You know how 60 minutes runs those awful stories about babies and children being locked inside a hot car?
You know how Oprah interviewed that poor woman who accidentally left her baby in the car and only had the realisation at lunch time?
And you know that meat video?
Matt Moran illustrates how a car in the sun quickly becomes an oven.
Last Friday, I was that meat.
It was the Christmas party for a school where I worked for most of this year. I worked with my mum, which probably indicates some kind of attachment issues. It’s a Catholic school so we were to first attend a Mass and then go to another venue for lunch.
I slept in, because, I always sleep in. And probably also because I was subconsciously trying to get out of Mass, but that’s another story.
I was running late, so once we got to the school in Western Sydney (which is approximately 15 degrees hotter than anywhere else in Sydney at any given time) all the undercover parking was taken.
As a result we had to park on an asphalt basketball court right in the middle of the playground. At this point, it was nearing 30 degrees.
I still had some mascara to apply so mum jumped out of the car because she was so excited about Mass, and I told her I’d be 30 seconds behind her. Or so I thought.
Instinctively mum clicked the ‘lock’ button on the keys as she walked away. Ordinarily this wouldn’t be an issue.
I spent a minute putting on some mascara, and then as sweat trickled down my back, realised it was time to beat the heat and get out of the car. I attempted to open the door. It was locked. I attempted to unlock it. But it was jammed.
I should disclose that I am extremely claustrophobic and also susceptible to the odd panic attack, two qualities that make it an uncomfortable experience to be locked in a hot car.
I took a deep breath and tried to relax. I tried the driver’s seat door and then the passenger seat doors. All the locks were jammed.
My phone also happened to be out of battery. There were cars on either side of me, and I had virtually no visibility to the street.
I am 25 years old and my mother had just locked me in a car.
My first thought was obviously: “I am going to die in a car. What an unheroic, pathetic death.” I actually thought that. Then I wondered how one actually dies in a car. Will I suffocate? Burn to death? Will my skin melt off? Will I cook just like the meat?
My knowledge base compiled exclusively from 60 minutes and Oprah did nothing to calm my rising panic. I remember hearing that if it’s 30 degrees outside, the inside temperature of the car can double within half an hour. According to my maths, that’s 60 degrees.
I looked to see if there was some latch in the boot that might let me out. There wasn’t. I then decided to start punching the window to see if it would break. This was stupid in retrospect. But panic is not rational.
When that didn’t work I went full Bear Grylls. I didn’t drink my own urine but two more minutes later and I probably would have. I searched for a tool. My coffee cup probably wouldn’t help, nor would my mascara tube which I now very much resented.
Under the seat I found a steel water bottle which I had never seen before in my life. Perhaps it was a gift from God for at least attempting to go to Mass that day.
I smashed the window about 10 times with the steel water bottle. There I was with absolutely no chill, bashing out a window because I had been locked in a car at 25 years old in 30 degree heat. This image of me has since made my friends’ Christmas.
The feeling when that window shattered had to be similar to what that guy who was stuck on a life boat for 47 days felt when he was rescued. Or the guy who hacked off his own arm with a pocketknife. Even though I had probably been stuck in this car for 10 minutes, it felt like 47 days. It was a Christmas miracle.
But just as the man who believed he was ‘rescued’ turned out to be captured by the Japanese enemy, my ordeal too had not ended. In case you missed it, I had just SMASHED A CAR WINDOW to escape being LOCKED IN A CAR at 25 YEARS OLD before a CHRISTMAS PARTY. Now that I had saved my own life, I had to come with terms how completely uncool I’d just been.
Just as I broke the window, a car drove into the car park. They came over and inquired if I was okay, and I tried to say, as totally laid back as I could “Oh yeah, I’m sweet. I just got locked in the car and knocked the window out but I’m fine now.” One of the teachers said to me “Are you sure? You’re bleeding on your leg.” Ah yes, the glass had cut me as I was CRAWLING OUT OF THE WINDOW.
After the Mass ended (which I did attend, because you know, I was thankful to be alive), I headed back to the car to find about 15 teachers surrounding the broken glass, terrified that there had been a break in. I explained…and then I was the talk of the Christmas party.
Upon relaying this story, I have received some ‘next time your locked in a car’ advice, which would have been slightly more useful at 10:15am on Friday. I should have beeped the horn, I shouldn’t have punched the window – I could have cut an artery, I should have kicked out the window just like in the movies and apparently the back windscreen can be pushed out.
So don’t lock babies or children or dogs or GROWN ADULTS in a car, especially in summer, because from first hand experience, it does, in fact, get really hot really fast. The body temperature of babies and dogs rise significantly faster than ours, hence why they are at greater risk. For many this doesn’t end with a funny story – I’m just lucky my experience did.