Traffic was sparse; we were making great time.
“What an easy drive!”
Naively, I didn’t realize uttering those words meant I was tempting fate.
We were past the trip’s halfway mark. The windshield wipers kept time, although the music blaring from the stereo effectively drowned out their rhythmic swishing.
“What time will we get there?”
I glanced at my son in the rearview mirror. Two weeks out of high school, he sported a college t-shirt. Fitting, as we were en route to “Freshman Registration.”
My husband answered before I could. Which was good, because I choked up whenever I thought about our boy leaving home.
“Five-ish. We’ll have to figure out a dinner plan.”
That, however, would have to wait.
“What was that?”
My husband’s face reflected my confusion.
Although cruise control was on, the engine revved and the car slowed.
“No no no…” I muttered, guiding the six-month old car to the shoulder. By the time I pulled over, the console was lit up like a Christmas tree.
Christmas in June. What a rotten gift.
“Kill the engine!”
I gave my husband a look.
“Yeah… I think it’s already dead.”
This disaster called for a calm, measured response. After all, I was the mom, the wife, and the current driver’s seat occupant. It would be my job to rally the troops, calm frazzled nerves, and come up with a plan.
So, naturally, I burst into tears, banged my fists on the steering wheel, and let a few choice expletives fly. I also chugged my full water bottle in one long gulp. This, I would learn, was tempting fate again.
After a moment, a tentative hand from the backseat touched my shoulder.
“Mom, it’s going to be OK.”
Apparently, our son had witnessed enough ‘Mom tantrums’ in his 18 years to recognize one when he saw one.
“We’re in the middle of NOOOOWHERE,” I whined.
Technically, that wasn’t true. We were on I-90 in the middle of southern Minnesota. Windmills dotted the landscape as far as the eye could see, but there were no other signs of civilization. We were up the proverbial creek without a paddle. Well, up the interstate without a paddle, anyway. And, the way the rain was coming down – in sheets – one could almost be forgiven for mistaking the highway for a navigable waterway.
I composed myself enough to join my more level-headed husband and son in plotting our next move. Over the course of the following hour, we called roadside assistance, our insurer, and the dealer, finally arranging for a tow to the dealership in our destination city, 110 miles away.
“Be patient,” the dispatcher said. “It may take time to arrange your tow.”
As a rule, I am not patient.
Neither is my bladder. It was at this point that it gently reminded me of the water I’d guzzled earlier. I politely thanked it for its concern but dismissed it. It wasn’t a crisis yet.
Sitting in our motionless car while the storm raged outside had me craving a snack. Luckily, my emergency stash was ready. After all, one never knows when one may be stranded by the side of the road needing a little sugar pick-me-up.
I didn’t realize it at the time, but even eating junk food was tempting fate.
In my haste to shovel chocolate into my mouth, some dropped onto my lap. One renegade morsel slipped between my legs, sliding beneath me.
Now, had it not been pouring rain, I would have exited the car to retrieve the runaway treat. Under the circumstances, I decided it would have to wait until more hospitable conditions prevailed.
The occasional vehicle zoomed past as we waited, but none stopped.
It was warm in the car without air conditioning; tensions ran high. I complained on social media, ate more snacks, and wallowed in self-pity. Rather than planning where we would have dinner, the question became if we would have dinner. At least we still had chocolate.
Three hours into our unscheduled stop, one thing became clear: I could no longer ignore my screaming bladder.
The good news was that the rain had slowed to a steady drizzle. The bad news was that this was farmland; there were no trees to offer privacy. I dashed around the front of the car and my husband opened his door to shield me from the view of approaching traffic.
Relief was… well, relieving.
I realized too late I should have turned the other way. I imagined the occupants of oncoming vehicles laughing at and photographing my bare behind as I squatted by the side of the freeway. I could be a viral meme by morning.
Bladder emptied, I was about to re-enter the car when I noticed two things:
1) The missing chocolate was missing no more, now smeared into the upholstery of the driver’s seat. With mounting horror, I realized it was also on my seat, making it look like I’d had an unfortunate accident; and
2) A tow truck had passed our car and stopped.
My face grew beet red as the driver approached. How much had he seen?
I briefly considered sending him away.
What? No, we don’t need a tow. We’re just enjoying the day!
But then, I glanced at my son in the backseat and remembered that this trip wasn’t all about me.
Minutes later, we crowded into the tow truck’s cab. I sat on my husband’s lap, transferring some of the smeared chocolate to his shorts in the process. Marriage is about sharing, right?
I reflected on the afternoon’s adventure. It hadn’t been ideal, true, but it could have been worse. At least it wasn’t the dead of winter, nobody got hurt, and we’d had enough candy to sustain us.
Although our ordeal wasn’t over yet, it was comforting to know we were moving again and would get our son to his registration event as planned.
As for tempting fate, I vowed never to do it again.
Author’s Note: This was my 1,000-word entry for the final round of the YeahWrite Super Challenge #15. I had 48 hours to write a mostly-true personal essay incorporating the following sentence without modification: It wasn’t a crisis yet.
Contest winners will be announced this Friday (3/20) afternoon, so cross your fingers for me! I hope you enjoyed this – thanks for stopping by to read. 🙂