It all started last night, when I thought I was being a good person. I was being a good mom, driving my son to Aikido and teaching my daughter how to cross-stitch during the class. Then, I was a good wife, sitting in the FedEx office for twenty minutes waiting for a package my husband ordered to arrive back at the distribution center. I was even a good worldly person driving my energy-efficient Prius home! But, good things do not always come to good people, and every warning light on my car’s dashboard started blinking at me. No, not just blinking, the warning lights were pinging and beeping and flashing bright red over the gas gauge and on my radio screen. Ok, I thought, I have two hungry kids in the back seat, I’m on the freeway at night with lots of cars and few road lights, and I am less than ten miles from home. I can do this. I can drive home safely and not totally freak out. I really can do this!
Faking calm so that my kids don’t realize that the car is surely about to explode from a car problem, I slow the car down a little and begin sniffing the air to see if I can smell anything funny. What is that diesel smell? My car doesn’t use diesel! What is that hamburger smell? I don’t use old fry grease in my gas tank. What is that burnt toast smell coming from under my hood? Doesn’t that mean that my car is going to explode with my precious, innocent little baby children in the backseat?
Finally, I make it home. Because it’s after 7:30 now, I figure that all the auto body shops are closed so I might as well take care of house chores. We get bedtime snacks, read a book, eat vitamins, brush teeth, read another bedtime story, sign the school papers that were forgotten about until five minutes after bedtime, cuddle, talk about why we don’t have to brush our teeth again if you only drank water.
Now, I have a minute to check out the owner’s manual of my car. Emergency maintenance, page 163. Please turn to touch screen help, page 421. Please turn to warning lights, page 85. Right there next to the big red triangle with the car and exclamation point that was flashing at me during the drive home, in capitals and bold, on the pages in the manual with the red edges are the words, “IMMEDIATELY PULL CAR TO SIDE OF ROAD. TAKE CAR TO DEALERSHIP FOR SERVICE. DO NOT DRIVE CAR.” Okay, no big deal, right? I just drove the car for ten minutes when I should have chosen to NOT DRIVE CAR. But, my husband will be home soon to fix everything. (That’s why we marry them, right? So they can fix car stuff?)
When Allan got home, I told him in my calmest-I’m-not-freaking-out-that –I-killed-my-car voice that there are warning lights going off in my car, and I handed him the manual with the little DO NOT DRIVE CAR warning. “Let me drive it around the block to check.” He grabs my keys and is out the door before I can tell him that I can see very clearly and the words say DO NOT DRIVE CAR! A few minutes later, he walks back into the house and says, “Yep. The lights are on.”
I have already called our car insurance company and have scheduled a tow for the morning, from our house to the dealership. We have free towing with our paid car insurance policy; how it’s free if you pay, I don’t know, but we have free towing. And now, as there is nothing else to do but freak out about my car, I go to bed. Of course, I can’t sleep because I had to wake up about fifteen times to check to make sure that I didn’t oversleep and miss the half-hour window of towing in the morning.
I wake up early in the morning and have everything ready to go. Lunch bag packed – check. Water bottles full and ready – check. Keys and garage door out of car – check. Dressed, shoes on, bladder empty – check. You see, this is me being a good person again. I was being considerate for the tow truck driver, who I just knew was going to show up within the required half-hour window. Because I am a good person and I have free towing with my insurance. I continue to increase my chances that karma will turn in my favor by starting to fold the laundry. By 6:15, halfway through the required half-hour window, I am about half-done folding laundry. By 6:25, I am completely done folding and sorting. By 6:29 I have hung up all of my own clothes. By 6:32, I am ready to say some words that are not very nice but I cannot say words that are not very nice because my daughter is in the room watching me. Remember – good mom, must set good example of how to handles stress.
