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Dear Matt:

My friends and I were talking and started wondering how to escape a sinking car. In the movie stunt people seem to escape with ease, yet in newspaper articles it seems that many people are unable to do it. So, is it possible to escape a sinking car?

-- Gurgle, gurgle, gurgle, the Net

No offense, Gurgles, but MOVIES ARE NOT REAL LIFE. Stunt people escape from cars in movies because they are paid a whole bunch of money to know how to set up the gag so it goes smoothly. They have safety equipment and specially rigged vehicles, and the assistance of clever camera angles and film editing. And MOVIES ARE NOT REAL LIFE. Sorry for shouting.

Apparently you'd like to be hyper-prepared for any emergency, so laminate these instructions and hang them from the rear view, right next to that dumb cardboard pine tree, so you can refer to them as the rushing water climbs past your door handles.

When I posed this question to a member of the San Diego Lifeguards River Rescue Team, he sighed and said, from local experience, the best thing to do is leave the roadblocks in place and don't drive into raging torrents of flood water. I suggested that the question undoubtedly came from a carload of boneheads who could not be counted on to do the sensible thing. And he goes, "Well, there are so many variables. It's hard to state any rules." And I go, "So, like, give it a shot." And he goes, "Well, it really depends..." And I go "I'll make it worth your while." And he goes, "Open the downstream window [break it, roll it down], climb onto the car roof, and stay with it until help comes."

So I go, "Well, what if you're, like, in the tules? Nothing but vultures for miles, man." So he goes, "I hate to say this is always the best thing to do, because it really depends on conditions. But if you decide you have to make a break for it, float on your back with your feet pointed downstream, point your head on an angle to the closest shore, and backstroke. With your feet pointed downstream, you can fend off any debris you encounter, because the force of the water will still be carrying you in that direction." So I go, "Like, thanks, man," and hung up before he reported me as a crank caller. So, Gurgles, I guess the answer to your question is, carry a big hammer in the glove compartment.

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