Stranded on the Shoulder

BAM! BOOM! SCREEEECH!

I sat white-knuckling the steering wheel of my Toyota Camry, my heart racing, my arms shaking, and my mind trying to catch up with what had just happened. I quickly assembled the following facts:car1

  1. What looked like a piece of rubber tread in the road was actually a piece of metal.
  2. My front passenger side tire was most definitely useless.
  3. I was stranded on the shoulder of 635 with cars whizzing by me at 70mph+

As my car came to a stop on the side of the road, I heard another bang and glanced back to see another car come swerving onto the shoulder behind me. Black liquid oozed out from under its hood.

Crawling into the passenger seat, I slithered out the door. The pavement of the bridge under my feet shook from the weight of four lanes of traffic. My hair whipped around as cars whizzed by 5 feet from where I stood. I knelt to examine the damage. The tire would have to be changed. And I wasn’t quite sure that my spare was functional.

car2After checking on the lady in the car behind me, I climbed back into the passenger seat and pulled out my driver’s license. I had heard that one could call the highway patrol number on the back and get roadside assistance if on a Texas highway. When an automated voice began prompting me to take a survey, I hung up and called 911. Two of us taken out by debris in the road would be a convincing enough case to send someone out to assist, right? The worst that could happen is that I would be told, “Lady, fix your own flat tire.” Thankfully, the dispatcher took my information and said he would send someone out.

Twenty minutes later, I was still sitting on top of my pile of school books in my passenger seat feeling the car shake from the passage of fast cars right beside me. Finally, a highway patrol truck with flashing arrows pulled up behind us. My phone buzzed.

“We received your call,” the police officer said. “You told us you were on the eastbound side of 635, but apparently you’re on the west side. We got stuck in traffic and are on our way.” Offering a sincere apology, I climbed out and met the repairman. (No dumb blonde jokes, please!)car3

Since I had the easier repair, the man said that he would fix my tire first. Of course, when are things ever easy? Problems:

  1. Spare tire is bolted into my trunk. Backup must be called in.
  2. Backup has to bust holes in plastic bolt until it breaks so they can free the tire.
  3. Spare tire is flat.

The typical ten minute repair job took about an hour, but they got me back on the road. Besides a new tire and still needing to find a place that can weld the hole closed in my exhaust system, I came out all right.

As I was standing on the side of the road after the two repair trucks and police officer blocked off the lane of traffic closest to me, I couldn’t help but grin. The day was a lovely 60 degrees and sunny with baby clouds floating through the sky. I had lived through something I had always feared, but it actually wasn’t too bad after all.

car4
Besides my pocketbook, the worst of the collateral damage.
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Wisdom Did Not Descend on Me on My Birthday

On the morning of December 28th, I awoke to discover that I had survived 24 complete years of life. On this day 24 years ago, Angela was born into this world. While this is a great accomplishment in itself, apparently, being a year older does not automatically make one smarter. I found that out quickly.

My birthday began relatively quietly as I dragged myself out of bed and prepared for church. My five day sabbatical from work seemed to have left me more worn out than before I began. Since my family all separates and evangelizes the entire city of Dallas by going to four different churches, I headed to church on my own.

Pulling into the parking lot of my place of worship, I was quite pleased with myself. With the holidays drawing to a close, traffic had been light, and I made good travel time. Pleasant thoughts of arriving early for the service for the first time in months swirled through my head as I pulled into the parking lot and found a close spot. I gathered my belongings as I listened to the end of a song on the radio, and then I went to turn off my car. I switched off my vehicle and started my normal routine. Suddenly, I realized I had a problem….

I had no training on what to do in a situation like this!

My key wouldn’t come out of my ignition.

Panic began to swirl in my chest, but I tried to calm myself down. When I had purchased the vehicle in October, I was only given a single key, and the key was bent. On Tuesday, I had had the hardest time getting my key to slide into the ignition (though I finally got it in after pushing on the brakes and straightening out my steering wheel). As I jiggled the key, turned the car on and off, and yanked as hard as I could, my stomach began to clench up. The key was not coming out, and I had no idea what to do.

The minutes ticked by. I was pressing, pulling, and praying frantically as I tried to process what to do about my problem. I had a warranty on my vehicle–should I call and say my engine swallowed my key? Should I call a locksmith? I was alone, and my family was inaccessible. I considered going into church and coming back later, but I couldn’t leave my car with the keys in the ignition sitting in a packed parking lot.

Five minutes of stress dragged by. I decided I needed a second opinion. No use getting the authorities and specialists involved if I had simply made an error. Like mothers who are able to find something in two minutes that took others hours to find, I wondered if perhaps someone else would have the magic touch I was missing.

A couple of cars pulled in, and I sprang from my vehicle to assault the other drivers.

“May I borrow one of you?” I called attempting not to seem too frazzled. “This may sound very dumb,” I said with a meek, frenzied chuckle to the 35-year-old man climbing out of his vehicle, “But I can’t get my key out of the ignition.” I went on to explain about the bent key, and my inability to free it from the jaws of my Camry.

The man began working to help this damsel in distress. He began asking questions about which way my key was bent and if this had happened before. I stood in the cold, swirling breeze trying to be helpful but really being no help at all.

