A Story In Which I Amazingly Do Not Die

When I was in grad school, I lived about an hour and a half away from my hometown, which meant that I could go back for important things like birthdays and weddings and holidays and such.  I loved getting to still be part of my home life from time to time, and the drive never bothered me much – it was a straight shot down the highway, easiest drive in the world.

 

Amazingly, the drive didn’t usually bother my cat, either.  He would whine for a bit, and then give up and go to sleep until I got to my parents’ house.

 

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This is Paco. Any excuse to include pictures of him is a good one.

 

But all that changed one fateful day.  To be perfectly honest, I’m not sure why I was driving home this particular weekend, (to clarify – “home” meaning my parents’ house, not “home” meaning my apartment, I used the word to mean both things most of the time.)  It was probably midterm break or Easter or something.  I don’t know. It’s not important.

 

Anyway, I was driving back on a Friday night, with a full tank of gas and definitely expecting to be home before food would be happening.  Let’s be honest, I’m pretty much always up for food options that don’t involve me making it for myself.  (Side note: food is hard.)

 

So I’m driving down the highway, eating an apple, talking to my cat, super normal, when I decide to try to pass the semi that’s in front of me.  As I edge around the semi, I start to smell burning rubber.  Pretty soon after, the right front side of my car dips dangerously, accompanied by a terrifying thumping sound.  I remember throwing my half eaten apple across my car, busting in front of the semi (how he managed not to hit me I’ll never know) and after that I just remember being parked on the shoulder trying not to freak out.

My right front tire was shredded, like the kind of shredded where if I hadn’t stopped when I did, it probably would have come off the wheel entirely.  Like the kind of shredded where you drive by the pieces of tire blowing around on the highway and you thank God that your tires will never do that. That kind of shredded.

By some miracle, I didn’t completely go off the rails, despite being trapped on the highway shoulder during rush hour with a cat.  I called AAA, they promised to send someone to fix it, I unearthed my spare (which looked suspiciously low) and sat in my car to wait.

…and wait.

 

Until finally, a very nice state trooper found me and made sure I was okay.  He put some flares behind me so that people would give me room.

 

An hour and a half later, a very nice AAA man drove up, changed my tire for me, and blocked traffic so that I could drive off with my spare.  However, it’s a spare.  And apparently, you can’t drive over 50mph on those things or they die.  So I’m going 50 in 70mph zone with my flashers on, praying that no one hits me or yells anything rude.  My cat, mercifully, is silent.

So then about 10 minutes later, I hear a sort of whooshing sad sighing sound, and my car is (yet again) tipping dangerously to the right.  And then there’s a lot of thudding and slapping, and yes my spare tire is quite obviously flat.  Keep in mind it’s still rush hour.

I’m 200 yards from a rest stop, but there’s no way I can limp all the way there in the traffic, so I’m stranded on the shoulder yet again.  Still with a cat.  This time, I can’t call someone to come change my tire because I don’t have a spare.  So.  I call my dad.  Dads are great.  My dad is great, and he jumped in the car to pick me up.  But he was an hour away.

So Paco and I sat in my car for at least an hour.  My phone was dying, it was getting dark and cold and scary and WAY past dinnertime and I had to pee.  The thing that sucks about being stranded places when you’re a girl is you can’t just go pee on stuff if you have to pee.  You have to hold it.  Also, it’s not like I can just leave my cat in the car on the shoulder while I find a bush to pee behind in the dark.

Then, THE SAME STATE TROOPER found me again (so embarrassing) and very kindly gave me some more flares.  Paco and I sat.  And sat.  Until rush hour was over.  I limped into the rest stop.  Where there was nobody.  Except me (trying desperately not to pee myself) and some truck drivers.

And then FINALLY my dad came.  He graciously sat with my cat while I (thank heavens) ran to the rest stop to pee.  And he brought me food, because he’s a parent.  We took the wheel off my car, left it at the rest stop, put all my stuff and my cat in my dad’s car and drove home.  I got home like five hours after I was supposed to and my poor cat was a nervous wreck.

The next day we took the wheel in to get a new tire, drove BACK to the rest stop to put it on and I drove my car BACK to my parents house.

Also, it turns out they don’t make spares for my car any more.  We had to buy a whole other wheel.

 

But hey.  At least I’m not dead.

 

 

Trapped

Lots of things freak me out.  Like clowns, and small spaces, and bookshelves that aren’t alphabetized.

And being lost.

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Except I’m not cute when I’m lost.  I’m swearing and shaking and jumping at shadows and it’s terrible.  Once my brain decides I’m lost, I pretty much believe I’ll spend the rest of my life as a hobo and never see or speak to anyone I love ever ever again.

And the fun thing about me is that even if I know where I am geographically, I’ll still flip into “lost” mode if I run into an unfamiliar situation.

 

Cue: our story.

 

Once upon a time, I went to visit some of my old high school friends on their college campus.  Since we didn’t go to the same university, I was fairly unfamiliar with the campus layout, (translation: lost mode kicks in immediately).  As anyone will tell you, trying to find parking on a campus located in the middle of a city is a nightmare.  Finding my friends’ apartment wasn’t enough – I had to find somewhere to park too.  By the time I’d located a parking garage, my nerves were shot.  (Side note: at this point in my life, I was also not a pro a using parking garages.)

Anyway, I made it, found my friends, hung out, blah blah blah happiness and friendship.  And then it was time for me to go back to where I belonged.  Since it was dark and late and a college campus, my friends (lovely people that they are) walked me to my car.  I offered to drive them back to their apartment, and here’s where things get fun.

We all piled in to my Volvo (affectionately named Volvo Baggins), and I realized that my car was the only car left in the garage.  I hate being the only car left in parking garages.  It’s creepy and weird and everything starts to feel like the beginning of a horror movie.  So I was already a little nervous because you never know when some crazy chainsaw wielding monster is going to crash onto the scene.

I pulled up to the pay station for the garage, and put my car in park so I could reach up and feed my ticket into the machine and pay (I have T-rex arms, unfortunately).  Keep in mind though, that I was already nervous and uncertain: a) because horror movies and darkness and b) because parking garages and c) because residual lost mode.  As a result, I accidentally shifted my car from park into reverse, not drive.  When the gate opened to let me out, I promptly reversed my car backwards five feet – much to my surprise and horror.  In the time it took me to shift into drive and make up the lost ground, the gate had closed again.  (Remember how earlier I said I wasn’t a parking garage pro?)

We were trapped.  I had already fed the ticket machine my ticket, I had paid, but I wasn’t out.  And all my friends were in my back seat.  Enter full blown lost mode.  At this point my memory is a little hazy, but I think I frantically drove around in circles in the garage trying to find a secret way out.  I think I even briefly considered just trying to smash through the garage gate (obviously not a great plan).

Finally, I pulled up to the gate again and found a call button.  I don’t know who it called or why they were awake, but I had to explain to them that I had managed to get myself and several friends trapped in a parking garage.  Fortunately they believed me, and by some magic opened the gate.

I have them to thank for the fact that I’m not still living in my Volvo in a parking garage, trapped until the end of time.