Alphabet Challenge: S

I’ve signed onto The Blogging from A to Z April Challenge 2021.

The challenge is to blog the whole alphabet in April and write at least 100 words on a topic that corresponds to the letter of the day. 

Every day, excluding Sundays, I’m blogging about Places I Have Been. The last post will be on Friday, April 30 when I finally focus on the letter Z. 

S: San Francisco

Emergency runaway ramp

We left the Grand Canyon in early afternoon. As we began our descent into Death Valley, the sun slid behind the hills. The car started to pick up speed. Penny screamed, “the brakes aren’t working.”  She gripped the wheel, giving all of her attention to keeping the car on the road. On one side of us loomed the granite facade of the mountain. On the other a drop-off to the valley below. As the car continued to accelerate, Carol Ann and I grasped hands and prayed. Miraculously, Penny jerked the car off to the right onto an emergency runaway ramp. We slowed down. When the car stopped, we sat silently as we realized we hadn’t died. 

Penny, Carol Ann and I had graduated from St. Peter’s School of Nursing the previous year. We promised that we would work as hospital nurses for a year and then move to San Francisco to live. We left New Jersey in Carol Ann’s second-hand car in September 1963. We had driven cross country along Route 66 from New Jersey. On the way, Carol Ann’s old jalopy had to be serviced many times: two flat tires, overheated engine and now, after our close call, a garage in Lone Pine, California, where the car was towed, would fix the brakes.

We arrived in San Francisco, our final destination, on a sunny autumn day. Our bags were in the trunk. We were headed to the YMCA in the Tenderloin district where we had rented the “penthouse.” 

On the first hill in San Francisco, the car stalled. Penny was behind the wheel. She couldn’t seem to put the stick shift into gear. We sat looking down the steep decline in front of us. I sat in the middle of the front seat and Carol Ann sat next to the door, just as we had as we careened down the mountain days before. My hands started to sweat. Carol Ann must have felt as I did because she opened the door and jumped out of the car. I followed. Standing beside the car, we both watched helplessly as Penny sat frozen. The cars behind her started to honk. I knew I couldn’t climb back into the car to help. Neither could Carol Ann.

Poor Penny was behind the wheel again. Before we could figure out what to do, a guy standing on the sidewalk sized up the situation. He jogged over and opened the driver’s door. Wordless, he grabbed the wheel. When he put his foot on the brake, Penny slid out of the car. He slipped into first gear and drove the car down the steep street, waiting for us to join him at the bottom. 

The next day Carol Ann sold the car.

Penny began dating the fellow who came to our rescue.

I decided I didn’t want to live in San Francisco and, after a few months, went home—by plane. 

By Marianna Crane

After a long career in nursing--I was one of the first certified gerontological nurse practitioners--I am now a writer. My writings center around patients I have had over the years that continue to haunt my memory unless I record their stories. In addition, I write about growing older, confronting ageism, creativity and food. My memoir, "Stories from the Tenth Floor Clinic: A Nurse Practitioner Remembers" is available where ever books are sold.


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