Storyworth: What’s the Dumbest Thing You’ve Ever Done?

| February 6, 2022 | 0 Comments

The VW on the Beach

It’s an overcast, cold day in May in the mid-70s.  I’m in my twenties, standing on Humarock Beach in Scituate, Mass.  I’m looking at my pride and joy.  A recently acquired cherry red Volkswagen Beetle in perfect condition.  Not a scratch on it….yet.  

It is completely surrounded by water, sunk in the wet sand up to its axles.  And the tide is coming in.  I’m psychologically preparing myself for the fact that it will likely be washed out to sea and trying to figure out how I’m going to explain this to the insurance company so the will pay the claim and I’ll be able to pay off the car loan I’d taken out to buy it.

This was during what I like to call my “lost decade,” because I was lost professionally, psychologically, academically, spiritually, etc., etc.  I had joined a group of neighborhood friends who rented a cottage right on the beach for the month of May.  It was about a forty minute drive from Boston, so it was easy for us to visit and stay over, without necessarily taking time off from work.  And it was technically off-season, so cheap enough that we could afford it.

On this day, there were about five of us in the cottage and it was decidedly not a beach day.  Cloudy and cool.  With nothing else to do, we decided to play a drinking game where you drink a shot a beer a minute.  That’s it.  That’s the game.  Just drink beer.  I’ll do the math for you.  60 one-ounce shots means you drink five 12-ounce cans of beer in one hour.  Utterly reckless.  Don’t try this at home.  I’m only revealing this publicly because both my kids are older now that I was then and are much, much more responsible drinkers than I was.

At some point, we ran out of beer and Jimmy and I took my new red VW bug to the liquor store to get more.  Jimmy drove.  I’d like to think that was because Jimmy was not participating in the game and that this reflected at least one example of responsible behavior.  But I don’t remember for sure and it would have been out of character for us on that day.

On the way back, we were passing an entryway that allowed access to the beach, though cars were not allowed.  Since this was a gloomy, off-season day, there was literally no one on the beach.   We decided it would be a cool idea to drive onto the beach and wave to the other guys in the cottage as we drove by.  

So, Jimmy drove up onto the sandy beach.  The tide was out at the time, so I suggested Jimmy drive down near the water on the wet sand, which I assumed would be firmer and easier to drive on than the dry loose sand nearer the cottages along the beach (See picture above).  

As we drove along the wet sand near the surf, we honked the horn to get the other guys to come out on the back deck to see this cool thing we were doing.  But they didn’t hear us.  So, we stopped the car on the sand about 50 yards from the back of the cottage, but close to the water’s edge.  As we kept honking, we didn’t realize that the car was slowly sinking.  By the time the other guys came out and saw what hot shits we were, the car had sunk and was sitting on the chassis on the sand.  It was immovable.  When we tried to drive off, the back wheels just spun without effect.  

Uh oh.

Once they stopped laughing, the guys from the cottage came running down to try to help us move the car.  It wouldn’t budge.  We tried everything, pushing, pulling, lifting, rocking.  Nothing worked.  It was totally stuck in the sand as though in concrete.  

And then we noticed that the tide was coming in.   But it didn’t wash over the car, as you might expect.  The water surrounded the car.  It turned out we were on a sandbar.  So, after a little while, the car was on an island, completely surrounded by seawater.  And the longer we struggled to move the car, the smaller the island got.

Miraculously, at one point, we did finally get the car to move.  And we still had a bit of runway on the sandbar.  That was the good news.  The bad news was that we’d have to drive it through two feet of water to get it to dry sand.  We didn’t.  It stopped when we hit the water.  

Then, I had an idea. It was a brilliant, but desperate idea.  To quote the great sage, the Grinch, “A wonderful, awful idea.”  It was the idea that inspired the title of this article.  I suggested we roll the car sideways through the water and flip it back on its tires on the dry sand.  What could go wrong?

Did I mention that I’d had five beers in one hour before I came up with this idea?

So, that’s what we did.  Unfortunately, I hadn’t accurately calculated the circumference of the car.  As a result, when we flipped it, it plopped right into the water.  Didn’t make it to the dry sand.  Now, the car was off the sandbar and in two feet of water.

And the tide was still coming in, as the tide is wont to do.

Also, the roof of my beautiful cherry red pristine VW Beetle was completely crushed, as though a boulder had landed on it.  

Our next plan was to wrap a strong rope around the front axle and all of us pull it out.  My buddy Flip C. dove under the car and tied the rope to the axle.  Then we all grabbed a piece of the rope and pulled.  Of course, we all ended up splashing around in the water.  And the car didn’t move.

And the tide kept coming in.

At that point, off in the distance, we saw a four-wheel drive pickup truck making its way along the beach to us.  Presumably, the driver had gotten all the entertainment he could stand, watching this scene unfold, and decided to take pity and come to the rescue.  He connected a chain to the car and pulled it up onto dry sand in about 30 seconds.  Jimmy jumped back into the driver’s seat, put the key in, turned it and the car started right up.  He drove it out to the street.   Could have been a VW commercial.  “You Can’t Drown a Beetle!”

When we got back to the cottage, we sat around commiserating.  I moaned that, on top of everything else, my Nikon camera, which was in the car, got doused in saltwater and ruined when we rolled the VW.  One of my buddies said, “Didn’t you roll up the windows before we flipped it?”

I answered petulantly, “Of course, I rolled up the windows.  What? Do you think I’m an idiot?”


As bad as this experience was, things got worse.  I now had to drive this car around my neighborhood in Boston.  There was sand in every crevice.  One door wouldn’t open at all.  It was a wreck.  And it had a caved in roof that screamed to everybody who saw it, “This car is owned by a total moron who drove it onto the beach, got stuck, rolled it over and almost watched it get swept out to sea.”  As I drove around, I imagined everybody on the sidewalk pointing and laughing.  When I would hang with my buddies, they knew not to bring the incident up, because I would storm away in anger.  I can only imagine the hilarity with which it was discussed when I was not in the room. It was humiliating.

Relief came when, one late night about 3 months later, another car sideswiped me on a curvy road in Roslindale and drove away.  Despite rumors to the contrary, I did not hire a hitman to take out my car.  This accident allowed me to make an conventional insurance claim without risking ending up in one of those Farmers Insurance adds where they describe some bizarre claim that they reimbursed.

The adjuster came to my house to look at the damage.  As you might guess, his gaze was drawn to the damaged roof, which he knew was not caused by a sideswipe.  I had tried to patch the roof with auto body filler to smooth it out.  I didn’t work.  Still looked like hell.  He said “What happened there?”  

I said, “Well, a tree limb fell on it and I figured I’d try to fix it and save you guys some money.”  He looked at me skeptically but didn’t press the issue.  He probably didn’t encounter many people claiming to try to save money for insurance companies.  But, whatever…

In end, he declared the car totaled.  The payment was almost exactly the amount I owed on my car loan.  I broke even.  Case closed.

Lessons Learned

Even the worst experience can teach life lessons.  These are the lessons I learned from this experience…

*   Don’t drink five beers in one hour
*   Don’t drive after drinking five beers in one hour and especially don’t drive to the liquor store for more beer
*   Don’t drive your car on the beach
*   If you get stuck, don’t roll the car over

I’m happy to report that, in the fifty years since this incident, I’ve lived up to every one of those lessons.


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