Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Breaking down in the middle of the road can turn your day around.

Today, my life felt like a Zen Short of sorts.

When I left work, I was cranky and annoyed and frazzled. It hadn't been a feel-good day. And I was jetting out early to take Kai to the pediatrician—for shots. I needed to take the Escape, typically Jon's vehicle—a shift in plans that had prompted a hissy fit (mine) over mud-caked cupholders, fast food wrappers and abandoned softball snacks (which, this morning, I angrily referred to as "old nuts"). The car also contained toys, preschool papers, a college diploma (not mine) and two sets of skis that someone who was a small child in the 1960s must have worn. I have no idea of their origin.

Before work, I had removed all of these things from the car and tossed them onto the mudroom floor. I rinsed out the cup holder. So as I was pulling out of the parking lot of my employer, the Escape was uncluttered if not clean. It was all good. Turns out, not so much.

About halfway to Kai's school, the radio stopped working. And then started working again. The dash went blank and then flickered back on before all "computer" displays disappeared for good. I started feeling anxious, wondering if I should bail on the kid pickup, feeling lucky that Kai wasn't in the car already. I kept going, pulling into the Hannaford-plaza turning lane to get off the busy road. I glided to a stop. For good. The car was dead.

    As for as car breakdowns go, my today's Escape escapade was charmed.

My first response: gratitude. The old Escape had chosen this relatively safe place to throw in the towel; I was by myself. I called the pediatrician and cancelled the appointment. Then I started flipping out. I called Jon and told him I had no idea what to do next (really?) and that I was SO hot (what?) He told me to calm the f*ck down (in much nicer words), call the car insurance and get the hell out of the hot car. So I did. And that's when the magic started happening.

  • The Progressive man dispatched a tow truck.
  • Someone called the police and two officers came out to investigate the the mysteriously abandoned car/direct traffic/get the car the hell out of the middle of turning lane. They directed me to get back behind the wheel and put the car in neutral and then they pushed me into the Burger King parking lot. 
  • Since my car was still sort of blocking a driveway, Officer Jamie stuck by and told me amusing stories about his day, then invited me to sit in his air-conditioned car. He offered to clear off his front seat so I wouldn't look like a criminal in the back. I declined and offered to get him an iced coffee at Burger King. He declined.
  • I got my own iced coffee—with real cream because didn't I deserve that?—and parked myself on the curb with the beverage. I posted pictures of my broken-down car and my calmed-down face on Instagram.
  • Seeing my post, recognizing my location as one near her home, KIMBERLY FREAKING DROVE OVER WITH A LEMONADE POPSICLE. FOR ME. 
  • Blown away by her kindness, I babbled a bunch of nonsense, gave her a hug, snapped her photo (for Instagram!) and vowed to be the kind of incredibly thoughtful person that does things like this much more often.
  • Dave from Handy's arrived. He instructed me to get into his air-conditioned cab. He loaded up my car. He asked me what happened and, when he heard, he diagnosed a bad alternator.
  • Then he drove me and the Escape with the bad alternator to Darren's shop WHERE OUR VAN WAS READY, after having gone in for a routine service this morning. (Which is why I was driving the Escape in the first place.) What? How lucky is that?
  • I switched Jon's softball gear into the Escape—his after-work game was close enough to walk and now he had an awesome excuse to go out after the game and grab a ride home with someone else.
  • I was too late—obviously—to get to Kai's appointment but just in time to get him from school. And with plenty of time to drive out to Jules too.
All of this kindness and serendipity had me feeling downright giddy. Lucky. Happy. The only one who was bummed was Kai. "I wanted to go to the doctor to get shots!" he said, crossing his arms and turning away to process his disappointment. 

"I'm sorry, Kai. Sometimes these things just happen. It's disappointing, I know." 

He turned back to face me. "Mama, can we go to the doctor tomorrow morning?" he asked with a trembling lip. 

"We can try," I said. "Maybe we'll get lucky." 

From a nearby curb, I watched frustrated motorists lined up behind this unoccupied vehicle—mine—that did not turn left, COULD NOT turn left, curse and toss their hands wildly into the air. I tried to wave them past.

I rode in the cab of this truck—and Kai was super jealous.
Dave, the driver, diagnosed the problem as a bad alternator before we even got to the shop.
I was super glad I switched into these shoes—from 3-inch-high sandals—before I left work.