One of my recurring dreams as a child was that I was riding in the back seat of the car when my father drove to choir practice at church, then because he was arriving late he jumped out of the car without taking time to stop the car. From the back seat I had to try to climb into the driver’s seat and figure out how to stop the car. I don’t remember ever actually managing to get my foot on the brake, but I don’t remember crashing either – I must always have awakened during those moments of panic.
A six-year-old boy in Nebraska recently found himself in a situation where he had to take the driver’s seat when his father passed out from low blood sugar. He evidently didn’t know how to stop the truck (probably, like me in my dream, his leg wasn’t long enough to reach the break), so instead he steered the car as it idled along at an estimated 10-15 mph. That approach never occurred to me in my dreams – of course I didn’t have the advantage of being able to sit in my father’s lap so I could see out through the windshield.
My dreams also never had any alert policemen around. Officer Freeze noticed the youthful driver, ran after and caught up with the truck, reached through the open window and slammed the gearshift into park. Tustin had been driving pretty well for a six-year-old, but he was very happy to be relieved of his unexpected responsibility.
I’ve had a few dreams as an adult where I’ve somehow forgotten to put the car in park before getting out. I see the car moving and chase it, trying to figure out how to stop it (sometimes with a young child in the back seat, but I don’t remember that he ever climbs into the front seat to drive). Unfortunately I never drive with my window wide open, either waking or sleeping, so reaching in to grab the gearshift isn’t an option. And in my dreams, the boy in the back seat doesn’t climb into the front.
I’ve wondered sometimes how well I would react in an emergency that really tested my bravery, such as witnessing an accident where I would need to risk my life to save someone from a car that was on fire or had gone underwater. I hope I would react with as much presence of mind, and willingness to do something that seemed like it might be too hard for me, as young Tustin did.