I am going to write out what happened to us on Saturday and if you can make it through it, you will be highly amused. Because if it doesn't happen to YOU it is funny. It is even funny if it does happen to you, if you can look back at it unscathed and have a deep appreciation for irony. Thank the Lord I do. I'm willing to bet that is why this kind of stuff happens to ME.
I'm a part of a homeschool movie group that arranges for homeschoolers to preview upcoming movies for free. We have been very excited to go to Dallas to see Dolphin Tale for a couple of weeks now. But since we've had so much car trouble, we like to make a trip to Dallas count, so we decided to also fit in picking up some books/nursing covers that had been donated to the Childbirth & Beyond class and then dropping off some clothing and cloth diapers to a mom with a 6 year old, 2 year old and newborn who lost their home and truck in a fire the day before.
We set off that morning, excited for the day with the car loaded down. We were almost to the movie theatre when I realized that I had brought my phone, but left my purse. I panicked and asked Allan if he had any money with him. Thankfully, he did. The movie was free, but the snacks were not and we may need gas later that day. We got to the theatre early and stood in line with lots of other homeschool families, got our snacks and enjoyed a simply fantastic movie. TRULY-it comes out Sept 23rd, please go see it! It hit home for us on so many levels-veterans, the VA, amputees, prosthetists, and, of course, dolphins. How can you go wrong with dolphins? It's based on a true story of an amazing little boy and girl whose quick thinking saved a dolphin who shouldn't have lived and the marine hospital she lives in.
We all left there in very good spirits and got ready to head to the mall in Mesquite to meet up with the DFW Cloth Diaper group I'm a part of. They're the awesome ladies who collected items for the class and they've been patiently waiting for me to pick the stuff up for a month now. The meeting was from 10:30-1:30 and when we got out of the theatre it was about 12:30 and it would take us until 1pm to get there. On the way, I sent a facebook message via my phone (since I still live in the dark ages and can't text. HA!) to one of the girls I was supposed to meet that we would be there in about 25 minutes. We got there right on time, but the babies were sleeping, so Allan stayed with them and GraceAnne and I went in to find everyone. I stood at the play area, looking like a perv, I'm sure...scanning all the babies for signs of cloth diapers and looking the mommies over to see if I recognized anyone from their profile pictures. I saw no one and finally after standing there a good 10 minutes, I decided no one was going to come. About half-way through Sears, I got a message back saying that they had left 15 minutes before we got there because the kids were getting cranky.
Cool. I still had one more mission to fulfill that day. So we set off for Arlington, 49 minutes away on the other side of Dallas. This is where the woman who lost her home was staying and where her brother-in-law told us we could drop off the items we had gathered for her family.
We made it about halfway and were traveling in the HOV lane when slowly, the car started dying. We were going slower and slower and slower. If any of you know me in facebook land, you know this is not the first time this car has stranded us. Being as we had worked out all those kinks, we felt we could safely trust it, despite the fickle a/c and the non-working driver's side window. We were wrong again, of course.
Do you know HOV lanes in Texas? I have never seen anything like it, but they are completely separated from the rest of the highway by 3' tall cinder blocks. There is no way in or out except where the DOT decided to place and entrance or exit. We so happened to be blessed enough to be on one that actually had a side ramp, but most do not. We pulled over to the side and sat in disbelief as people continued to pass us at 90 miles per hour. My husband may or may not have cussed. I may or may not have laughed. But I would not be laughing long. We rolled the windows down, made sure that the babies, who had woken up, had fresh water (I learned my lesson to keep a big jug of ice water in our truck for just such an occasion) and were unbuckled.
[insert kids squealing and jumping around the car here]
What to do? Call insurance and get a tow-truck ASAP. So I called and they said we no longer have roadside assistance, but that they could dispatch someone for $93. That's a bargain, considering they'd have to tow us an hour, so I asked her to do that right away. I also asked if we should call a ride for ourselves, because we have gotten rides with the tow guys before. She initially said no, then I informed her that it was me, my husband and our 3 youngest children. She changed her tune and said we might need someone to come get us. My husband called a wonderful man from church who agreed to come and rescue us.
[insert kids squealing and jumping around the car here]
All this time I had to pee. And as we waited there, it was only getting worse. I realized that soon we'd have tow truck guys and a rescuer around so I would not be able to pee. My only option was here and now. The window of opportunity was closing in on me with every spasm of my bladder. I am no stranger to peeing on a highway shoulder, since we are road warriors, but we were literally in the MIDDLE of the interstate with cars whizzing past us at 90mph. This was just not an option.
[insert kids tossing our luggage about and jumping around the car here]
**MEN AND PRUDES-SKIP THIS PARAGRAPH. PRETEND THE URGE TO PEE WENT AWAY AND ALL WAS WELL** So I did what any mom who has to pee while stuck in an HOV lane would do...I emptied the gigantic Coke cup from the theatre into the road and pulled down my pants to pee in it. And found, to my horror, that I had started my period. Recall I left my purse at home earlier this morning? Yeah. What *did* I have on hand? Diapers. Lots of them. Let me just say, Praise God for Pooters contours. A bit bulky for a pad and will make your ass sweat, but great in a pinch. *sigh*
[insert kids complaining about the 95 degree heat and jumping around the car here]
**MEN AND PRUDES-RESUME READING HERE. ALL IS RIGHT WITH THE WORLD** I'm highly irritable at this point and told Allan that *something* has got to give and we can't keep hemmoraghing money from our emergency fund on stupid crap like this car. (Like he doesn't know this) Someone has to get a job and I'll be looking starting Monday. He told me that this is probably not the time to talk about such things and I said okay and continued sulking.
