Saturday, December 19, 2009

Bathroom Reading--it may save your life

Stuff to understand first:
I grew up reading Reader's Digest. And I mean, from the time I was three and my feet didn't touch the floor. In my grandmother's house, when that magazine came in the mail, the little paper band would be ripped off and it would immediately go in the bathroom. You would no more expect to see an RD in in a different room than you would a roll of Charmin and anytime I saw them in other people's houses in a place other than the bathroom, I felt shocked, as if they'd left a pile of neatly folded underpants on their coffee table.

Being a compulsive reader I'd go through that magazine cover to cover, absorbing inspirational pet tales, detailed descriptions of medical procedures I wasn't sure I wanted to understand, vocabulary builders and government outrages and 'Humor in Uniform' (anyone notice how brief that feature is anymore? I don't think there IS much humor in uniform these days, or maybe not the kind suitable for RD), whatever it was, I read it. I was fascinated by the 'Shell Safety Series', which told you what to do in the event any number of vehicular horrors befell you on dark and stormy nights or in a blizzard or in six lanes of LA traffic. Heck, I didn't even drive, but I was one of those irritatingly precocious kids who wanted to know what to do.

So this would explain how my Friday went better than it might have.

I was tootling up Route 81 toward Syracuse for my only appointment of the day. 12pm, one and done, grab lunch, get home by 5, bang out a few dozen cookies, put up some decorations, have an adult beverage. This was the checklist I was working on as I listened to some classical music on the radio, one of the lesser Bachs with lots of initials. Then..... dun dun DUN, I hear bang! And swop swop swop swop and I know I just blew a tire. That's when my Reader's Digest inspired ninja training kicked in. 'Foot off the pedals', I told myself. 'Fade over to the shoulder'. 'Hazards on'. 'Brake gently' 'Freak out a little'. (Okay, that's not one of the steps, but c'mon.) The shoulder is ridiculously narrow, I'm about 8 inches on the good side of the white line and if I'd gotten any further over I knew whoever was coming to rescue me wouldn't have been able to deal with the tire, which was on the passenger side. Trucks are rocking the van as I sit there dialing. I call my boss and let him know what happened. He tells me who to call. I call them. The guy sounds like I woke him up.

"Hello (fleet emergency rescue company) can I help you?"
"Yes, I just had a blowout on 81 North just below Syracuse, NY."
"Okay, are you on the road?"
"Um, I'm on the SHOULDER," I tell him.
"Okay, can you tell me where you are?"
(Thinking I just did that) "Yeah, I'm just past the Preble rest stop, about a mile and a half below the Tully exit, I can see it from where I am, and,"
"Whoa, whoa,, what TOWN are you in?"
"Well, I guess its TULLY, but I'm on 81. I'll give you the numbers off the mile marker." I wait for a break in traffic and dive out of the van, walking to the mile marker that is just behind me. I read off all three numbers.
"Ma'am, you are giving me too many numbers."
"Well, I'm sorry, sweetie, there are THREE numbers on the marker. One is the route number, and there are two underneath it."
"Do either of them have a decimal point in them?"
"Well there are a couple of BOLTS holding it to the post, so I couldn't tell you," I'm starting to consider just hoofing it to the exit. Then I reflect on the fact that its 15 degrees. With wind. I decide to believe in my guy here, who to be fair is in Massachusetts. He tells me he'll send someone out. I jump back in the van, put on my seatbelt, and pull out a book. Because what the heck, right?

A few minutes later I get a call from a tire place in Syracuse, telling me a guy is on his way. He asks me if I have a spare. I ask him where they typically are in a vehicle with no trunk. He tells me. I wait for a break in traffic, dive out of the van, and peer under the back end of the van.
"Yep, there's a spare."
I wait for a break in traffic. I dive back in, and read some more.
And read some more. And read some more. I start to triangulate the starting point of the truck and figure when I should start to worry. Time passes, and I receive faintly urgent message from the cappuccino I bought at Dunkin Donuts an hour and a half before. Half an hour later I get a call from the tire guy. He's just passed me, he has to go to the next exit and turn around, and he'll be here in 10 minutes. I read. A state trooper stops by just to make sure all is well. I glance longingly at the Nice and Easy at the next exit and have a fleeting urge to ask him to take me there so I can pee, but I dismiss it because that's just crazy. He leaves.

