Tuesday, September 6, 2011
Dark at the Edge of the Road
My oldest daughter was in there working on her novel. She answered the phone.
"It's Darryl," she said. "His car broke down."
I took the receiver. "Where are you?"
"Along Route 1 heading up. I'm between the toll booths."
Between the toll booths covers a wide territory. I told him I was on my way, but it may take awhile.
My daughter asked if I wanted her to come along. "Sure, if you want."
We rushed out. She had to move her car so I could get mine out of the drive. She pulled her car back into the driveway and then we headed south. It was dark, drizzling off and on. We weren't thinking clearly. I should have written my son's cell phone number down, but didn't. I thought my daughter had told her mother what happened, but she didn't, so now my wife got worried when we were gone so long since she didn't know where we went.
Oh well, I didn't know where I was going anyway, not exactly.
We went via I-495. I almost missed my exit lane. I had gotten in the habit of passing it every day I went to work, except I didn't have that job now, did I, and I had to make a last minute swerve to make the exit.
We were on Route 13 and my daughter said I needed to get over a lane. I did so and Ker-blang, something heavy and solid hit the undercarriage of my car. My daughter said their was debris in the road, car parts or some such thing. Now I am concerned if the object did any damage to my car. What if I break down, too.
My daughter asks, "Do you have a spare tire?"
"Yes, but don't even think it."
Of course now that is in my head as well.
We make it onto Route 1 south. We cross the fancy bridge and we go through the first toll booth. Now it is a mystery of where he might be. We are trying to see across the highway and medial strip for any white car parked on the opposing shoulder. It is hard to see that side of the highway.
We keep driving.
There are several cars along the highway as we pass mile after mile. None of them his. Oh, wait, on our side was a white car. Was that him. Didn't he say he was heading up, maybe I misheard. I'm too far past, man, I hope that wasn't him.
"I don't think there was anyone in that car," says my daughter.
We drive. We see some cars along the opposing lanes, but none are white. The second tollbooth is in Dover, maybe we will have to go all the way there.
Then we see a car the other way, parked with its hazard lights blinking. Behind it is a police car with all its flashers flashing. It's a white car, that's him.
Now we need a way to get around to the northbound lanes. We have to go to the next exit, Smryna, three miles. Three miles never felt so far. We exit and must now get to the other side of another decided highway. We drive awhile to a turn with left turn arrow lights on red. We wait. There is no other traffic, but these red lights won't change. Are they broke? Come on, change, before I am tempted to run you. We wait. Finally they change and I make a U-turn the other way. (U-turns are legal in delaware, in case you are wondering.) I have to drive quite the distance for the entry back onto Route 1 north. There are several false left turns before the real one.
Now the three miles north and then we pull onto the shoulder just ahead of my son and the cop. We get out and walk back to his car. My daughter gets in. I lean in the passenger side window fishing my AAA card out of my wallet.
The cop strolls up beside me.
"Callin' AAA, eh?"
"They take their time down here. Usually takes them a couple, two hours to come."
"You gonna wait here?" he asks. "Maybe they'll tell you you don't have to wait for the tow." He paused a moment, thinking. "Course maybe you shouldn't just leave it. You wouldn't want to leave it here. Somebody'd hit it sure enough."
I'm giving my son the number. he's dialing. Hands me the phone.
"They probably won't come for a couple hours. You gonna stay for that"
"You got any suggestions?" I say.
"Yeah, better stay though. Wouldn't want anybody to hit you."
I am talking to AAA, the lady says they are putting me on priority because of where we are. A tow will be there in about 30 minutes. I tell the cop this.
"Okay then. Well, probably be longer. I'll leave you. I'm gonna put a couple flares back here."
He lit a couple flares and stuck them in the shoulder behind us. He left and I pulled my car further up the shoulder so the tow truck would have room to pull in front of my son's car.
We sat in his car and waited. His phone rang. It was the two driver, said he would be there in 10 to 20 minutes.
We waited. It a dark and lonely stretch of Route 1. Every few moments a car or an 18-wheeler would road by. The big trucks shook our car. It was a bit scary being stranded there in what was now late night. We kept stretching our necks back, looking for the tow. False alarm, just a car, that's a semi, where was the tow?
It seemed a long time, but finally some blinking lights, a turn single, a tow truck pulled in front. The driver told us we didn't have to hang around we could go. We left him fixing to hoist the car and we drove north.
It was raining steadily. I hate driving at night, especially in the rain. The further we went, the harder the rain. We finally reached our home grounds, got off the interstates into town.
My son was hungry, he hadn't had dinner. We hit a McDonalds.
The tow truck we left behind working to secure the car had beaten us home. He was waiting two door up the street. He dropped off the car in front of our house.
My hands were shaking. I was too pumped to sleep. My son and I watched Pawn Stars repeats for while. I finally grew sleepy enough to go to bed.
This morning he took my car to go to work. I drove down to a mechanic in town. Then I called AAA once more to have it towed the couple miles from our place to the garage. They said the policy was one tow per breakdown, but since it was labor day and late night when it happened, they would wave that and give the tow for no charge.
The new tow truck guy called. He was on his way and fifteen minutes later he arrived. He was a nice guy. He tried to jump start the car, but that failed, so he winched it up on his truck bed. Of course it began to pour rain at that point. I felt bad, he had to get down and under with the chains in that downpour, leaning in the gutter. He wished my a better day and he was off.
Now we wait to see what this will set my son back. Sometimes I hate cars.