Friday, October 21, 2011

Truly Meeting Trouble

8:00 p.m. last night I was driving down the mountain to Phoenix in my Mom's old Buick. I'm two thirds of the way there, in the pitch of dark. In the middle of nowhere. Coasting down a hill. As the road leveled off, I needed to give it some gas to maintain speed. Nothing. The engine revved but didn't accelerate. What? Foot off the gas. Hm. Let's try that again. Foot on the gas. Vroooom! No acceleration. Holy cow, I'd better pull over. 

Thankfully, this portion of road had a decent shoulder in which to pull off (Blessing #1). Unfortunately, it was littered with broken glass but I had no choice. I had to pull over. When I did, it looked like the engine was smoking. Great. Hmm, but before I came to the glass I heard the tires crunching a whole lot like there was gravel. Maybe it's just dirt catching up to me. So I let off the brake, coasted about 15 feet and stopped again. Still smoking. Definitely smoking. Great.

Opening up the hood confirmed what was already obvious; the car was smoking. Mom's car has a hood light so the engine compartment was entirely lit up. Very nice. Thankfully, I also had a big flashlight with me. (Blessing #2) I've gotten in the habit of taking the big flashlight with me to work every morning just in case I need to stop at the store after work and I get home after dark. I have about a 50 foot walk to get to the back door. In the woods without a flash light, that's kind of scary. Thus the flashlight. Yeah! Thank You, God. I was able to see my way around the car, watch my footing, flash into the brush off the edge of the road, and feel safe considering I was in javelina and rattle snake country. That flashlight also enabled me to see the problem. My mom's car was bleeding. Red transmission fluid was running downhill out from underneath the front. I was in big trouble.

I pulled out my cell phone and wondered if I could get any service. Yes! I was in a pocket with service! (Blessing #3) Since no one was stopping to help me, and I'd feel a tad nervous if they did, I was SO glad I had service. And an almost full battery, having just recharged it the night before. (Blessing #4) I called my brother, where I was headed, and remembered that he was at the Jimmy Buffet concert. He answered and gave me some direction. I called my other brother, who was at work in the Emergency Room and didn't hear his phone. I left a message he never got. (He told me today there was no message so he thought I just "butt dialed" him.) Then I called The Fisherman who was even farther out of town than I was, in the other direction.

All in all, I placed over 20 calls in 90 minutes. Both brother and husband said to call them back after the next task was accomplished. It was a telephoning circus. Since brother was at a concert and The Fisherman, and his evidently equally-internet impaired friend, couldn't get me a number to the nearest Highway Patrol (what a scene that must have been), the settled upon advice was to call 911 and tell them it's not an emergency but I'd like to have a DPS (Dept. of Public Safety) officer come give me some support and protection while I figured out what to do next. Piece of cake; they patched me right through. Of course, there was no visible mile marker so I couldn't tell them exactly where I was. But I could tell them sort of where I was, because (Blessing #5) just minutes before the car trouble I'd wondered where the heck I was on the journey and decided I had not yet reached the hill before Sunflower. "Somewhere between Payson and Sunflower," I told them. That was enough; they'd send someone right out.

I had no idea who to call next or how to find their number to call them. Did I want it towed all the way to Phoenix? Back to Payson? How much is this going to cost, for crying out loud? I'd cross that bridge when  things settled down a little.

OK. DPS called. Officer on the way. Call The Fisherman and update him. Done. Hang up. Decide I'll call my co-worker and ask her to pray for me. Thumb is hovering over the Send button, and ... wait, what's that I see out of the corner of my eye? Someone's pulling off the road in front of me. Relief and concern simultaneously present themselves. I look up the road at them and see it's.....a tow truck! No kidding! I couldn't believe it. (Blessing #6!!) My jaw literally dropped. It had been about 7 seconds since I'd hung up with The Fisherman. I called him back, saying, "You're not going to believe this..." I stayed on the phone with him while the driver approached and handed me his card.

Good advice from The Fisherman to his far away and vulnerable wife: call DPS back and ask them to verify this guy's legitimate. I was relieved to hear them say, "Oh yes, we know him. He's on our rotation of guys we refer to in cases like yours." (Blessing #7) This guy was so patient and understanding. He simply waited for me while I did all this checking right in front of him. He even shined his flashlight on his business card for me when I needed to tell The Fisherman and DPS who he was. (Blessing #8)

He hooked me up and pulled the car onto the flat bed of his tow truck. (Although it's really not a "tow" anymore, is it? It's more of a ride.)  DPS arrived, giving face-to-face confirmation that this man and his tow service is reputable. (Blessing #9) Good thing because I had a 70 mile ride with him to my brother's mechanic's shop. We had nice conversations about his family and living off the grid, as he does, too.

I arrived "home" to my brother's at 11:00 p.m. and $360 poorer. But...all in one piece and safe and sound. (Blessing #10) Blessing #11 is that during this whole ordeal, I was not afraid. I can honestly say that I was actually trusting God the whole time, calmly dealing with the unknowns and trusting that it would all get worked out somehow. That's amazing for me. And a huge blessing indeed.

Blessing #12 is kind of silly, but when you think about it, it's not. I debated, driving through Payson, whether I should take the time to stop for a restroom break. I realized I could probably make it the 90 minutes to Phoenix, but eventually decided to go ahead and stop. Given the long delay, I'm certainly glad I did. That could have been a problem.

