Always Watch Behind You - Part 2
April 16, 2013
This week we take a look at the Success lessons learned from the blown engine.
With the motor hanging from an engine hoist in the garage, we worked on the Chevelle for the better part of two weeks. Since the engine was out and torn down, dad figured it was best to go ahead and replace valves and piston rings to save on future repairs. So we worked on the Chevelle in our garage and finally remounted the engine. After hooking everything back up, it started on the first crank, a new lease on life. There was that fabulous V8 sound again!
If anything, the performance had INCREASED. Whatever additional things dad had done to the engine while it was being rebuilt, it seemed to give it even more power than before.
Life returned to relative "normalcy" with the hustle and bustle of school, family obligations and fun time. It was several months later, with the rebuild as a distant memory, that the Chevelle's life came to an end.
I had installed a CB radio in the Chevelle by that time. My friend Todd Brush was riding in the passenger seat. To test the "effectiveness" of the radio, we drove to the top of the highest point in the county, to try to radio down into the valley to another friend who had his own CB rig in his car. It had to be better when one car was a lot higher than the other car, right? The experiment in CB radio technology would be the undoing of the Chevelle.
Cresting the hill along the road at the highest point in the entire county, and slowly starting down the other side, I keyed the microphone and called to the other car, awaiting his response. Suddenly there was a blinding flash, a loud noise and both Todd and I lost consciousness for a few seconds. Struck by a bolt of lightning?
DESTROYED IN AN INSTANT
While we were slowing over the crest making the radio call, another car came flying over the hill behind us, traveling and estimated 65 mph on a road that was 35 mph. We had slowed to maybe 25. We estimated the convergent speed at near 40 mph. Try running into a parked car at 40 mph without hitting the brakes, and you can get an idea of the impact. It was severe and destructive.
Todd had no seatbelt on, and upon impact, when the passenger seatback broke, he was thrown into what was left of the back seat as the Chevelle spun around and ultimately rolled into the ditch. The incoming car had pushed the Chevelle's trunk up into the back seat area.
Two cars were totaled and could not be moved.
We rolled out of what was left of the destroyed Chevelle and tried to help the lone female occupant in the car who had hit us. Other than being completely dazed and a few cuts and bruises, we were okay. She, on the other hand, was barely coherent and bleeding from having struck the windshield at impact.
Leaving Todd with the injured girl, I managed to walk the mile to the nearest farm house. The family was great, called the police, and drove me back to the scene. It started to dawn on me as the police arrived that I had driven the Chevelle for the last time. It would be a long time before I was able to afford another car.
The girl was not seriously injured (thank God) and neither were Todd and I. We simply tore up two very good cars. The Chevelle was towed to a junk yard, where it sat and rusted as other guys took parts off of her for years. It has long since been crushed and recycled.
THREE SUCCESS LESSONS LEARNED
LESSON #1: PAY ATTENTION TO SURROUNDINGS
Had I been paying attention both the first and second time, I could have saved it. As the motor began to heat, at the first sign of steam, I could have pulled over and saved the Chevelle's engine. Being a stupid kid who looked in the mirror once every five hours, I missed the first signs of steam rolling out the back and overheating ... and it cost me. Always pay attention to your surroundings. Become acutely aware.
LESSON #2: BE A DEFENSIVE EXPERT
I could have pulled over and attempted to make the call. Staying on the road at a reduced speed (although legal) was ultimately the reason we got hit from behind. The girl was cited for "Failure to maintain assured clear distance ahead," while I was given a reprimand by the cop for getting hit from behind, going too slowly. What I learned from this was to always expect folks to do the wrong thing at the worst possible moment -- and at the same time I may be doing the wrong thing. When I slowed over the hill, I TRUSTED that anyone behind me would also be slowing up as they crested that hill. Wrong. Expect others around you to make the wrong moves -- and always be on guard for, prepared for -- and to control as best you can -- their wrong moves too. Maintain a way out, an exit plan once you size up the situation.
LESSON #3: DISTRACTIONS CAN BE DEADLY
The Chevelle could be here today had I not allowed myself to be distracted. I made a choice to slow down and key that microphone, taking my senses off the most important thing - driving the car. Today, I watch as folks drift from lane to lane on the expressway as they try to text and drive. Please put that phone down. Take it from a guy who learned that lesson as a teenager and long before there were such things as cell phones!
As I read through the lessons learned as the Chevelle, it occurs to me that your career can benefit from the same experiences. Pay attention to what you are doing in your career, be defensive and have an "exit" plan when and if you want or need to, and thirdly, do not get distracted from the job at hand.
Hopefully, you never have to learn such a difficult lesson, taking this Success Tips article and applying it to your own life or career without having to endure such a series of events. But all in all, looking back on it, I am not sure I would have changed a thing. Eventually I ended up with a 1972 Chevelle, which may have been even better than the one I totaled.
If you owned a car that was built in the 1960s or 1970s, you understand this article, and you are my friend.