Ready, Set, Roll!

Auto emergency brake

​Give me a brake.

Like most teenagers, Bruce’s road to auto expertise wasn’t without a few potholes. At sixteen, LendingTree Autos’ business development manager was not quite the driver he is today. To be fair, many of his early blunders can be chalked up to the car he was learning in — the old family station wagon. 

“I remember countless times when I got stuck on the smallest hills because I couldn’t pop the clutch and get the gas pedal down in time,” Bruce said. “It was always a struggle.” 

But Bruce had been practicing. He (and his passengers) were finally beginning to feel comfortable in the old Volkswagen Dasher. So when his parents went out of town for the day, leaving Bruce home alone, he saw the perfect opportunity for redemption.

He set out on the road and put his skills to the test — he didn’t even stall out once. 

After a few miles of successful cruising, Bruce carefully pulled into his family’s circular driveway. He parked the vehicle, grabbed the keys and triumphantly walked into the house. Everything was exactly where it was supposed to be.

A few hours later, Bruce noticed that something felt off. He peeked out the window and had to do a double take when he didn’t see the Dasher in the driveway. But a second look didn’t provide any more clarity — the car had completely vanished.

“Of course there were no cell phones back then, so I couldn’t ask for help,” he said. “I was really freaking out.”

The next few hours were some of the longest hours of his life. Bruce sat anxiously, waiting for his parents to arrive — half hoping for their help, wholly fearing their reaction.

Needless to say, they were not happy with this welcome gift. The family frantically tried to piece everything together. Was the vehicle stolen? Were Bruce’s friends playing a prank? Did they need to call the police?!

By now, the sun had gone down and everyone had abandoned all hope. But Bruce wasn’t ready to give up — before his parents reported the vehicle stolen he thought it was time to take matters into his own hands. So he grabbed a flashlight from the closet, mustered up all the optimism he had left and walked out the front door.
“We lived on a hilly street with lots of woods around the house,” Bruce said. “I figured it couldn’t hurt to try.”

Bruce trekked down the driveway, his flashlight shining a solitary beam of hope through the darkness. He aimed the light deep into the woods and was greeted by the red glow of the Dasher’s rear brake reflectors — at the bottom of a ravine 50 yards below.

“Relief and dread overtook me at the same time,” Bruce laughed. He began his walk of shame back into the house, ready to accept the blame. 
“Looking back, I still don’t know what caused the car to roll,” he said. “But I probably forgot to pull up the parking brake.” How the vehicle managed to get away without leaving any clues behind is still a mystery. 

“No bushes were taken out and I didn’t hear a thing,” he said. “It was crazy.”

The next morning, the tow truck showed up to retrieve the runaway car, with a long enough cable to reach down into the ravine. 

“Watching them pull it out was terrifying,” Bruce said. “We didn’t know how much damage it had taken.”

Bruce cringed as the car neared the top of the hill, expecting dents, broken glass and scuffed paint. But the Dasher emerged spotless. There wasn’t so much as a single scratch. 

“Miraculously it hadn’t hit any trees on the way down,” Bruce said.

Although the car survived, Bruce’s driving privileges didn’t — his parents put him on a well-deserved temporary probation.

He’s back behind the wheel now, and in terms of another driveway dash, Bruce is out of the woods.

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