“I don’t want to pull too hard and break your vehicle,” the man said. He seemed about ready to give up. I understood his feelings. At least my diagnosis had been correct.

As a final resort, the man began playing with the lock buttons and fiddling with other gadgets. Shoving my hands in my pockets, I let out a sigh. Now what was I supposed to do?

Click.

Suddenly, the man turned to me with a great grin on his face. In his hand, held aloft, was my free key!

These foreign cars are so tricky to use!

The man climbed out of the vehicle and handed over my released treasure. Trying to swallow his grin, he said, “Next time, try putting your car in park.”

With profuse thanksgiving and gratitude, I allowed the man to return to his family. He assured me that this would be our secret. I had a profound wish in that moment that my hair hadn’t been blonde.

So, moral of the story: wisdom did not descend on me on my 24th birthday. In fact, I couldn’t even make it to 9AM without having trouble. With a start like this, I’m a little concerned about what will happen to me in the next 12 months!

Artemis vs. the Fire Hydrant

One month ago last Wednesday, I found a new companion. His exterior glistened in the sunshine, and his interior was vacuumed and perfumed. After a summer of researching, test-driving, and withstanding numerous sales pitches, I had finally found him: my 2007 Toyota Camry. After trying on a collection of names, the name I had picked out two years ago in college stuck: Artemis Gordon, the faithful sidekick of Mr. James West from the 1960s television show The Wild Wild West. 

While I had planned this post to be an ownership announcement, recent events have changed my focus. Here is my beautiful new vehicle last weekend:

The illustrious Artemis Gordon!
The illustrious Artemis Gordon!

And this is what he looks like today:

What happened? Well, it's a funny story....
What happened? Well, it’s a funny story….

Oh, Tuesdays! I had recently decided that Tuesdays were my least favorite day of the week. Mondays begin a new week, and after a weekend of recovery, usually the first day has a bit of enthusiasm tied to it. Seeing coworkers again after a brief respite gives one something to discuss, and four more work days provide plenty of time to accomplish everything that needs to be done. Wednesdays through Fridays are comforting because the pinnacle of the week has arrived and the rest is a downward slope. Tuesdays, on the other hand, are rough. Any freshness about the beginning of a new week has worn off, and there are still too many days left to look forward to the weekend. Bad things happen on Tuesdays.

This last Tuesday was no different. The work day was fine, and by 4:30 p.m., I was glad to take my leave. I tromped through the new cold front to the parking garage that housed my new vehicle. A bitter wind blew through the six-story structure, and I had to dodge oncoming traffic and crazed workers who were in just as much hurry to begin their evening as I was.

Bracing myself against the cold and wondering why I had chosen to wear a pencil skirt and nylons that day, I made it to the farthest row from the building where I had chosen to park. I may have had to walk farther to get to and from my car, but at least I was closer to the exits. Cars sped past in a rush to get home, and I was glad to finally slide out of the wind and catch my breath. Rubbing my hands together and switching from heels to tennis shoes, I prepared for my commute and an evening of p.j.s and warm blankets.

Putting my car in reverse, I began inching my way out of my spot. Two cars were parked close on both sides of me, and I remembered again how much I dislike parking garages. There is a reason I always park in the outskirts of parking lots and choose parking spaces that I can pull through. With as much care as I could manage, I made sure that I was backing straight out.

My eyes zipped back and forth to scan the pickup truck and sedan that had made friends with Artie. As I inched out more, I checked my back windows to keep watch for rogue drivers who zipped past my bumper on their way to freedom. I checked my side mirrors to watch for other parked cars–though I purposely parked on the main thoroughfare so that I had more room to back out.

My breathing was quick and my body tense as I finally cleared the car on my right just enough to complete my turn. Glancing in my side mirrors and over my shoulders, I saw that I had a clear passageway to freedom. My foot darted from the brake that I had been cradling to the accelerator. Just a little gas to complete my backing up process, and I could switch gears and zoom away. I touched the gas and accelerated backwards.

BAM!

A jolt shook the car. I knew that I had made a mistake. My car had taken on the fire extinguisher box that was attached to one of the cement pillars of the parking garage. It had lost.

The assaulting pillar!
The assaulting pillar!

What followed is a sorted tale of putting back on my heels and trudging all the way back to the main building to confess my faux pas to the security guards. From there, I had to go show the damage and stand by awkwardly as pictures were taken of the pole and my car. Why the fire hydrant box looks like someone bumped it going 5 mph and my car looks like someone plowed into it going 50 mph, I’ll never know.

Doesn't look too worse for the wear, does it?
Doesn’t look too worse for the wear, does it?

This week has been a fun combination of getting damage estimates ($1600-$2000 for a new trunk lid) and filing my first insurance claim. My one month anniversary with my new vehicle didn’t go as wonderfully as I had hoped. For 5 years of driving on icy roads in blizzard conditions in Michigan, I never crashed into anything, but three and a half weeks of parking in a parking garage was all it took for my first infraction. At least, now I’ll have some sympathy when my 16-year-old smashes into her first tree.

So, meet Artemis Gordon! My much sought after and waited for companion. Perhaps he would have been better off with someone other than me! 🙂