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Here is a photo of my car stuck on railroad tracks.

Car StuckHow did this happen? Well, for one, I was driving, so adventures are bound to follow (sigh).

This weekend found me traveling downstate for what will forever be known as “Operation Unmitigated Gall.” It involved helping my Anonymous High Schooler get a new start. Perhaps that will be another blog post, but I’m guessing not, as some stories are best left untold. Let’s just say that for all who were pulling for Anon High Schooler, she’s doing great and has a bright future ahead.

After a long day of Things, we decided that delicious Olive Garden was in order. The nearest one happened to be in Terre Haute, IN. So we made the little trip, indulged in some Hospitaliano!, seafood pasta, and began the drive home. It was dark, we were on back roads and, well, there’s no other way to say it except that I made a left turn onto some railroad tracks.

THERE WERE RAILROAD TRACKS IN THE MIDDLE OF THE ROAD. Not unlike a streetcar or something (I’m not sure, I don’t know if I’ve ever actually seen a streetcar). There were no signs, little light, no reflectors, no fence, no warning whatsoever. I made the turn, realized too late what was happening, and SCRAPE GRIND BOOM, there we sat, on the tracks like a train itself, front driver’s tire blown out. No moving forward, no moving back.

We sat there in stunned silence. “We’re on railroad tracks,” my high schooler said. We looked at each other and panic set it.

“GET OUT OF THE CAR, GET OUT OF THE CAR!”

We got out. I looked down the tracks. What do I do if a train came? Wave? Yell “Please don’t smash into my new car?” I called 911.

“911, what’s your emergency?”

“I drove my car onto the train tracks at Main and Shell St. It’s stuck there. I don’t know what to do.”

“Any injuries?”

“No.”

“We’ll send someone out.”

We waited. Five, ten, fifteen minutes passed. No train. Cars making the same left turn began to slow and stare. Car after car rolled down their windows and asked if we were ok. “Don’t worry,” they all said, “No train runs down these tracks, only during harvest season.”

I didn’t know when harvest season was, but I was glad it was not right then. Finally a man pulled over and came over to talk. He gave me the name of a local tow truck company and I googled and called. They said they’d be right out. In the meantime, he said if the car was undrivable, we probably couldn’t get it fixed until Monday (it was Friday night). So we could stay at the local Holiday Inn until then and he’d be happy to give us a ride.

Two days in Terre Haute with nothing to do when we had so much TO do back in Illinois was not a good thing. But what could we do? Be embarrassed, that’s what.

“Don’t worry,” the Good Samaritan said, “This happens about once a month.”

“What?!” I said. “Why don’t they stick a pole in the ground with a little flag or something??”

“I don’t know, maybe it’s our form of entertainment, catching an out-of-town Chicagoan in our trap,” he said with a sly smile.

The tow truck came before the police. He got under the car and surveyed the damage. “It might just be your tire, you might be very lucky.” He began hooking up the pull.

The police showed up, which happened to be a K-9 unit. A dog bark ferociously in the back. People slowed to stop and stare, not helping my embarrassment. The tow truck guy pulled himself out from under inspecting the car.

He told me to get in the car and put it in neutral. “I’m gonna go easy, but you’re gonna hear the worst of it, I’m sorry,” he said.

What could I do, I said ok and braced myself for scraping and grinding. The police lights flashed as the officer shut down part of the intersection and directed traffic. The tow truck pulled my 7-month old car slowly back, with little grinding, luckily. He towed me into a parking lot and, after the $100 towing fee, said he’d put my spare on for free.

After that, we drove very slowly back to Illinois. The next day, I tried three tire places before finding one that was open and had the right tire I needed. The woman who worked at the shop had just moved there from the suburb next to mine, 3.5 hours North. Small world, big kindnesses everywhere.

The next day my LOW TIRE PRESSURE!! buzzers and lights went off. My front passenger tire was dangerously low; it must have had a slow leak. I filled it up with air and very slowly made my way back to Chicago via back country roads. It took forever, but I got home safely, having to stop only once to fill it up again. So we had a slight setback, but car’s in the shop and all is well.

This was only the tip of the Adventure Iceberg that was this weekend. But when you find yourself stuck on the railroad tracks of life, sometimes all you can do is laugh and accept those offering help all around you. After jumping out of the car to safety first, that is.

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