Monday, February 28, 2011


by Gina Sestak

We want it in our novels, right?  Conflict, that is.  We pit our characters against each other, against themselves, against nature, against circumstances, against God.  Makes for a good story, but in real life . . .

I had some of that real life conflict this past week.

The snow began on Monday afternoon.  By the time I got out of my Pittsburgh Filmmakers class at 9:00, it was several inches deep.  I drove the two miles home very slowly, slaloming around the slow-covered streets, narrowly missing parked cars and on-coming traffic, and began to relax when I reached my house.   I was reluctant to park on the street for fear of other sliding cars, so I tried pulling into my snow-covered driveway.  Big mistake.  The car slid sideways and came to rest with its front in my barberry hedge, its middle blocking the sidewalk, and its rear sticking out into the street.  I tried to back it out, rock it out, put it in neutral and push.  I shoveled the snow around the car, threw down some salt, and tried again.  Nothing worked.  I conceded defeat and went inside to call AAA.

That began another conflict.  I really needed help getting my car out of the hedge.  By blocking the sidewalk, it was forcing pedestrians out into the street, the realm of sliding cars.  I didn't want to be responsible for anybody getting crushed.  AAA was busy, though, with stranded drivers and fender benders on the highway.  The operator didn't want to send a tow truck to someone whose car was parked at home.   After some discussion, I was able to convince her that my car wasn't parked at home.  It was wrecked at home.  She finally told me, "90 minutes."

I waited.

After nearly an hour and a half, the phone rang, and a man explained his tow truck driver hadn't been able to get up a hill and so they couldn't reach me.  I suggested an alternate route.  He expressed reluctance to respond to a car parked at home.  I went through my story again - the car isn't parked at home.  It's wrecked at home.  He agreed to send somebody.  I wasn't sure if he was really going to do it or if he just wanted to get me off the phone.

I waited.

Another call.  The tow truck had arrived.  A nice young man managed to get the car out of the hedge and positioned it against the curb.  I found the hubcap embedded in the hedge and he put it on the wheel.  All done, right?

Not quite.  The car looked fine the following day, so I drove it to an afternoon class at Pitt.  It looked okay when I came out, but by the time I got home the right front tire - the one that had spent most time in the hedge - was flat.  Another call to AAA.

I waited.

Another nice young man showed up and replaced the flat tire with a funny looking spare.  I took the tire to be repaired.

All told, this conflict ended well.  No one was injured and the damage was minor.  Even the tire survived, a cheap fix ($20).  Now that the car has been removed, the hedge appears to be okay.  And I have a bunch of new experiences to draw on in my writing.

So, how has your week been?


Joyce Tremel said...

Wow, Gina. You have all the adventures!

It's hard to believe all that snow is melted now. When I went out to clear my driveway Tuesday, the snow was up to my knees. Even with our heavy duty snow blower, it took me an hour and a half because the snow was so wet and heavy. I really hope that was the last time I have to do that this season.

Today I'm glad I live on top of a hill. If the water reaches this high, I'd better have an Ark.

PatRemick said...

I've had enough conflict over the past week to fill a novel, which I suppose is the writer's best coping skill! And enough with the snow, too -- another 7 inches this weekend -- talk about the bleak winter!

Gina said...

Joyce -
I live on a hill, too- just over the hump from the top of Negley Avenue. I sometimes joke that, for my house to flood, most of Southwestern Pennsylvania would have to be under water.
Pat -
I've had other conflicts this week, too, including some intense discussions with co-writers that I had intended to write about in this post, but by the time I got to the end of the snow story I figured the post was long enough. Besides, the co-writer conflicts were amicable - we all want this screenplay to be good!

clphillips787 said...

You are bringing back fond memories, Gina. During a snowstorm in STL, I nearly drove through my dining room window. The car slid sideways down the steep driveway, coming to rest 0.25 inches from the stone mailbox. Car sideways in the double driveway, snow everywhere.

Next morning? Every one of my neighbors drove by pointing at my car and giggling.

So glad you were in a warm and safe place when you buried your car in the hedge.

Ramona said...

No snow here, and I went to two writerly events this weekend. The last one was a mystery writer's talk at the public library, for free, and she had us do a very fun exercise. It was fabulous! And did I mention, no snow?

I'll bet you're all jealous. Well, that's conflict. ;-)

Jenna said...

No snow here for the past few weeks, but we're having severe thunderstorms today. And I had five eight-year-old boys sleeping over for a birthday party on Friday. Talk about conflict.

Gina said...

Jennie -
We had those thunder storms last night and this morning - an odd time of year for them. I was really wondering whether or not the power would stay on long enough for me to post to the blog this morning.
Capaloha -
Glad your wreck was minor, too, and right at home.

Dave S. said...

Gina, an ordeal, all right, though as you point out, no injuries and minimal property damage and expense.

So what I'm wondering about is why, though many (most?) people would gladly minimize the conflict in their lives, they (we) yet seek it out in books and movies. 'Course I'm not the first to propose this, but maybe part of the appeal's that
with a book or movie we can exert some measure of control over the conflict: We can always close the book or leave the multiplex -- not so in real life.
-- Dave

Gina said...

Dave -
There's a theory that one purpose of dreams is to 'rehearse' potentially dangerous things so we are prepared for them in waking reality. IMHO, books and movies are like dreams in many ways, so one reasons we want to see/read about conflict may be so we have some idea what to expect if conflict arises in our own lives. Of course, there's also the adrenaline rush when we witness intense conflicts in movies or even read about them in books. That's exciting, and we tend to experience excitement as fun, particularly when it's perceived to be 'safe,' i.e., unable to get to us physically because it's on a movie screen or in a book.

NancyM said...

I went to Home Depot for paint samples that cost me $9. Since I was already out, I went to get some soup for lunch--but I hit a pothole. Flat tire---$236. Those were some expensive paint samples!!

Sorry for your trouble, Gina. Not just the wrecked car, but all the stress.--It really takes a toll.