Winter afternoon adventure.
So today was ticking along OK, I guess. Got another freelance assignment, and also managed to get some emails sent and some work connected with The Learned Owl visit next month.
And then, around 3 p.m., I leave the house to go pick up Kelsey from her after-school Power of the Pen practice.I take Jenn’s car because I need to change the flat tire on mine and since I haven’t had to drive anywhere in the past couple days, I haven’t done it yet. (Fooooooreshadowing!)
I’ve given myself extra time to swing down to Our Friendly Neighborhood Post Office and mail a package. Swinging into the parking lot, I’m slightly dismayed to see the place is oddly packed and the line’s out the door, so I loop ’round the back of the building to turn around and –
Jenn’s. Car. Dies.
Just stops. No coughs, no sputters, just No More Go.
Well, shit. At least I’m here behind the Post Office and not blocking traffic or anything.
I reach for my cell phone but can’t quite reach it because it’s sitting on my effing desk in the office at home.
At this point, my primary concern is getting hold of Kelsey to let her know I’m going to be late and she should go hang out at the library, which is attached to her school building.
So I zip up my coat and start walking, figuring it’s sunny and not too chilly, and our auto mechanic’s shop, as it happens, is pretty close by. (It’s almost exactly a half-mile – I checked later on Google Maps.) Once I’m there, he lets me use his phone to call my brother, who comes and picks me up in his car a few minutes later.
I call Kelsey with Adam’s cell phone, and then we return to the Post Office and try to jump Jenn’s car with the cables, but the engine’s not turning over.
Okay, so: I go inside the now-totally-NOT busy Post Office (and I just now realize I could have mailed my package right then, but of course, at the moment, I wasn’t really givingashit about that at all), and tell the woman working there what’s going on, and she kind of freaks out a bit and, half-panicked, wants to know how long I plan to have my car there. (Well, I didn’t plan to have it there at all, so clearly my planning skills today aren’t something you want to rely on anyway, right?) Turns out she’s worried that the afternoon mail truck will arrive and be unable to turn around in his usual manner, but if we can get the car moved into one of the spaces out front – of which there are about four total – that’s fine with her.
So Adam and I push the car around the building, and by the time we get out front, there’s exactly one space left, and we push the car into it. We head back to his house, and he lets me take their minivan to pick up Kelsey.
When she and I get back, Adam and I decide the thing to do so we don’t get in trouble with the Post Office is to drive down and push Jenn’s car the half-mile from there to the mechanic’s shop. How bad can it be, right? I mean, once you’ve got momentum and the car’s going, right? And it’s not an uber-busy road or anything, but if we’re going to do this, we should go now before it gets dark, so that’s what we do.
We get down there, push the car backwards out of the space, and nose it gently to the road’s edge and then shove it in park to wait. And there’s no, “The next car coming is waaaay down there” thinking. It’s completely, “We’re not going until we don’t see anything coming from that direction.” Fortunately, we’re making a right-hand turn, so we only have to worry about half the traffic flow.
After about five minutes or so, we get a break and we’re off and rolling. He’s behind the car, I’m pushing from the driver’s side with the door open so I can steer. And it’s not actually that bad for about the first tenth of a mile. Hell, we even handle the train tracks pretty easily.
A woman slows down as she’s passing and asks if we need gas or a cell phone or anything, and we thank her but point out that we’re going to the garage just up the street. Still, the fact that she inquired at all was awfully nice.
What happens, of course, is that the ever-so-slight downhill we were enjoying reversed itself and became and ever-so-slight uphill over the next couple tenths of a mile. (If you trust the Google map elevation, the road actually climbs about 15 feet or so during this stretch. Seems like a lot to me, but then again, gradual slopes can be deceiving.) I start realizing I’m working pretty damn hard and that a car, even rolling in neutral, gets heavy after awhile, and I’m considering whether we should scoot over to the side and take a break. But we keep going. Adam sounds like he’s working pretty hard too, but it usually takes him longer to admit it.
A point where the road curves left and goes downhill just a little is coming up, but I’m not sure I can finish the climb there without a brief recharge, so we edge to the right and stop near a driveway.
While we’re catching our breath, Adam points out with chuckling dismay that I have managed to steer the right front tire into the only sizable pile of snow along this entire freaking bit of roadside, so that when we do decide to resume the push, we’re going to have to back the car up a couple feet first.
A truck pulls over in front of us and a guy gets out and asks if we’re OK, and again, we explain that we’re almost to our goal, but we appreciate the offer – which is the truth. However, Adam does ask me to get out my cell phone (I picked it up at home just before going to get Kelsey – ’cause I’ve learned my lesson, right?) and fake like I’m talking so that we don’t force people to keep stopping and asking if we need help.
Maybe ten minutes later, we’re rested and ready to finish this, so we wait for another complete break in traffic, rock the car back out of the snow, and start it rolling forward again. Once we pass the curve, the pushing gets a ton easier again, and now the mechanic’s shop is in sight, and I’m looking back over my shoulder eyeing the road because 1) the shop is on the left, so we’re going to have to cross both lanes of traffic, and 2) the shop’s entrance is an uphill push, and I’m hoping we can get a break in the cars and keep our momentum going.
Of course, all I see now is a steady line of cars slowing to come around us.
When we near the entrance, we have to stop and wait, and another truck pulls in front of us, and another guy walks back and offers to help. This time, we’re happy to be able to say we’re only trying to get across the street, and once a break comes, the three of us get the car into the lot.
I take the key into the mechanic, and now Adam and I have a half-mile walk back to the Post Office.
Yes, he says, we’re now Those Idiots Out Walking On The Road.
Bah, I say – I’ve already walked this stretch once today, and besides, how many times were we Those Crazy Guys Out Running At Five In The Morning?
In fact, I pointed out, he and I had traveled this very same length of pavement in this very same direction once before, long before sunup, on the day of my 20-mile training run.
The sun is nearing the horizon, and the air is getting a lot cooler, and some of the passing cars have their headlights on, and we’re talking and laughing.
And for a couple minutes, my mind is taken off worrying.