|The way home. An impossible distance.|
The windows were darkly tinted black and so up to this point, the men pounding on the sides were unaware of how many people were in our vehicle. I sat there as the Terracan rocked back and forth with their pounding and looked at the face of my wife, my mother-in-law, and my children. Rolling down the window could be a game changer when the crowd learns that a single unarmed, gringo male with limited spanish has with him in the car two women and three children.
That option seemed impossible. How could I expose us? But there was no other option. The shouts grew louder and the crowd was beginning to swell. There was no way out. I pressed the button and allowed the window to roll down a few inches. The man who had been pressed against it took a glance at my pale skin and shouted above the chaos...
"American? Do you speak English?" "Yes, we are stuck." "You need to move your car, you cannot be here." "I can't, it won't go." "You need to trust me, you CAN trust me… I used to live in L.A." "What can we do?" "Put it in neutral and I will have my friends push you off the road."
Desperately I try to ignore him, I turn of the engine, pray a desperate prayer that the car will go… I turn the key, the engine starts, I throw it into drive and hit the accelerator… and nothing happens. Nothing. Defeated and feeling bewildered I slide the shifter into neutral as I turn back to the man who is continuing to insist that I can trust him, that his friend is a mechanic, that he can take us to a safe place… I turn to him and say… "Push."
He shouts to his friends and immediately I feel the vehicle lurch forward. He tells me to take my foot off the brake. Now feeling humiliated on top of being freaked… I release the brake and the men begin pushing us up the hill. The crowd parts slightly as the man from L.A. very insistently directs us to a small shoulder area off the road. Traffic begins roaring past us with horns blaring and hands gestating out of windows.
The man from L.A. is back at my window and he is shouting that we must get out. I shut the engine off again and bow my head. We were not safe here! We could not get out of the car! No-one even knows are location! The crowd does not appear friendly and now they know we are Americans. They know that we have resources… and they know how vulnerable we are. I open my eyes as I look up to the darkening sky. This will get so much worse if we are stranded in darkness.
I turn the key, the engine starts… I slam the lever into drive and stomp the pedal. The Terracan slowly begins to crawl forward. We all shout as I roll up the window and push my way into traffic.
We get about 100 yards up the road, we turn a corner and begin ascending again up the mountain.
The pedal falls underneath my foot. I have it pressed to the floor… and the engine again fails to respond. We come to a stop again in the road and I reach for the emergency brake as we start rolling backwards… again.
I feel panic try to rise in my chest as I gulp air, take a moment… and then force a smile. I say calmly, "we've stopped again."
Mr. L.A. leads the crowd as I watch them come closer and closer in my side view mirror. Resigned to the moment, I roll my window down and turn to meet him as he approaches. I am out of answers. He looks angry. I don't know what to do. He yells… "what are you trying to do? Why did you move? We had you off the road and now you're blocking it again!"
The hill is now to steep for them to push us up and so he tells me I need to put it in neutral and roll backwards to where we were. The crowd looks angry to me. Again traffic is backed up behind us and the noise begins to grow.
I can't go forward. I can't go backward. We have no way out. How can this be happening? I shut the engine off and roll up the window. I just need a few moments to calm my thoughts. Surely there must be a way out of this. I need to think!
The pounding on our vehicle starts again and more intense than before. Are they trying to help? Are they trying to get to us? Hands are now slamming on the glass. I imagine it shattering… and us being pulled out.
(continue the story here Breakdown in Solola: (3) Get Out of My Way)