Saturday, August 28, 2010

A flat week

In Sunday School we have been studying the book of James in the New Testament.

Our teacher has been very thorough in explaining each verse and it has been a series that I have thoroughly enjoyed learning.

James teaches that belief only is not enough and the more like Christ you live the more attention you draw from the devil in expectation of trapping you to drop your Christian facade and ergo sin.

Well, anyone who has been around me lately knows that I have not been the best example of Christianity so I am not sure why the devil seems to have been chasing me this week.

Wednesday morning the weather seemed to have changed and we finally were getting a break from the record high temperature. As we drove to school I made the promise to Annabel that we would ride our bikes that night.

Early morning is not the best time to make those kind of commitments, especially when faced with a very difficult day that started with me wondering if I should call 911 after breaking out into a sweat, my heart started racing, and I thought I might pass out, but troopered on to work hoping that if something did go wrong, at least I would be in a hospital! Just so you don't get stuck at this point in the story, I realized much later that I must have taken too much of an allergy pill and was glad i had not called 911!

By the time the work day had ended, dinner was prepared and eaten, homework was completed I was almost sure I could not put one foot in front of the other, much less ride my bike. Annabel is very persuasive by not pressuring me but instead having a rather wounded look like she knew I too would disappoint her.

So again I troopered on, which I am not sure if that is a word, but that was how I felt.

We aired up our tires and took off.

The wind around us at dusk felt wonderful and we were having a great time pushing ourselves a little further and a little further.

For those who know us and where we live, we made it all the way to the Bishop Arts District and then started our journey home.

Trying to get us off the busy street, we turned one block north and then it happened!

My front tire went flat.

I'm not good at judging distance, so my best guess is that we were one million miles from home or at least it felt like it as it was getting dark very quickly and we did not have too many choices, since I forgot my cell phone. Besides, not sure that Grace was up to learn to drive that night by herself and Mom and Dad were not home.

The main street is littered with used tire shops and some body shops that resemble more of a chop shop, but I knew they would have an air compressor, so we pushed back onto the main street and within a block came upon a shop with their door open and several men working feverishly on some cars.

Although we did not speak the same language, they understood my predicament and Annabel followed as closely as possible behind me as they aired up my tire. It did seem like a setting of a scene from a Law and Order or something where we stumbled upon a crime in the making and would have to be silenced, but thank the good Lord, it was not and we pressed on toward home making it almost half a block before my tire went flat again.

Growing up in this neighborhood, I knew there were plenty of routes to get home, but by then we were just under one million miles away and I thought briefly about sending Annabel on without me, as I was doomed to walk with my bike all the way home.

There was just one big problem; I have been reading a book about a child who was kidnapped and I could not bear to let Annabel get out of my sight, as I don't know if the kidnapping gets resolved in my book, and did not want to risk her being kidnapped. For the mothers reading this, you understand. The men are probably rolling their eyes.

Of course you know that we made it home, finally, otherwise, what happened on Friday could not have happened.

We have been blessed to find a family who wants to carpool and this has truly been a wonderful blessing for me. It has been beneficial to lessen the number of trips to the school and back, but also introduced us to another great family.

Friday afternoon was my turn to pick up and we planned to meet with our carpool friends and some others after school to get to know each other better. I planned to make a quick stop by the uniform store as the cheap shirts I bought Grace last year did not make it to the new year and either Annabel has lost weight or her skirts have grown, so she was down to just one skirt. I jokingly said that I was not sure she washed her skirt from August to May last year, but this year insists on having it clean each morning! Life is a lot different when you are in 7th grade!

The time at the uniform store put us into heavier traffic as we got close to downtown. Since we had slowed to a snail's pace, I called my niece for a minute, when I realized the car felt odd. I glanced down at the gauges and saw the light for a low tire light up.

Without exaggerating, there are at least 6 or 8 lanes of traffic each way through this area as you head into the mixmaster of several freeways that meet at once to spit you out on the right road. This particular area has so many lanes there is no room for a shoulder and no way was i getting out of the car in the traffic to check out the tire. I fought to remember all the training and rules you learn about what to do if your car breaks down and especially how to handle a tire situation. Way back in my memory I thought Dad had always said it is better to get to a safe place and risk ruining the tire so we creeped on searching desperately for a place wide enough to pull over.

By then I was adding to the traffic jam and everyone was quickly pulling around me and the gestures they shared were not very nice.

The first place I could pull over already had a car with another car stopped to help it. So we kept going.

By now I can hear the whop, whop, whop of the tire and know it is not just low, that it is flat.

Just west of the infamous grassy knoll, but still very much in the middle of the mixmaster, there was a place to pull off.

I am not normally a person who is easily scared (except of Dracula from a book I read lately, no not Eclipse and I think the fear of Dracula is rational, as you just cannot be too sure what is lurking in the dark) but every horrible traffic accident where someone is killed seems to start from a disabled car on the side of the road being hit by a reckless driver and I was terrified. I worked through in my mind if more people had been killed that got out of their cars or if they were killed inside their cars when it was hit and then exploded, and the scenarios just got worse in my mind, so I was anxious to get the situation remedied as quickly as possible and on our way before something really bad could happen.

I could almost see our exit up ahead and was tempted to continue trying to drive when I saw how flat it was but instead resorted to calling Dad.

My poor father.

I want him to diagnose whether I should continue trying to drive on a flat tire in traffic in a place that was difficult to explain, all while he is at Home Depot. He tells me there is a number you can call from the highway department and they will help you, but he has it on his cell phone, so hang up and he will find the number and call me back.