Tire guy comes, jacks up the van with me in it (its just like NASCAR, only slower and colder, and okay, its not like NASCAR at all but he didn't ask me to get out and its FIFTEEN DEGREES so screw it) and begins to remove the spare.

Only its not coming off. Not at all. Not after fifteen minutes of banging and prying. Not after twenty minutes of banging and prying. Not after forty five minutes of banging and prying. I squint at the Nice and Easy, with its cheerful early-eighties logo. Is it really a mile away? Could I make it? Its time to abort this mission. I wait for a break in traffic and dive out of the van. I stand beside the legs under the back end until a head peeps out.

"Lets just bag it, and call for a tow truck, okay? I don't think its coming off and its kind of unsafe here and (yes, I said this) I really, really, really need to pee."

He gathers up his tools and I jump in his truck, every interior surface of which has been touched by hands that don't have the benefit of a wash after changing truck tires. I notice he has the same GPS as I do, only its duct-taped to the dashboard on a mounting bracket fashioned out of coathangers. We go to the exit. Two hours and sixteen minutes have passed since my Shell Safety moment. I come out of the store and my knight in grease besmeared armor says, "Hey, well, here's what we can do. We can go back to the van, (south and then north) take the wheel off, take it to the shop (further north, then back south past the van, then off and back on the highway and north again) and replace the tire, and then go back and put it on, or we can tow it."

I blink at him. I decide not to ask why we didn't BRING THE WHEEL WITH US when we headed north in the first place. We go back south, turn around, come north, get the wheel, and drive to Syracuse. Change the tire. Put it back on the truck, drive BACK past the van, get off, turn around, and return. (I know this is tedious to read. It was even more tedious to DO.) In no time he has it back on and at 3:47pm, four hours and thirteen minutes after my Shell Safety Moment, I am on my way to my 12pm appointment. The customer was lovely and offered me tea, I did my thing and at about 5:30pm I stopped to get some lunch.

Good God, Syracuse. How do you deal with it? As soon as I got out of the van it hit me. This ridiculous sun-is-down-now-wind-driven cold, more than cold. A teabagging from Mr. White Christmas, Mr. Snow, the Cold Miser himself. I mean, jeez. I live in a place where it gets cold. But this was insane. I paid for my sushi, dodging one cashier for another after I determined the woman in front of me was not just momentarily befuddled by the intricacies of purchasing one apple and one banana but actually batshit crazy, and I was on my way. I got home at 8:45. I sang all the way home, loudly, accompanying my fevered vigilance for deer. There were no cookies baked. I took a shower and passed out by 10pm.

But don't worry-- the cookies are coming.


Celestial Charms said...

Oh, it has been a while since I visited, but I'm certainly glad I came over today. You had me cracking up. I too used to read Reader's Digest when I was young. Although, I don't think I can remember any specifics 30 odd years later. Make that 40 odd! Anyway, I'm glad you arrived home in one piece. I'll be baking those cookies today, too. Happy baking!

Suzy said...

And that story is why I have AAA.

JD at I Do Things said...

I second Suzy's comment. What a nightmare! I'm glad you're OK, even tho there were no cookies.

Lisa @ Boondock Ramblings said...

Duuuuude! As someone would say...whomever that is. But duuude! I can not believe all that! I don't think I heard about this but what a nightmare. Your husband only talks about himself when we're on the phone so I never know what goes on in your life. Surprised? neither.

Anonymous said...

I luuuuuuv your sound effects ("sop swop swop") - ROFLMAO.

Great stuff.

Joyce (aka FireSiren, Kali GoddessofDestruction, and other names now "band" by FFN ;o)