As the day wore on, a cold began settling in. I designated a flat (remember my Flats & Handwashing challenge from May?) to be my snot rag. As I was thinking about how raw my nose would soon be, we got a glorious call that the tow-truck has been dispatched to our location and would be there within 20 minutes. About 30 minutes later the HOV lane guys come and said "Dudes, you have to leave. We're shutting this lane down." Allan wondered aloud when tow truck was going to be there.
[insert kids screaming for lunch and jumping around the car here]
Just then my phone rings and it's our insurance, asking if we've gotten help yet. When I press "2" to indicate help had NOT arrived, they connect me with the tow company. I calmly explain to the dispatcher what is going on and he cannot find my vehicle in the system. I ask him if USAA did not call it in, or what the deal is and he mumbles a bunch. I tell him I'm stuck in the freaking HOV lane and the HOV guys are going to shut the lane down and they're waiting for them to get there. He places me on hold and 5-7 minutes later, when another guy answers and says "How may I help you?" I flip my lid. He looks through the computer and tells me that USAA told them we were on I-20 instead of I-30 and that someone would be to us in about 20 more minutes.
At this point, Ron, the man who came to rescue us, shows up. The HOV lane closes down, so there are no cars speeding at 90mph anymore and Allan swaps the carseats to Ron's pickup. We're doing well now, right? At least we can get going while Allan waits around for the tow guy to show up, right? After all, the babies have been cooped up for over an hour, in the hot sun and they haven't had any lunch.
[insert kids screaming and kicking seats here]
Wrong again, Tara. Ron is a much better person than I am, because he finds it to be prudent to wait with Allan. I strap the babies into the truck and load up our giant jug of water and listen to them scream and kick the seats because this car is more crowded than our car. But-praise The Good Lord-the a/c in Ron's truck works. Allan and Ron hang out in the middle of the road, (maybe because they can? lol) and chat about what a piece of crap we bought.
[insert kids melting down, begging for food and kicking seats here]
USAA calls again, "has your help arrived?" Press 2. Transferred to a USAA rep who tells me that they DID put I-30 in and even our "cross street" but the tow guys figured since the GPS popped up with Grand Prairie, we were actually on I-20. FANTASTIC. The whole time I'm telling myself "Tara, at least your house didn't catch fire and burn to the ground." Because really, I just want to cuss and yell and throw a fit. But, hey, at least my house didn't catch fire and burn to the ground!
[insert kids resorting to throwing stuff at each other and kicking seats here]
30 minutes later the tow-truck guy shows up and we discover it's a good thing Ron stayed with Allan because there are TWO guys in the truck and NO room for Allan to ride back. He would have been stranded alone. The HOV lane guys have been generous and checking on us periodically so that they can open the gate for the tow-truck guys, so they all travel to the end of the HOV lane to work it out.
30 minutes later they manage to get to us. Yeah, don't ask. I don't even know.
[insert GraceAnne screaming "QUIT PULLING MY HAIR OUT AND SAYING 'MINE!'" and kicking seats here]
Finally, the piece o crap is loaded up and Ron and Allan come back to the truck and we drive away. There's nothing we can do but be tense and laugh, so that is what we do. As we are headed south, I see smoke. Lots of smoke. We were still about 40 minutes from our house, so I didn't want to say what I was thinking, which was "I think that's our town..." because I figured the men-folk would find me to be crazy. So I waited to say it until we got to the next closer town. They agreed, but Ron said, "It's okay...I heard on the news that white smoke means grass. It's not someone's house unless it's black." So we keep driving, and we hit the next closest town, only about 15 mintues from our own and we start to see the black plumes. At this point I stop chanting to myself "At least my house didn't burn to the ground." Because the closer we got...the more it truly looked like it was VERY near our house.
Now I start ranting at God. "DO NOT DO THIS TO ME! NOT THIS, TOO!" And a small part of me resigns myself to thinking my house burned down and everything in it was gone. A small part of me is okay with it, because hell...it would just be the perfect ending to a fantastic flipping week and at least we have insurance on it.
I'm serious when I say it was not until we turned down our block that I could say with all certainty it was not our house on fire. Turns out it was over by the hospital, which is about 3 miles from our house, but the direction we were coming it looked like our neighborhood.
Relieved my house had not burned down, I let the kids out and Allan went to deal with the tow-truck guys and help them unload the Blazer. Ron helped unload the carseats and left quickly, because since we realized it wasn't our neighborhood on fire, it now looks like his. (it wasn't, praise God)
I grab the mail on the way in and open the letter from Social Security, which is them saying, "hey...we think we might like to review your case now, cuz we don't think you're disabled anymore, so get your happy rear in here on Weds Sept 14." Which...unless God pulls a miracle...basically means that they're pulling our pay and we'll only have Allan's VA pension left. Which means we can pay our mortgage, utilities and "bills" (we don't have debt except the house) with nothing left for food, clothes, gas, etc. etc. etc.
And Allan walks in to get cash for the tow-truck guys. I laugh and ask if they gave us a discount for making us wait forever and a day in the hot sun and he scoffs and says, "Uh...NO. It's $180."
The relief from the house not being burned down drained fairly quickly. At this point I was just too exhausted from the day and from being full-blown sick now to even care. I fed the kids and laid low the rest of the evening. I was in bed by 8pm, which is unheard of for me.
I'll write about our Sunday tomorrow. For now, I have to shower and get ready for my new life.