I had such great hope for this day.
Some of the staples in life are hard to come by these days. For a few days now, we had been planning on taking advantage of the Sam’s Club Old Folks and At-Risk Folks early opening at 7 AM. Surely there would be gleaming shelves of freshly stocked everything at this hour, right?
Gloves and mask at the ready, I arrive at the stroke of 7 and the lot is already three quarters full. I kind of have to go to the bathroom, but we only need a few things: paper towels, TP, strawberries, blueberries, and Garlic Knots. Maybe a bottle of hand soap if we got lucky. You need to try Garlic Knots. Honest. No kidding.
I got in. I got out. Nobody got hurt - that I know of. 18 minutes elapsed time. And no impulse buys. I got everything but the hand soap.
The trip was a little spendy though -- I spent a little more than expected - $1,374 in total. And here’s where Paul Harvey would say “And now, the rest (pause pause pause) of the story.”
I’m heading down the freeway ramp for home at 7:20 AM. Glorious. Then I noticed the low tire warning light winking at me. Then I noticed it wasn’t just that light. It was every warning light on my dashboard. After momentarily marveling at how many warnings a Kia Sorento offers on its dashboard, I realized something was up.
“Huh,” I said to myself. “That can’t be good.”
I quickly flashed back to the wipers going slower than normal on Sunday during near blizzard conditions for our "Easter Brunch Safe Distance Delivery" to some folks.
Then the car started lurching. And the power steering wasn’t powering. Time to pull over. Maybe if I turn the car off, and start it again, it’ll reset and everything will be fine. Foreshadowing is what they call it the business.
I coast to a stop in a nice wide area of grass off the shoulder on Hwy 694, just short of Hwy 169. I turn off the car, and try to turn it back on. Nothing.
“Huh,” I said again – and not for the last time. No biggie. I’ll take out my handy dandy Amex Gold Card, and call for roadside traveler assistance. Except they no longer offer that. The nice recorded lady on the phone told me the program ended January 1st. For chrissakes! So I figured I’d call and reinstate my AAA membership and get their tow truck out to help.
I should mention again, at the time I was leaving Sam’s, I felt the increase in rumblings of ‘having to go.’ Now half thinking, "I’ve got toilet paper in the back, how do I pull that off on the side of the freeway?" So I’ve got that in the back of my mind, moving slowly to the forefront. And as a further aside, what in the world would we do without cell phones?
I’m on the phone with a somewhat terse – I won’t say crabby – lady at AAA. All she really needs is my credit card number. We have an expired membership. She gets me started and says, “Would you please hold a moment?” I say yes. And we promptly get disconnected. A much more pleasant lady answers when I call back, and helps me finish the process. Even nicely asking me if I need a ride. I tell her that I’ll call Lyft from the dealership. She tells me she can hear freeway sounds, so she’ll put a rush on the tow truck.
We disconnect, I’m feeling ok about the transaction, and turn on ‘CCO to see if Jerry mentions a stall on 694. Nothing much else to talk about – traffic is down 80 percent since this COVID-19 induced stay-at-home began.
About an hour later, I get a call from Dispatch Guy, he says Driver Guy is 7 or 8 minutes away. Seven or eight minutes later he calls again. The driver is looking for me, where am I again? 694 eastbound just west of 169, I tell him. After another five or ten minutes my savior arrives. Young guy, all business, hooking chains and straps, pulling my Kia up onto the back of the truck.
He’s got it set, I’m still having ‘that feeling,’ only a bit more insistent. He walks toward the driver’s side door, and I put my mask back on and open the passenger side door. He hops in, looks at me looking at the toolbox and lockdown straps in the passenger seat, and tells me, “I’m not allowed to have anyone in the truck because of Covid. Didn’t AAA tell you that?”
“No. They didn’t” I say in my mask and gloves. Again thinking about the rumble down under.
And now I finally stop being Zen about the whole thing. It's hard to feel all namaste when you're a grown-ass adult who started thinking about shitting his pants.
After a full 90 minutes on the side of the freeway, I wave goodbye to my car, my toilet paper, and the tow truck - and I start walking south, up the hill, toward 169. The Lyft app tells me I’m at an apartment complex. I tell Lyft I’m on the side of the freeway just off an overpass. I find a driver, text him my actual location, and wait an entire 3 minutes or so for him to pull up.
This gives me just enough time to put my mask back on, to try to stop thinking about shitting my pants, and to hop in the car home. Nice guy. I tell him the story. Except the poopy part. We make it to the house, and I head right to the bathroom for sweet relief.
Until my cell phone rings. It’s the dealership. And that's how the cost of my trip to Sam’s got jacked-up to costing me over 1300 bucks.
But telling the story to Nancy, and her levitating in laughter every time I mention the threat of shitting my pants, made me smile.