In the meantime I remember paying an exorbitant amount for roadside assistance for the life of the car when I bought it and start trying to find the number to call, since I've paid for it and now need it.

When I could not find that number, I called the dealership, which promptly put me on hold, finally through to someone, who gave me the wrong number. While listening to the recorded message on the wrong number, my phone beeps and I know it is dad so I try to switch over only for it to go to voice mail.

I am confident that I can handle this problem so I try to call Dad back and tell him but his number is busy.

I call the dealership back for the correct number, again put on hold, finally someone answers and they give me another number.

I call that number which begins with a recording asking me some rather inane questions or that seem to be inane if this was truly an emergency and which it was beginning to feel like by then. When I did not have the VIN number the system did not like that much so I had to answer lots of other questions to ensure what exactly I don't know.

When I finally get to speak to a person my phone beeps again. I'm sure it is dad and ask the woman to hold on and I switch to the other call just as it goes to voice mail. I try to switch back to the other call and the woman has hung up.

By now a very kind man has stopped and asks me lots of questions about my spare and jack, which I realize I don't know, but he starts looking where he thinks it should be while I am trying desperately to dial the rescue service back and again going through their very long series of very personal questions to finally reach someone who will talk to me and seems like he has some sense, and offers to send someone to help. He tells me I will get an automated call in 5 minutes telling me the ETA of the rescue service.

By now my knight in shining armor is sweating so profusely I am afraid he might pass out and the traffic is just getting worse as everyone who drives by has to stare long and hard to see what exactly I don't know. Obviously I look stunning stranded on the side of the road and they were overwhelmed by my beauty!

He asks me for my wheel lock. The only reason I even have a slight idea of what that is is when I got my previous car, the salesman told me he was putting this package of these locks in my glove compartment and to leave them there because I might need them someday, which I did when I bought new tires.

By now all three girls have seen my frustration level escalate with the heat and they are wanting to help anyway they can and tear the car apart looking for anything metal in any hidden place. And all I can see are three children that I am terrified that I have put at risk.

They could find NOTHING.

The knight thinks about tearing apart the back but suggests I call the dealership and ask where we can find the wheel lock.

Hmmm, they have been so helpful so far, why not???

I call them back and the answer is with the jack tools.

No, trust me, it is not there.

Check the glove box.

No, trust me it is not there.

Well it is in a black bag with the spare and the other tools.

NO, IT IS NOT!!!

I explain that I am in the middle of I35 and the response is the question, why didn't I pull off on the side of the road.

I am on the side of the road, but in the middle of the expressway!

While having this brilliant conversation my phone beeps again and I think it is dad but know I have not managed to catch him yet so I will call him back.

After 30 minutes of waiting on the rescue service and the knight going back and forth to his big rig, checking on tools he might can use to remove the tire, I call the rescue service back.

Their response? Oh, they still have time before their hour is up. What?? I'm sorry, I don't understand what you are saying to me, they have an hour before they begin to come or what? These are highly trained customer service individuals at this place. Whoever I had talked to the first time was supposed to tell me that they would be there within an hour. OK, so how much longer will it be? They could not tell me and verified that I was on the north bound side of the freeway. NO, we are southbound. Oh, well I am sure they can find it.

I have to say that between the very kind man trying to help but asking me questions that could have been in Russian as I had no answers for him, other phone calls made to the dealership and their stellar service, my sales person, who insisted I bring the car there and he would make it right, the increasing traffic, my feet killing me in my rather cute and strappy sandals that are not made to stand on the side of the road in, the heat, my increasing fear over the safety of my kids, I am sure I am going to lose it as I see a very familiar large, red pickup creeping up through the traffic, trying to get to us.

OK, can't even type this without crying. It doesn't matter that he can't fix it, that he came to rescue us is all that matters and for that I will always be grateful.

Almost simultaneously, two more men stopped to help, and promptly at 59.5 minutes after my call to the rescue service, the tow truck showed up.

I send all three girls, my two and our carpooler, home with Mom and Dad, thank my other knights, and try to climb into the tow truck, grateful to get off my feet and on my way home.

$125 later my car is parked back in my driveway, while my sales person is texting me that I need to bring the car there. It is after 6:00, we've set on the side of the road for close to 2 hours, everyone is hot, tired, thirsty, and hungry and he really thinks I am going to head back into the traffic now?

Today I call the rescue service back and since it is all automated, I don't get to tell them that the wheel lock is missing, but guess that they will know how to handle it.

NOPE, no one can do anything without that wheel lock.

I call back to the dealership where their representative tells me that he will not listen to me talk about my problems, that he is aware of them and wants me to drive to the dealership and get the wheel lock so I can change my tire. I work really hard to calm down and explain I cannot drive to the dealership as I have a flat tire. He tells me that someone else will call me back within the hour.

Again, at 59.5 minutes later my phone rings and the first nice person from the dealership calls, says he gives me the number of their tow truck service, that will pick up my car (since I had lost my wheel lock) and then they will bring me a car to drive in the meantime. I explained very patiently that I had not LOST my wheel lock that I never had one. I felt like he was saying that we could agree to disagree, but at least he was promising me some help.

So here is one of the great ironies of the whole situation. My all time favorite car was my VW convertible that I sold in 1994 and made the switch to Honda.

Since 1994 I have had Hondas, mostly the CRV.

Because I knew I needed to carry at least 7 people, Honda did not have a car in my price range and I went to Toyota.

The entire time that I had Hondas, I cannot remember ever having any service problems, at all. The most I ever did was an oil change.

So when the man from the dealership shows up with a car for me to drive, guess what it was? Yes, a Honda CRV!

I am certainly to stay under the radar this week if the devil is out to prove a point again!

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