Now, why’s the AC dying again? We just fixed it. Weird. Car’s sluggish, too.
Mph: 70. 60. 50. 45.
Ok. Gotta pull over. I run the hazard lights and crawl over two lanes to the shoulder. Just in time. The Sienna gives out and it takes me a minute to realize the hood’s smoking. My eyes fall to the cubbyhole where the mobile usually sits. Great. The day I run out of the house without it. Noted, husband. Noted. I can make out Pyrite Exit, 1/2 Mile up the freeway and all I can do is hope for a gas station there. I collect my hat, keys, and the little water I have but don’t go five yards before deciding, “Not in these sandals. Not in this sun.” Turning back toward the car, I do the only thing left to get to a phone. I stick out my thumb. As the minutes wear on, I’m not sure what strikes in me greater wonder. Finding myself “hitchhiking” or seeing that nobody was stopping. I am also a little nervous about who might want to come to the aid of a lone woman.
Before I can worry too much, a car horn interjects and I spin to see a beat-up truck behind the fence. Cozy in the front, three Latino men who look to be in their twenties wave. Apply every politically incorrect stereotype and judge by appearances, and these were not guys a sober helpless female would turn to for help. Here goes nothing. My New York sense of adventure moves me forward.
“Hi. Can you please call my husband, tell him I’m stuck on the 60 and need AAA?”
The men smile and three cell phones appear in a flash. The guy nearest me in Shotgun beats his friends to it and waiting through the rings, apologetically swings a tattooed arm to keep his cigarette smoke from me.
“Honey, it’s me!” I call out to prove the call is no prank.
I’m told help is on the way and decline the men’s offer to stay with me. As they pull away, the guys point behind me and looking back toward the freeway I see a young man in something like a Corvette smiling as if to ask, “Anything I can do?”
“Thank you so much but my husband is coming.” I nod my thanks and in a few minutes make out a police car in the distance. California Highway Patrol stops to make sure I’m okay and offers the cooled vehicle for a waiting room but I’m not feeling venturesome enough to climb into the backseat I associate with a jail cell. And then my knight in shining armor pulls up.
Later: “When I heard a man’s voice on the line saying, ‘Your wife…’ your life flashed before my eyes. I thought I’d lost you and saw myself putting T in school. And writing on your blog.
Over my dead body.