When I call the insurance company, I was told that I had declined the tow at 11:50 the previous evening. Really? Declined a tow that I called to schedule? Be calm, I told myself. It’s not this poor woman’s fault that my car is telling me DO NOT DRIVE CAR and that someone input the wrong information into the computer. So, I politely accept her offer of re-scheduling another tow truck and thank her for the extra hour of wait time at my house. It’s now 6:45 in the morning, and my daughter thinks it’s so cool that I am still home to cook her fresh breakfast. It’s so cool, in fact, that she suggests that we do this every morning and asks if we can take a picture of the tow truck because she has never seen one at our house before.
Did I mention yet that I have work and am already late? Did I mention that my husband is on a plane out of the country for a wedding? Did I mention that I am a good person who does not deserve all of this stress?!?!
By 7:00 I have washed all of the breakfast dishes. By 7:25 I have packed the suitcase for my daughter and I to leave tomorrow morning for a wedding in North Dakota. (Yes, my husband and son are at a wedding in Canada while my daughter and I will be at a wedding in North Dakota. Try explaining to your kids how my cousin and his cousin are not each other’s cousins, and so they have not intentionally planned their weddings for the same weekend in different countries.) By 7:35, I have called the service department at the dealership to let them know I will be there, that all the warning lights in my car are having their own little party, and that I will need a loaner car for the day. By 7:40, I have the phone back in my hand ready to call about the tow truck that has five short more minutes to arrive in my driveway.
7:45. No tow truck in my driveway.
7:46. The towing company tells me that the driver is on the way and he will be at my house within ten minutes.
7:56. The insurance company tells me that they have also contacted the towing company and that the driver will be at my house in only ten more minutes.
Now, I know that Arizona doesn’t change fall behind and spring forward with the rest of the country in the fall and spring, but I think I still know how to tell time. I scheduled a tow truck for between 6 and 6:30am. I don’t think my house moved itself since last night, so if I am not mistaken in my calculations somehow, “just ten more minutes” means that the required half-hour window is really a two hour and six minutes window. But, I keep breathing peacefully and smiling nicely because, still, my daughter is home as a witness to my patient character traits.
8:04. My daughter leaves for school with her friends and I wipe the smile right off my face.
8:18. I hear noise outside my garage door. Could it be… I hear rumbling. Don’t get your hopes up too high, I tell myself. I hear a sound like a chain scraping down the back of a tow truck lift. Could it really be…maybe…just a quick glance out the window…IT IS!! IT’S HERE!! THE TOW TRUCK!!!
Aahh, surely life will now settle into normalcy. The nice friendly man will drive me and my little car to the dealership and everything will be under warranty and there will be no traffic as I zoom up to work and the skilled and knowledgeable service technicians will have my car fixed by day’s end so that I can drive to the airport in the morning.
It’s not a big deal that the cab of the tow truck smells like Joe Camel’s gym bag – cigarettes and stale sweat. It’s not a big deal that there’s a seven-car pile-up on the interstate. It’s not a big deal that the driver laughs as he cuts off another vehicle in the gridlock behind the seven-car pile-up. It’s not a big deal that the driver picks up his cell phone
It is, however, a big deal when the driver starts texting on his cell phone while I am in the cab and my car is on the rack in the back and he is laughing at the people he is cutting off as he is driving on the gridlocked interstate with the seven-car pile-up on it!
Am I supposed to triple-check my seatbelt? Am I supposed to unbuckle my seat belt and get on my knees in the cab of the truck and pray like I’ve never prayed before? Am I supposed to text my husband a final farewell and I love you?
Wait. My husband is on a flight out of the country. My mom has been restricted from flying anywhere this weekend by her doctor. My dad is on the road somewhere driving to North Dakota for my Grandma’s birthday party. My brother is in meetings all day and won’t answer his phone. The only person left to identify my body is my nine-year-old daughter! What sort of parent would let her nine-year-old daughter identify her dead body in the morgue with no other parent or grandparent around?
I start texting people I know, a few last words to remember me by. When I let a friend know that I may become road kill, she tells me, “At least you work in a dental office so they have your dental records.”
Sometimes, all you can do is laugh.