Tuesday, December 2, 2008
He leaned over the steering wheel as he drove. Sweating. Breathing hard.
“It’s over. No one was hurt. “ I placed my hand on his leg.
The Highway Patrol officer was trailing behind. An hour ago his flashing blue and red lights were a welcome sight as we stood on the side of busy Highway 15, half of our belongings strewn along the road behind us.
“Is that your debris covering my highway back there?” he asked.
“Yessir,” my husband said as he extended his hand and smiled. “We’re the Griswold’s. Welcome to our family vacation.”
He pointed to our car, leaning precariously on the left side of the road. Two big Labradors in the back, two kids in the middle, with their laptops, DVD’s, headphones, a Gameboy, a Nintendo and remnants from breakfast on the go. The dogs barked wildly. My son screamed in unison.
Earlier, about 10 miles outside of Mesquite, Nevada, while the kids watched The Simpsons movie and I enjoyed a New Yorker Fiction podcast, there was a sudden and startling WHOOSH and BANG. My husband braked and pulled over to the side. The resistance of stopping from a high speed woke everyone from their digital stupor.
“Is it a blowout I asked?”
“No,” my husband said. “The top of the storage unit came off. I saw it in the rear view mirror.”
He exited the car and ran to the people behind us. By some huge stroke of luck, the top of our storage unit flew back and rather than flying through their windshield, hit their front bumper, bounced off and continued on it’s way down the highway, shredding into hundreds of pieces as it went.
I noticed a herd of cows grazing close by as my husband checked on the other party and traded insurance information. I leaned over my seat to attend to my son. He was hysterical and between he and the dogs no one could hear my assurances that everything was okay.
I tried to get out of the car so I could sit near him but because the car was leaning to the left, the weight of the passenger door was too heavy. I used both my feet to push the door but my small frame was no match for a steel-enforced Volvo and gravity. It didn’t help that cars were whizzing by at 80 M.P.H.
I climbed over the console and came out the other side. My son was still screaming but thankfully the dogs had calmed down. I caught a glimpse of my husband, running down the littered highway, jumping in when the road was clear, to pick up our coats, scarves, and Converse sneakers. Old tire treads raised up from the road as he ran, attracted to his track pants like magnets; dangling like a piece of modern art.
The tall officer, armed with broad muscles, guns and sticks wore large aviator sunglasses over his impressive, Roman hook nose. He took our information and filed a police report. It took a while and during that time he seemed to soften to my husband. I watched from my now quiet car as they actually seemed… friendly. At one point, my husband leaned in to whisper something to the officer.
Later, as I thanked him and said goodbye, the officer appeared uncomfortable.
“Really appreciate your help,” I repeated. “You have a nice Thanksgiving.”
He looked to my husband and then back at me and stammered, “Uh, I think I’ll just trail behind you guys for a bit. Make sure the bottom half of that unit doesn’t fly off before you get to Mesquite.”
“Great!” my husband said as he jumped into the car.
Something seemed fishy but he was a cop and what he said made a bit of sense, so I excused his odd behavior and got into the car.
My husband leaned over the steering wheel as he drove back onto the highway. He was sweating. Breathing hard.
“It’s over. No one was hurt.” I placed my hand on his leg.
The wind picked up as we gained speed, “Let’s turn on the AC, so we can close the windows,” I suggested.
“NO! No A.C.”
I looked at him, suspicious. “What did you whisper to him back there?”
He mumbled, sheepishly, "We’re out of gas…It's ten miles to the nearest station."
"WHAT?!" "No gas!” I screamed. “You have got to be kidding me.”
Let me stop here a minute to tell you that while no one has ever been hurt (for which I am VERY grateful), situations like this happen to us often. While dating my husband, I heard many an anecdote from his friends about a vintage convertible blowing up on the Pacific Coast HIghway, of having car trouble in the middle of the desert without a cell phone. There are plenty of others. These kind of incidences follow my husband. Now, having married the guy, they follow me, too. The officer must have noticed my teasing nudges and prodding sarcasm and taken pity on my husband.
So here we were, windows open, sitting knees to chin to accomodate the extra luggage, coasting as much as possible down Highway 15. And...we had our own personal Highway Patrol escort.
We did make it to Mesquite, where we bid goodbye to our new friend. We gave the bottom half of the storage pod a proper burial - in a dumpster outside of the Oasis Hotel - while a choir rehearsed hymns in a neighboring church.
We arrived in Utah, five hours later, behind schedule and a bit sore. But being the holiday, we were thankful everyone was alive and well. And for having yet one more story to tell.
* photo courtesy of Google Images
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