The Blindfold Drive
With an April fool’s joke on this network that I got caught up in, came some pretty good advice about the blindfold drive. The original post asked for advice on a blindfold drive for the Indy 500 pace car that was to be driven at 75 miles an hour. The joke was the fact anyone would attempt to drive a car that fast. Problem for me was I actually did once drive a car almost that fast, 55 – 65 m.p.h., for the old Evening Magazine TV show. The whole event was interesting indeed.
Originally, I had approached a producer in Pittsburgh, whom I had worked with before, about driving a car blindfolded. My instructions were that the host was to place a thought of key amongst others in a sealed container and place it in a P.O. Box somewhere INSIDE THE City of Pittsburgh.
Comes time for the drive and it turns out they have hidden the key somewhere in a town outside the city limits. Of course I was not supposed to learn this – I had my ways of finding out. The day before, I headed to the post office and tried to open the P.O. Box with the combination I had secretly obtained. The combination the host had been given was incorrect!
There I was, trying to open the box, and up comes a little old lady who asks, “sonny, having trouble with your box? I will get the postmaster!” “No!” I replied, shocked that she had caught me trying to get into the box.
“Now don’t be silly, it will be no problem” and off she went to get the postmaster.
I considered leaving, but before I could the Postmaster came up and asked if he could help. Thinking quickly, I said, “I’m from KDKA TV, PM Magazine. The other day we rented a box here and placed a container with keys inside for an upcoming shoot. This is the number I was given, but it does not seem to be working!”
“Let me check it” he said.
A few minutes later he came back and said, “Yep, they were one letter off.”
With that he opened the box for me. I noted the new number, removed the container and said my thanks. I opened the container and bent the key that I knew the host would be thinking of and placed it back in the P.O. Box and went home. I was not too concerned that the postmaster would be there the next day as I would be fully blindfolded and as far as he knew the shoot could be a re-enactment of an event. Either way, I would be sure not to talk to him or be any closer to him than I needed to be.
The next day they blindfolded me with tape, coins, pizza dough and a sleeping mask. Let me stop here for a second and give those would be blindfold drivers a word of caution. Do not use pizza or cookie dough on a hot day. After the dough was on for more than 20 minutes it started to melt and made my vision very limited, more than it already was, and certainly could have created a very dangerous situation. On top of that it started to stink!
Did I just say “dangerous situation?” Since the keys were not hidden in the city of Pittsburgh, I was going to have to drive on one of the most dangerous roads leading out of Pittsburgh. Later, I was to find it was called “suicide road” due to the number of collisions that had occurred.
It also just happened to be under construction.
We did not ask permission of the police. I had learned a long time ago that usually ended up with calling off the whole drive unless it was done with a police escort and in a parade. Some may say this is bad advice and you could risk losing your license. I figured that before I lost my license I would demonstrate to a judge and jury that I could function with a blindfold on as well as I could without one. The publicity would be incredible. So in one way, I secretly hoped I would be pulled over. It almost happened.
As I drove through the small town, each time we would approach a light I would state the color of the light and get the host to reaffirm I was right “just in case.” At one intersection I stated “the light is just changing to green!” the host agreed and I proceeded. Now remember, my vision was very limited and on top of that the dough was melting and making it more so. As a result, I was not able to see a driver who decided to run a red light. I guess he thought I would stop. I did not; he turned, saw I was blindfolded and ran down an embankment. He was fine, so was his car, but I can guarantee that will be the last time he takes it for granted another car will stop when he runs a red light!
We proceeded into the small town. I stepped out of the car and did the rest on foot. I found the post office and went inside. I asked the host to think of the combination. I then “plucked each letter and number out of her head.” She tried the lock, it did not open. She was perplexed. “That is the correct number, it is the number I was thinking about.”
“Try this number” I said, hiding my sneaky laughter.
Sure enough, when she tried it, the locked opened. At this point she and the camera man and the producer were almost peeing their pants in amazement.
“One more thing left” I said, as I removed the blindfold. The postmaster (thank goodness) was no-where in sight.
“Think of your key.”
I concentrated and when she opened up the cannister, the one key she was thinking of was bent at a 45 degree angle.
As a result the piece was played local twice and went national three times.
For those attempting a blindfold drive, here are a few tips.
1. Use black tape, it hides the peek areas better (black on black.) 2. Use radiator hose tape, it sticks even if wet. 3. If using a hood, make sure you are not driving into the sun. If you do, the material of the hood will scatter the light and make it impossible for you to see. 4. If shooting for TV a good place for the camera man is in the back seat with the rear view mirror aimed at your face. The shot will show the road ahead, the back of your head and the front of your blindfolded head. 5. Get the peek on the side away from the passengers. 6. Do not be tempted to use “white surgical tape.” It sounds good to magicians but is not familiar with lay people. 7. If for some reason you lose most of your sight ahead, then look for he white line along the side of the road or the center lane and pull over. 8. If doing a blindfold drive, do not try to scare your passengers even if you are doing it for a newspaper.
The reason I mention number 8 is that once I was going to drive a car blindfolded for the National Enquirer from Washington PA to Pittsburgh PA.
I told the Enquirer they could blindfold me in any manner they wanted, suggesting they use a paper sack. They agreed. They put the sack over my head after wrapping my head with ace bandages. Finally, at my suggestion they tied it around my neck.
My method was simple. I crinkled the sack up a lot. Now when they put the sack on my head I poked a hole in the sack with a small nail permitting me to peek with my left eye, the side that would be away from the passengers. Since the hole was small it had to be close to my eye, hence the tying of the sack at the neck to keep it in place, and taut.
The Enquirer folks had set the drive up with a driving instructor (anal retentive if you ask me) to be safe. He brought a car with two steering wheels and two brakes. One on the driver’s side and one on his. I had never seen anything like it, and never have.
Off we went. Thinking I was going to be clever, I bumped the curb on purpose as I made my turn onto the main street out of my driveway.
Immediately the driving instructor took over and pulled to the side of the road.
“All right, that’s it!” He hollered.
“What do you mean that’s it?” I asked in astonishment.
“You hit the curb” he said. “And if you can’t make it out onto the street I am not about to let you drive on a major freeway for 40 minutes or more. It is my responsibility and if you kill anyone it will be my fault.”
“If I kill anyone, you would more than likely be included” I said, “On top of that, I hit the curb on purpose just to make it dramatic! I won’t do it again, I promise.”
Well, didn’t matter what I said, he would not give in and the drive was called off. So as you see, it is best just to do the drive and not be dramatic when reporters are taking the drive seriously.
More recently, I drove a car blindfolded for a British TV show called “Secret’s of the Psychic’s.” The producer put a disclaimer on my section of the drive saying something like “Banachek claims he is not a psychic; most mentalists somehow manage to find a way to see when they are blindfolded.” I took a lot of flack as a result of that airing of the drive. An interesting thing was that I had no knowledge of the disclaimer until I saw the show myself. Even more interesting to me was that though they did put that disclaimer on my drive, the producers, crew and technical advisors still claim that I used memory to accomplish the drive. But this article is long enough and that is another story for another time.
In thoughts Banachek