The next blessing is that I was actually going down to Phoenix at all. I was disappointed that I had to go, given the fact that I have much to do at home in the next 10 days and couldn't really afford the time to make this trip. But, the registration on Mom's car had lapsed and couldn't be renewed until it went through the Emissions Test. The car is registered in Phoenix; my county doesn't require emissions tests and therefore has no testing stations. In 10 days I'm headed to the CLASS Christian Writers' Conference and really needed to get the registration up to date before that trip. I've been borrowing Mom's car from "the estate" for most of the summer because of it's air conditioning, and have been hanging onto it for this upcoming trip. There was no way around it: I had to drive all the way to Phoenix to get the test so I could renew the tags.  Blessing #13 is that I had to make this trip. If I didn't, this serious roadside trouble could have happened on my trip to New Mexico in unfamiliar territory where many segments of road have only a 3 inch shoulder. If it had happened then, it would have been much more dangerous, much more costly, much more upsetting and I wouldn't have made it to the conference.

So, all in all, and crazy as it sounds, that whole awful ordeal last night was a blessing itself and was full of other blessings. I came through the other side of it with a deep sense of God's protection, provision, and favor.

P.S.  Sorry for these incredibly long posts of late!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Meeting Trouble

Half a mile from the highway, driving home from work and errands about 8:30 p.m., on the pitch dark road leading into our little community, the road up ahead looked kind of funny. I strained to see better but all I could make out was what seemed to be a light patch in the road beyond the full reach of my headlights. I slowed down and as I approached, I saw that this lighter patch was moving. Slower and closer still I realized it was a white dog running in my lane in the same direction ahead of me.

Stray dogs always wrench my heart. The town where we actually live is very, very small, with only a couple streets, a couple churches, a school, library and fire station. At the highway is a post office and general store. This dog was too far from "town proper" and way to close to the highway in the dark blackness of the night. At least it was running in the right direction.

Going only about 5 miles an hour now, I saw that the dog sped up as I passed it. Not like it was chasing the car, but like it was trying to get my attention. I slowed to a crawl and she trotted beside me curiously looking up into my window. She was a white pit bull with perky flopped over ears. As soon as I stopped the car, she put her front paws on my door and looked in. With window rolled mostly up I talked sweetly to her, not sure I could trust her. I had no clue as to her temperament yet, I just knew she was very interested in me. As I watched her responses to my constant sweet talking, I incrementally rolled my window down farther and farther. Before long, the window was rolled all the way down and she was leaning in, tail wagging and totally lovey.

I knew I had to do something. But what? I couldn't take her home because I was dog sitting for my friends and already had a dog at home. Our outdoor kennel was not escape proof and had a big gaping hole in the chicken wire where a previous canine visitor had squeezed his way out. Even if I fixed it, I couldn't take this dog out of town the other direction and closer into the woods only to have it escape in the night and be even more lost. I didn't know what to do. But...I had to do something.

I wondered if she'd get in the car with me so I could try to find her house. I got out and before I could open the back door, she jumped right in the front seat and started to settle in. I called her out and into the back seat where she sat right down like she'd just paid her ticket and was waiting for the ride to begin. I drove to one house with a long gravel driveway. I honked the horn and called out "Hello!" hoping to rouse someone in the house. The rule of the country is that you don't get out of your car because chances are there's a very protective dog loose on the property somewhere. When a couple finally came out, they said they didn't know where the dog lived but thought they'd seen her down by the library a few times.

With the dog now sitting up in the front seat beside me, I drove down two of our six total streets, watching her closely for any signs that she saw her home. Nothing. She just sat there observing everything as if thinking, "Oh boy, isn't this fun!" My next attempt led me to a house, with a German Shepherd and a couple of kids running around. I asked if they recognized her and the handsome young Indian boy said, "Oh, hey, that's Trouble. She lives over that way." He then proceeded to give me the most confusing directions I could imagine, especially since our town is so stinkin' small! I set out to the road he told me of. Nothing from Trouble helped me figure out if I was on the right track or not. She was just enjoying her ride, sitting up looking around, and sometimes laying down on the front seat like she was going home with me.

Next up, the Fire Department. I left the car running as I went inside and asked a firefighter if he could come out and possibly identify a dog for me. "A dog?" he asked, wondering what the heck I was getting him into. He came out with me and another firefighter followed along.

"Trouble! How're you doing, girl?" It seems I had the town celebrity in my car. Everyone seemed to know Trouble. She reached her head out the window and wriggled her whole body as she greeted her firehouse friends. From them I learned that Trouble is indeed trouble. She's an escape artist who's owner has ultimately given up trying to contain her. Trouble makes her rounds visiting folks in the tiny little hub of our town that contains only the library, firehouse, and churches.

I finally got specific directions to where Trouble lived. "Right behind the church" would have been a good sentence the young boy could have said to me, but no. I'd gone way past the church into eery territory unknown after talking to the boy. Now I went back where I'd slowly passed before and carefully observed Trouble's demeanor. Right back to where we'd heard the little yappy dog barking in a yard -- her yard -- but Trouble seemed to pay only passing attention to it.  Back at her house, I stopped the car and opened the back passenger door. (She was back in the back again, having made herself quite at home jumping around my car.)  I opened the door and she just sat there, looking at me and the house as if she didn't have any intention of going home. She was having too much fun driving around with her new friend.

With a little coaxing, she got out and walked a few feet down the driveway. I wasn't entirely sure she would go home. When I drove away she was back out into the street again, looking at me, apparently wondering why our little party was over. But I'd done my best and was happy to have taken her home.

She probably would have eventually made her way back home from where I'd first seen her. But I'm glad I picked her up. I'm guessing she was farther away than she'd ever been before and she was much too close to the highway for a dog with such a wanderlust. Especially at night. I figured if she stayed out all night after I dropped her off, at least she was back in her own neighborhood.

The next day on my way into town, I passed the little white log cabin church on the other side of the main road. The parking lot was full of cars and a few people were milling about. And there was Trouble. Right in the action, saying hi and making her rounds.

She's a funny, happy and friendly dog, that one. I'm glad I met Trouble.