Every so often, a book comes along that redefines your notion of literature. The Worst-Case Scenario: Cars is not that book, but it does teach you how to drive down a flight of stairs. What more do you really need?
Admit it: You have always wanted to learn how to properly bail out of a car; you do not know how to parallel-park an eighteen-wheeler; and every time you try to relieve yourself behind the wheel, you end up with unsightly stains all over your pants.
First off, unless you're running from the cops or involved in some sort of transcontinental speed project, you should probably lay off the in-car leakage. It's rarely worth the time, and rest stops have both restrooms and vending machines full of candy and caffeine, and we love candy and caffeine, and hell, that ought to be reason enough. (If three pounds of Skittles and a gallon of Dr. Pepper can't make I-80 interesting at three in the morning, then we don't know what can.) A pee stop in the bush is worth two in the hand, and you cannot make mileage lemons from lemonade. Or something.
That said, the truth is kind of painful: You will probably never have to bail out of a car, and if you're parallel-parking a tractor-trailer, then you are most decidedly Doing It Wrong. But in true Jalopnik fashion, these things should not stop you from learning how to do either. Thankfully, David Borgenicht and Ben H. Winters have written a small book that aims to help.
The fruit of their efforts, published by Chronicle Books, is about the size of a Sony Walkman. (Remember those?) Its 94 pages are devoted to helping you survive a handful of automotive problems. Solutions are presented in a straightforward, easy-to-read fashion, and they are accompanied by a handful of charmingly irreverent illustrations. The text is lively and informative. The pictures are fun. The chapters have headings like "You and Your Fellow Drivers: @#$&*%!" and "Driving Extremes: Looks Easier in the Movies." The instructions cover everything from how to brace for accidental impact to how to drive in a hurricane. In short, this tiny tome is about as Jalopnik as instruction manuals get. Read it. Keep it close. Prepare for unexpected doom.
A final note: We don't normally do this, but we were so taken by Borgenicht and Winters's book that we obtained permission to republish a few pages. We also convinced each of the book's authors to provide us with a small, Jalopnik-tailored autobiography. You can find both below. Enjoy!
David Borgenicht is the president and publisher of Quirk Books and the co-author of all the books in the Worst-Case Scenario series. The first car he drove was an orange Volkswagen Vanagon with a pop-up top, a steering wheel the size of a ship's helm, and a broken heater. His grandfather had it outfitted with a steel tire holder in front, primarily to protect his family if they ran into a cow, and he's been interested in automotive worst-case scenarios ever since.
Ben Winters is a writer and playwright and the co-author of several Worst-Case Scenario pocket guides. He claims to have always loved cars but says he as never been a "car guy." In writing W-CS: Cars he got to talk to a lot of surly mechanic and stunt guy types and cajole them into sharing their knowledge. Ben's first car was a Chrysler E-Class that told him in a stern paternalistic voice when the door was ajar. In the winter, he and his brother used to drive it to school without the snow scraped off, "cuz we were too lazy to wake up 10 minutes earlier to do it. Couldn't see anything; It was like driving in a coffin."
The publisher provided Jalopnik with a copy of this book for review. We are not giving it back. If you want one for your very own, hit up your local bookseller. Chronicle Books, $7.95.