One of my colleagues picked up the sledgehammer that was almost as long as my leg (I’m 5’9) and started swinging it around a little. The rest of us had gone quiet and then discovered that we were already standing back at a sensible distance. The hammer left his hand and flew towards the cars, landing with a resounding thud on the hood. Cheers and laughter filled the air.
No, this wasn’t vandalism, it was a completely legal event. We arrived at an enormous scrapyard for recycling old cars outside of town and I listened as the man behind the counter we’d approached made a phone call asking to bring over three cars for smashing, like it was an everyday request. A few minutes later my eyes popped as he carted over a shopping trolley containing several sets of gloves, protective goggles and a few very long sledgehammers.
With the same nonchalant air we were given instructions on where to go next. Did we need to speak to someone once we got there? No. Did we need to pay attention to anything specific? No, not really, except when we smashed glass. Did we have a time limit? Nah, we could keep going until closing time. OK…Did we perhaps need to sign something, I was dying to ask, but we felt like we should just go.
Walking past layer upon layer of crumpled cars with missing windows and plenty of dents, piled high like walls on either side of us, I was immediately reminded, somewhat unsettlingly, of that scene in Disney’s The Lion King when Simba and Nala sneak off to the elephant graveyard. But hey, the sun was shining and I had a badass sledgehammer at my disposal.
We actually saw our three booked cars being dropped off in the area we were to remain in. Standing under the summer sun, everyone seemed a bit hesitant at first. We busied ourselves with dividing gloves, goggles and discovering how heavy those sledgehammers actually were. Then after a while we got in to the swing of things (no pun intended) and seamlessly knew what to do. The freedom of not having to clean up afterwards helped a lot as well.
We started with this:
And ended with this:
Propelled by a desire to have a moment for myself first and test out my grip on the impressive sledgehammer in my hands slightly further away from the group, I circled to the back of one of the cars and positioned myself to the side of the rear window. I knew the protective goggles were placed securely over my glasses, that the thick gloves weren’t slipping off my hands, and I was just going to try this thing out that were doing as a work outing.
I got a comfortable grip on the sledgehammer’s handles, raised it to waist level, swung back and then forward. It was a bit like that time I slid down a wet slide from a wooden platform straight in to the Baltic Sea. When I slid forward, accelerating rapidly, everything around me seemed to disappear, except the sensation of speeding without control, the brief image of the blue sky above me and then the split-second knowledge that I wasn’t holding on to anything before I plumetted in the water.
The sun was bright, my feet were planted firmly on the ground, the hammer swung forward and entered the window smack in the middle. The whole glass erupted in miniscule cracks and then shattered with what sounded almost like a kind of music to me. Shards rained down on the ground, and it was only then that I heard my co-workers reacting to what I had done. Because before then, alongside the soundtrack of the shattering glass, I’d heard the remains of every single dark or sad thing that had lodged itself in my brain, that I thought I had gotten rid of, shattering with it.
Yep, who would have known I’d find poetry in a car recycling yard. I took a break, and returned a couple of more times to make some obligatory dents, but I’d had my moment, and the evidence glittered in the sunshine on the pavement.