The epitaph that will perfectly sum up my life will be the legend, “Bizarre Stuff Happened to Her”. I’m almost used to it by now, but one day, when it’s time to walk golden streets instead of trudging up and down rock-infested hillsides, I’m going looking for that bizarre star I was born under. Maybe it’s a quirk. I’ll bet it’s so obscure even Hubble hasn’t spotted it because I don’t know a single other person stuff like this just happens to.
Yesterday I had a nice little quiet outing. A good book and I went to Ruby Tuesday restaurant — one whose music was not played for the benefit of the deaf in Abu Dhabi. I sat by a window, had a great steak and lobster tail along with great service, and just enjoyed being where nobody knew my name. No I’m not famous, just fatigued. Sometimes I like the solitude of strangers. Mine. Not theirs.
I had two good tall cups of coffee with all the trimmings, and an unguilt-ridden, lovely slice of real cheesecake. Okay. I don’t get to do this often, so it’s a treat. I mulled over everything and felt as relaxed as a cat in the lap of a sunbeam. When the bill came I slipped my card into the little black folder along with the tip and sat a little longer reading and sipping coffee. Then I gathered up my things and headed back in the direction of home, stopping at Wal-Mart on the way to pick up a long list of much-needed items.
While my full cart was being checked and bagged, I started digging for my card. It wasn’t in its normal slot, so I frantically started scrabbling through every corner. I had brought a tote to hold my library book, so it was a big search. Finally, I had to concede defeat. It wasn’t there. Sympathetically, the cashier asked if I had my checkbook. Yes! But after more scrabbling I realized my checkbook was in my other bag – at home.
I asked if they could hold the stuff till I could track down my card. They could. But I knew they wouldn’t let it sit there too long. And I wasn’t willing to watch two hours of hard shopping go down the drain. (An hour was wasted trying to find make-up, and naturally they don’t have the same item you bought before and really liked).
So off I go, fifteen miles back in the wrong direction from home. A cold dusk was settling and a fine film of snow was hitting the windshield. I get to the restaurant, which I had called moments before to ask if I had left my card and to let them know I was on my way to pick it up. A young woman asked for my driver’s license, which I thought was a good safe policy. I waited. And waited. Finally, the young woman comes back and, rather than handing me my card, starts asking me about the type of card. By this time I was really frazzled, but Instead of wrapping my hands around her throat, I took a breath and said, “Look, I don’t know the type of card.” Then I just picked a name out of a hat. Naturally it was the wrong one, but I was done playing 20 questions. I had groceries to pick up. Either my tone, or the look on my face must have convinced her it would be good store policy to give it back. As she handed me my card, my parting shot was, “And don’t scare me like that again”.
Now all I had to do was drive the fifteen, windy, cold snowy miles back to Wal-Mart, load my groceries, and drive another 13 miles to home. (This is a big, rural county; lots of miles between towns). But, hey, my lone star wasn’t letting me off that easy. By the time I reached the off-ramp to the small, in-between town of Argo (yep, that’s the name), my car was hiccuping, slowing down, and the lights were dying. I made the ramp and pulled into a service station just as everything died.
I had jumper cables in the car so I approached a man with a couple of cute little girls and a truck and asked if he would jump me off. His truck was one of these deals with a wide base and he barely had room to scrape in beside me. There was no room at all for me to get in my car on the driver’s side, so I had to scramble over gear shift and center console to get in the driver’s seat. I’m here to tell you that ain’t easy for an old broad (O how I hate saying that), even for a shorty like me.
The little bit of juice helped the motor turn over, but the lights were still not up to their full capacity. Since my Good Samaritan was going in the same direction, he said he would follow me to the exit just before the one for Wal-Mart, where he would be turning off. During this whole exchange the two little girls waved and smiled at me from inside the store where it was warm and I waved and tried to smile back.
As we turned onto the interstate, I noticed my lights were still very dim and the car wouldn’t go hardly more than 40 miles an hour even with the pedal to the metal. A few miles down the road they went out altogether. I pulled off onto the shoulder and my Samaritan pulled in behind me. Since the car was still running, he said he would drive close behind so no one would run into me. We made a poor caravan, but I limped into my turn for Wal-Mart and was actually able to park with room on both sides so my husband could get that big diesel work truck by me when I called. I looked around for the nice little family, but they had already gone their way. I hope if I ever run into Mr. Dad again I’ll recognize him and be able to thank him.
As I made my way into Wal-Mart the wind sliced through like honed icicles. My coat was in the trunk of the car. I had never bothered to get it out. I paid for and collected my groceries, giving the woman from customer service a shortened version of my trials of Job. “You need to go home, get in bed, and pull the covers over your head,” she said. Which sounded very familiar. Just that morning I had bought a tank full of gas and tried to pay for it at the pump. It was freezing and windy even then, and, of course, after the third beeping rejection I gave up and went inside, where it was accepted. “I’ve started the day with a machine hollering at me,” I said. “I need to just go home and go to bed and pull the covers over my head.” Am I prophetic? No. Probably just pathetic.
Anyway, I called Mike and he didn’t yell or anything and came and collected me and the groceries. On the way home he did a really good job of calming me down, bless his heart. We left my car overnight. This morning we returned to the scene and Mike bought a new battery. From Wal-Mart, of course.
On the way home on an empty Sunday morning highway, a lone car approached from the opposite direction. Just as it began to pass, the nose of the car jerked across the lane straight at me before the driver pulled back swiftly in his own lane. But I was already making an emergency maneuver toward the edge of the road. We made it home intact, and I haven’t budged outside again this entire day. Maybe the roof won’t fall in.