Also in the video I think she makes a wonderful point; that part of our human experience is to be surprised, to be turned around, to be shifted in an upheaval kind of way. I can imagine you, upon the realization that you are in the wrong car, with all the things in your brain tumbling into place with immediacy and intensity, at that distinct moment, how alive did you feel? You know, right before the blushing occurs?

    This reversal in the comfort of knowing can help us change and refocus in the best ways. I have an example of course. Read The Privileged Contrarian’s lastest blog post;

    There is no rightness or wrongness, but the perspective shift between right and wrong, is where the world opens up to us.

    oh, and I’m glad your shaking things up at the petrol station, what a boring place. 😉

    • I think we all believe we are more open to being wrong than we actually are – I am wrong so often you’d think I’d more automatically get the picture! That’s a very interesting post – thanks.

  6. Patricia says:

    To do this once or twice I can understand more than that seems weird–sort of endearing but weird. Of course I never do anything weird–I mean that would really be weird.

  7. granbee says:

    Being able to laugh at oneself and opening admit our mistakes and freely recognizing our fallibility is such a very freeing and empowering act, I think!

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