This is a hoot and a real treat for Christmas, made all the better because it is entirely true. It takes a bit of getting through, but stick with it. It’s worth it, I promise.
A few Christmases back I was delegated to buy the family Christmas Tree, and, as is my habit, I kept putting it off until it was almost too late. Every day I would pass a little grocery shop on my way to work where the owner had piled a load of Christmas trees on the pavement for sale.
One morning a couple of days before Christmas I was on my way to work when I noticed he only had half a dozen left. I realised I had to buy it that day or I’d miss out and the children would have to do without a proper tree on the big day.
Later that afternoon I bunked off work a couple of hours early and set off for the shop. It had been bitterly cold and as I pulled out of the car park it started snowing heavily. In fact it was nothing short of a blizzard.
Readers from outside the UK should understand that we usually have pretty mild winters, with the result that on the rare occasion when we are hit by severe weather, we are entirely unprepared, and everything grinds to a halt.
It took me an hour and a half to make the 20-minute journey and by the time I arrived there was what can only be described as a ‘white out’ with five inches of snow covering everything.
In those days (and I’m going to show my age here, I’m afraid) I drove a little mushroom-coloured Fiat Uno that we Christened Bruno the Uno. I realised during this journey that I forgotten to fit the roof rack, so the only way of getting the tree home was to cram it inside the car. Should be fun, I thought.
I parked Bruno in a large supermarket car park opposite the row of shops where the grocer’s shop was situated and legged it over the road just as he was shutting up for the night.
As luck had it, he had just one tree left and I bought it. The bad news was that it was an eight foot bedraggled monster that was already dropping its needles.
The snow was coming in horizontally now driven by a bitter wind, and I was wearing a light jacket, no hat or gloves and office shoes. I hoisted the tree on my shoulder and slipped and slithered back across the street to the car park. I fancy I looked like an extra in a Frank Capra movie, but what happened next was stranger than even Hollywood fiction.
I was pretty wet and very cold by the time I reached the car. I leant the tree against the tailgate, brushed some of the snow from the driver’s door and tried to open it. No luck. The key wouldn’t turn.
Bugger! I thought.
The locks must have frozen. I took the key out and breathed on it to warm it up in the hope that would thaw the lock. I tried again and after a fair bit of fiddling finally got the door open.
I leant across and opened the passenger door and then went around the back to open the tailgate. Again the key wouldn’t turn and it took a good ten minutes of breathing on the key and jiggling it in the lock before I managed to open it.
I placed the tree trunk first in the car and shoved it as far as I could. Then I went around to the passenger door and pulled on the trunk until it was hard up against the windscreen. When I went back to the tailgate there was still three feet of tree sticking out the back and I had to bend it gently inside the car and snap the tailgate shut before the tree sprang back.
Mission accomplished, I then jumped into the driver’s seat. The tree virtually filled the car and I had to push away some branches in order to get in. I couldn’t see out of the back or side of the car because of this thick forest of Norwegian pine.
I put the key in the ignition and tried to start the car. Nothing! Buggering bugger! I took the key out and looked at it. It seemed fine so I tried again. Nothing. It wasn’t just that the engine wouldn’t start, but I couldn’t even get the key to turn.
I hammered the steering wheel in frustration. Then something caught my attention. Hanging from the rear view mirror was one of those little traffic light air fresheners. I looked it for a moment as it swung gently before my puzzled face. I didn’t remember seeing that before.
Then I looked around. Strange alien items swam into vision. The ‘Please fasten your seatbelt’ sign, the St Christopher’s medal, the pack of chewing gum. With a mounting horror that drained the blood from my face it dawned on me that this wasn’t my car!
I jumped out of the car as though my bum was on fire. I pushed some more snow off the bonnet. Right make, right model, right colour, right year. I cleared the snow from the number plate – oh no!!! – not the right car!
I looked along the row of parked cars and sure enough, three spaces down, there was the unmistakable, snow-covered, outline of Bruno.
At this point I perhaps should explain to younger readers that this was before central locking, security deadlocks and fancy transponders. In those days you got a single key that opened all the doors and started the engine. When the key was worn it became useless as a security measure. On more than one occasion, for example, I managed to start Bruno using my front door key. So what happened isn’t as far fetched as it might seem.
I stood for a couple of moments trying to swallow down the rising panic and wondering what to do. I mean how do I even begin trying to explain to the owner what I’d done when he or she came out of the supermarket?
Instead I opened the passenger door and began to drag the tree out by the trunk. I was none too gentle and by the time I’d yanked it free, it had deposited a bucket-load of needles inside the car.
I ran around to Bruno, opened the tailgate and repeated the loading operation – but with the right car this time.
For an instant I reasoned that maybe I should wait and at least attempt an explanation. Then I thought better of it. This was not the most salubrious part of town and I’d be lucky to escape with my teeth intact.
Instead, I drove off. But before I left I did the cruellest thing of all – I locked the dumb car!
I did this with the right intentions – to make it secure from thieves – but I now realise, that for the owner it must have added a new baffling layer of mystery to whole bizarre episode.
When I got home my wife and I laughed about it for a week. Every time I caught her eye, we’d burst out laughing. Even today I have a fit of the giggles when I think about it.
And I’m sure that somewhere there is a bloke who every Christmas looks at his wife and says: “Remember that time when we got back to the car after shopping to find it locked but ankle deep in pine needles. Now wasn’t that weird!
True story – honest!
Taken from a blog entry — used without permission (but we’re still trying). Too good of a story to pass up! — Editor