One of the few times in my life when I was unable to complete a work assignment, definitely due to lack of skills, was the time when a unique media relations project landed on my desk while serving as Information Officer for the State of Minnesota’s Tourism Office.
I was told to host a group of recreational vehicle (RV) travel writers on a six-day excursion throughout the state. The purpose was to feature the state’s finest RV campgrounds with adjacent tourist attractions for the travel writers to experience, ultimately resulting in a splash of positive feature articles that would appear in popular RV publications.
This particular tour proved unique in that I had to be the official driver of travel writers experiencing the state first-hand in a RV donated by a local dealer who also happened to be a top supporter of the Minnesota Governor. Overall, I was excited about the assignment, but a bit nervous about the fact that I had no previous experience driving “oversized” and “over-elevated” vehicles. This inevitably became my downfall!
Here’s how it all went down, down, down:
On Day Two, I sheared the large antennae and AC cover clean off the RV’s roof while driving under a local bridge without enough clearance. On Day Three, I backed into a parked delivery truck, taking the rear bumper off the RV and annihilating the truck’s passenger side. On Day Three, I forgot to set the parking brakes when stopped on a steep bluff, resulting in the RV rolling backwards downhill, pitching over an embankment and lodging into a grove of mature pine trees.
Needless to say, the RV was totally trashed. Halfway through the tour, I decided to cut my losses and dispatched a passenger van to drive the writers back to the airport so they could fly home early.
Back at the office, the aftermath was brutal. I had to explain everything to my angry superiors and RV owner–as well as the Governor himself. Not only had I run up tens of thousands of dollars worth of damages to the outside of the vehicle and the ill-fated delivery truck, but I also destroyed the engine, forgetting to re-fuel with diesel instead of regular gas. Luckily, the RV was insured, engine replaced and body repaired.
I wasn’t fired. Believe it or not, all of the resulting travel articles were overwhelmingly positive, although they did include mention of the misadventures and mishaps of an untrained and unlucky chauffeur.
The only lasting consequences were acquiring the nickname of “Crash Crain” and only allowed to drive a small and cheap 15-year-old state-sanctioned Chevy Nova while on any official business.