It was already nearly 10:00pm when I, disguised as mild mannered Window Woman, packed my cases in the back of the van, tucked my signed contracts into my case and pulled out of the townhouse complex in Coralville.
The lazy morning had turned into an action packed afternoon full of stops at the outlet center for a return and the umpteenth trip to Lowe's for yet another haul of stuff to be installed in the house. I had my sticky note from my husband in my hand and efficiently moved around the home improvement warehouse picking up hedge trimmers, outlet covers and water filters along the way. I got to the checkout with my purchases and realized as we were unloading that, instead of six electrical outlet covers, I had six light switch plates. So I let the kind cashier ring through the rest of my order and bolted back to get the additional outlet covers. Got back, changed out the order, paid, picked up my bags and...rrrrip. The bag holding my precious purchases spilled out all over the floor.
As I gathered my belongings into a new bag the lady behind me in line who had witnessed the entire affair including my sprint back to electrical commented "This is just not your day is it?" Lady, you have no idea. I thought but did not say.
At the late hour after my last appointment, my choices for food were limited to McDonalds and McDonalds so I stopped off for a fish sandwich and a Diet Coke and got on the Interstate with the latest JD Robb novel playing on the iPod. The trip was short lived however, as fifteen minutes into the journey, I was met with a scent of burning rubber and the unmistakeable quiver of a blown tire. Somehow I managed to steer the van off onto the shoulder, flip on my hazard lights and spew a line of expletives before calling my husband for the number to Roadside Assistance.
I know at this point you must be thinking "Window Woman with your amazing skills and qualifications a road warrior of your caliber should be able to handle a simple tire change", and you would be correct under normal circumstances, however I was on a dark stretch of rural interstate where semi trucks were whipping past my vehicle at a minimum of 70 miles per hour (see exhibit A on right), I was wearing a wrap around sundress which billowed up Marilyn Monroe style every time a gust of wind blew by and, most importantly, I had no clue where the spare tire on the van was located. Yeah yeah I know - something I should definitely know (and I do now) but I couldn't even find the owner's manual that I had taken out of the glove box so I could program the on-board garage door opener. In hind sight, that would have been a perfect time to review the "emergency roadside" section of the handbook.
After a lovely conversation with Karen at the insurance dispatch center I was told that a truck would be available at or before 11:45pm which left me a little over an hour before this distressed damsel would be rescued. After a mere 20 minutes I received a phone call on my cell from the tow truck driver who identified himself as "Corky" (seriously, even if this were a work of fiction I couldn't have come up with a name that ironic.) I explained the dilemma and he promised to be there in about 20 minutes.
During the waiting period I utilized my time by organizing and purging the glove box, reading a few pages of my ebook, and finishing up the now luke warm sandwich and watered down Diet Coke. True to his word Corky pulled up behind me with yellow lights flashing and came out to assess the situation.
"Looks like your tire is shredded," he said in a flat tone that indicated that I might not actually know that is what was wrong.
"Looks like it" I said, "that's what you are here for." I explained about the mystery of where the spare was located and set to work on finding it. Corky's theory was that it must be under the cargo hold of the back of my van.
Let me stop to explain something about my van. On any given day my vehicle is stuffed to the gills with sample cases, car seats, kids toys, random items on their way to Goodwill, office equipment and various forms of office paperwork. It is my mobile office, mobile showroom, and quite often my mobile napping spot. Unloading such items is no easy task but Corky dutifully began the search for the spare by removing and neatly lining up the cases against the side of the car furthest from the rushing traffic. Still no release hatch. We slid out the back seats of the car. Still no release hatch. At this point I am doubting the validity of Corky's credentials and volunteered to Google search the owner's manual from the Saturn website. A few minutes after looking at the iPhone rendering of the release knob, he found and removed the donut from the undercarriage of the vehicle. Success!
Once the spare was found Corky went to his tasks which, thankfully, he performed quickly and efficiently. He quickly lived up to his quirky name by indulging me in happy small talk about how he came to the profession of emergency vehicle assistance, the personal lives of all of his office co-workers and making not so subtle inquiries about the nature of my business, all while I was attempting to repack the Tetris puzzle that makes up the cargo hold of my van. He was a good guy and - if you ever find yourself stranded anywhere near the Iowa City metro area, Campus Towing is the one to call (be sure to ask for Corky) He even indulged me in a little blog worthy self portrait and didn't complain at all when the flash of the iPhone camera kept lighting up his safety vest like a nuclear flashpoint.
The last thing of which Corky was obliged to remind me was that the donut wasn't meant to sustain speeds of over 50 miles per hour. Mind you, I am now approximately 80 miles away from home, about an 1.25 hours of driving at the posted Interstate speed limit of 70 mph and the time was now midnight (insert scene of me bashing my head against the steering wheel of my vehicle repeatedly here)
Heeding his warning, I pulled off at the next exit about a mile up the road with Corky following with his yellow lights still whirring away and headed towards Highway 6 otherwise known as "The Long Way Home." By this time I was in serious need of caffeine, and yes, a bathroom. Surely, somewhere along the stretch of state highway, someone would have the presence of mind to have a 24 hour Casey's or Quicktrip planted at an intersection. You would think that, but you would be wrong. Small town after small town rolled by and no sign of life was readily visible for miles. The "Stop Ladora Stora" windows were as dark as a Hitchcock movie, the Cenex station in Brooklyn closed up like a mob suspect in a police investigation. The only thing I could see through the bug juice that was now caking my windshield was open road, ghost towns, and the occasional possum, raccoon and one very curious doe that thankfully stayed OFF the road. It felt like the road was winding backwards as I crept along at 45mph praying that the thin piece of dusty rubber on the back of my car would hold.
At long last, the oasis of Grinnell shimmered in the distance. To see the small town lit up with street lights felt to me like a cowboy driving across the Brooklyn Bridge and catching his first glimpse of New York City. Here I knew, was at least a 24 hour grocery where I could find relief and refreshment. I had never been so excited to see a Kum and Go (yes, people in Iowa visit a convenience store called Kum and Go and it does not degenerate into a fit of giggles over the name. That's alright, get it out of your system.) in my entire life, at least here would be hot coffee and clean bathrooms. Hallelujah.
The time was 1:30am when I filled my coffee cup and brought it to the counter where David, the also very chipper, cashier checked me out. "How are you tonight?" was the obligatory question. I glared at him through bleary, tired eyes and muttered, "I survived." David chuckled "You know Nietzsche once said that what doesn't kill you makes you stronger but what he didn't say is that it hurts a lot." I weakly smiled and returned the platitude. "Tomorrow is another day, wait, it's tomorrow already it can only go up from here." "Don't worry," he replied. "It can always get worse."
As I pushed my way out the door, I retorted back "David you are a bright shining piece of optimism." and climbed back into my ailing vehicle. Nietzsche, he quoted freaking Nietzsche to me, this night cannot get any weirder.
At 2:15am I finally cruised into my driveway to find that Chad and the older boys were still up watching some awful movie on Netflix. Still stimulated by the recent round of caffeine, I finished the film and collapsed into bed. It didn't kill me, so I guess the logical conclusion must be that I will be stronger. **crossing fingers and hoping**