Wednesday, February 29, 2012

How My Starbucks Habit Made the World Safer, or, Why I'm Not Allowed to Drive on the Highway Anymore

On my way to pick up my youngest son from school the other day, I passed several police cars involved in what appeared to be a big bust.  I slowed down to a speed more conducive to rubber-necking and watched a man get escorted to the back seat of a patrol car.  All at once, I remembered the last time I witnessed policemen performing their civic duty.  It happened when I wrecked my husband’s car on the interstate about a month ago.

On this sunny, blustery, day, I picked Billy up from school at the regularly scheduled bat-time.

“Hey, Mom it’s kinda cold outside so I’m thinking Starbucks, how ‘bout you?”

Never one who likes to disappoint her children, I emphatically casually answered, “O.K., sure”.  (Hey, it was pretty stinking cold outside and I desperately needed to get my Starbucks on.  Billy’s no dummy, you know.)

So, I pointed Charlie’s car toward I-44 in an effort to avoid the bumper-to-bumper traffic along 32nd Street and save myself about 10 minutes.  I merged onto the highway and gradually reached a comfortable cruising speed of 70 MPH.  

And that’s when it happened. 

I noticed some debris tumbling along the road that I thought was coming from the semi two cars ahead of me.  I swerved around what looked like an oxygen tank and said to Billy, “Holy cow – THAT would have left a mark!”

Next I saw some smaller pieces bouncing along the shoulder and thought, “How on earth is that truck still moving?”  I told Billy I thought the truck blew a tire and we should probably pull over until things cleared up a bit.  I began to slow down and inched my way toward the shoulder.  Except all of a sudden something bounced into the middle of my lane.  As I maneuvered the car so that it would straddle the piece of debris, I remembered that I was in Charlie’s high-performance sedan instead of my more practical SUV.  And, I also noticed that said piece of debris was actually some kind of metal thing-y, not the piece of rubber tire I originally thought it was.  Oh-oh.  Crrruunchhh.  Draaaaggg.  Craaappppp!!!!

As whatever the heck I ran over dragged my car to a stop, I steered my way onto the shoulder and pulled as close as possible to the grass alongside the highway.  Shaking, I called Charlie.

“Um, I just ran over something on the highway that was dropped by the truck in front of me.  I pulled over off the highway as far as I could.  Can you please call the dealership and have them send someone?”

“How far are you from the exit?  Can you get to the exit?”  he asked.

“I am about a quarter of a mile from the exit and no, I can’t get to it.  Whatever I ran over is dragging from the undercarriage and I don’t want to cause anymore damage to your car.”

“WHY can’t you get to the exit?  You need to get off the highway.”

Around this time I looked into the rear-view mirror and saw smoke.  Certain that the afore-mentioned mysterious tank had caught on fire and soon the flames would engulf me, I shouted into the phone, “I really just need you to call and get someone out here to get the car.  Do you have the number or what?  Are you going to help me or not?  Just give me the number and I’ll call but I am NOT driving this car any farther!”  (OK, maybe I overreacted just a tad.  Then again, maybe not.  Read on….)

“Why can’t you get the car to the exit?”

“Charlie, your car will not move any farther.  I am over on the side of the road as far as possible – part of the car is in the grass.  Really, I just need you to come get us and arrange for a tow truck to pick up the car.”

“OK, I’m on it.  But maybe you should try and get the car to the exit?”  (Yes, he really was this fixated on my getting off the highway.  To be fair, if you are at all familiar with I-44, you know the kind of semi traffic it gets.  Heck, if you’ve seen Cars you probably get the picture).

I hung up my phone and told Billy to get out of the car on his side then grabbed my things and hopped out when the coast was clear.  I walked around the back of the car and that’s when I saw it:  something liquid was gushing out of my car.

“Billy!  Shut the door and run toward the Call Center!”  She’s gonna blow!  (Thankfully, I had conveniently brought the car to a stop close to the AT&T Call Center.  That way, if we needed to fortify ourselves during the long wait for our rescue we could at least hit the vending machines.  Survivalists to the core, Billy and I are.)

I sat down on the curb, panting, and turned my eyes toward the smoking atomic bomb that I witnessed rolling along the highway about a half mile down from us and realized that emergency crews needed to be alerted about the impending nuclear holocaust, so I called 911.

After finally getting the 911 operator to voice understanding about the desperation of our situation, I watched the semi that I originally suspected as being the source of my vehicle’s sudden demise pull away.  Uh-oh.  Now I’m really in trouble – who’s going to pay for all of this?  How can that truck still be driving – isn’t it missing something important? Then I noticed the cement truck pulled alongside the highway.  And the driver who was inspecting his rig.  Phew – I was not abandoned, after all.

After what still seems like a day and a half, a police car pulled up behind my car.  I walked over and introduced myself (still watching my car for sparks that might ignite the puddle beneath it) and explained what happened.  After speaking with the driver, the officer returned to inform me that the truck had lost its drive shaft (I guess that bomb squad didn’t need to be notified, after all) and he suspected I ran over one of the pieces that held the thing into whatever place it’s supposed to be held on the truck.  He took my information, told me that even though the driver didn’t drop the Mother Lode onto the highway on purpose, he would still be held responsible for the damage caused to my vehicle (duh).  He also informed me that no, the oil leaking from my car would NOT cause it to explode.

As Charlie pulled up in my SUV, the cement company’s manager, who had arrived to assist his driver, wandered over to collect our info.  I wisely introduced him to Charlie and while they spoke I looked off into the distance and noticed that one of the police officers was escorting the driver to his patrol car.  As the officer opened the back door of his vehicle I said to the manager, “hey, look, do they have your guy in cuffs?”

The manager raced over to the patrol car as Charlie, Billy, and I stared on in disbelief.  Apparently the poor guy had a warrant out for his arrest in another county.

As they pulled away and Charlie watched, shaking his head, I said, “See, I was only doing my good deed for the day.”

And that, my friends, is how my Starbucks habit helped put a hardened criminal behind bars.  Or something like that....

Oh, and the prognosis on Charlie’s car?  If I had driven it any further the entire undercarriage would have been ripped in half.


  1. Oh my gosh! Well I'm glad you're all right, but what a scary thing to go through!

    1. Thank you, Sherry. Yes, it WAS a pretty harrowing experience, and I have to admit that I was pretty freaked out for a couple days after. But, thankfully we are OK and now I can find the humor in the situation (and, really, there were some pretty funny things that went on that afternoon). Oh, and I was conveniently reminded why I prefer my car to my husband's!

  2. Hi, I am visiting from the A-Z Challenge and wasn't sure at first if this was a fiction piece or if you indeed lived through this. So glad to hear you are ok. Looking forward to visiting throughout the challenge.

    1. Yep. It's all true. I hardly even had to embellish for dramatic effect! Thanks so much for stopping by and best of luck on The Challenge!