How to make the best of a—really—shitty situation

Now do I call AAA?”

“YES. Call them.”

“But what do I say??”

“JUST SAY WE NEED HELP!” Keena screamed.

I dialed AAA for the third time in a fifteen-minute window. “Tim! I need your phone again!” Tim left his post by my car and walked over with his phone lit. Back at the cabin, Paula had dug through my wallet to find my membership ID, a photo of which was now displayed on Tim’s screen. Willie stood on my opposite side with his phone out and Google maps open, allowing me to recite our approximate—key word—coordinates.

Derrick sat on my vertical—albeit clearly flat—tire. In a voice belonging on The Price is Right, he said, “Guys, what else is going to happen? The story’s not over.

What the hell is it with me and cars?

For me, bad things come in sets of three. If I get hit twice, I’m braced for the third. The flat tire serving as Derrick’s bench was my third punch.

Now let me fill you in on jabs one and two.

Punch one: My car sounds like a helicopter.

Last weekend, my core group of DC friends drove four hours through Pennsylvania for a skiing+cabin weekend. After forty-eight hours, total casualties would include one lost set of keys, one flat tire, two lost lug nuts, one towed car, and a hearty dose of liver damage.

“Ok. Phone. Keys. Insurance card. Gloves. Headphones—“

“What about swimsuit for hot tubing, a towel—“

“GOD DAMNIT KARA YOU SCREWED UP MY LIST!”

It was Friday night. Keena had just landed in DCA, and was stripping one suitcase from a weeklong trek to Canada to repack for our weekend getaway. Our friend Mike was riding up with us. Common sense said our friends would be multiple drinks in before the three of us hit Maryland.

We made it two hours before I had to pull off. My car sounded like the landing of Airforce One.

I called our friend Herald, who was raised as mechanic. As predicted, he was multiple drinks in.

“Just ask Mike to take a look! I’m sure he can figure it out!”

Mike is the lone wolf white dude in my group of friends. I also knew (for a fact) he hasn’t owned a car in eight years. “Herald, I’m not sure Mike’s the man for the job here.”

Mike gave me a what the fuck look to tell me he heard me.

Our inspection found two missing lug nuts from my back tire. Mike proved me wrong, and took one lug nut off each front tire to secure the one in the back.

Our should-have-been-four-hours trip finally concluded at five-and-a-half.

Punch Two: Let’s tow the car in the opposite direction of DC.

“Um, yes. The keys are lost. No, they’re not in the car. Well, I was thinking you could tow the car to make a new set of keys. Well see I live in DC, and that’s where the second set of keys are…”

Thank you to everything holy, I was not the person speaking.

We had taken a break from skiing to warm-up, drink a beer we wouldn’t have to pay for, and eat breakfast leftovers. With my car down two lug nuts, Willie offered to transport us for round two on the slopes. Which is when he realized he lost his keys.

For reasons I will never understand, the solution to this scenario was to tow Willie’s car. It was towed on a Saturday night to a dealer forty miles away, to—in theory—have a second set of keys made the following morning.

Had Keena and I been paying attention, we would have asked two simple, but very important questions:

  1. Where are you towing your car?
  2. Is the dealership open on Sundays?

Brace yourself, because I’m sure you won’t see this coming: We did not ask those questions.

Punch Three: How do you break a jack?

I drove two miles from the cabin and hit a pothole.

And by pothole, I mean I drove onto the shoulder and popped a tire. To prevent you from reading a novel play-by-play of the next hour, I will provide the CliffNotes version.

Side note: If there is any silver lining to this story, it’s that Herald was in my backseat instead of Mike (sorry Mike).

  1. Herald jacks my car up. Derrick and Willie observe.
  2. The jack breaks. [You know, the crank made out of metal used to elevate your car? Snaps like a mother fucking toothpick.]
  3. I call Tim. Tim arrives in his rental and digs a jack out of the trunk.
  4. Herald jacks my car up a second time and takes the flat tire off my car. Willie and Derrick observe.
  5. The jack slips. My car crashes to the ground. Jack #2 gets trapped underneath.
  6. We all have college degrees, but frankly none of us majored in physics. We decide it is completely logical to lift my car ourselves to retrieve the jack underneath. [Because, you know, biomechanics.]
  7. Since Keena’s finger is already in a splint from a run-in incident with a butcher knife, we decide she has the least to lose. She pulls the jack from underneath the car—and manages to not lose her whole hand.
  8. Herald jacks my car up for a third time.
  9. Since Tim has a wrecked leg from tearing his Achilles, we decide he has the least to lose. He stands behind my car and prevents it from rolling backward. He succeeds—and manages to not lose his whole leg.
  10. Derrick surrenders his resting spot so Herald can balance my car on the slashed tire. Herald manages to get my spare tire on (minus one lug nut) as I get connected to the operator.

“Er, never mind. I guess you can cancel the tow truck,” I said into the phone.

CliffNote #11: We skip night skiing and get blasted.

Post-punch bruising: But really, where’s Willie’s car?

North????? Why would you have your car towed North? DC is SOUTH of Pennsylvania!”

As punishment for failing to understand 3rd grade geography, I force three grown men (Herald, Willie, and Derrick) to sit in the back. Keena sits shotgun.

The original plan was to drive forty-five minutes (north) to the dealer, than have the guys and gals ride separately back to DC. However, if you haven’t figured this out by now, I have what I refer to as The Black Cloud. This cloud ensured the dealer housing Willie’s car was closed on Sunday’s (although Google originally told us otherwise). We smash five people, plus luggage, into my Avenger for a long, long drive home—on a spare tire, mind you.

There is no morale to this story. Perhaps repeating “Never-Eat-Sour-Watermelon” when differentiating between north and south is the one take-home quiz I’ll send to the friends.

That being said, last weekend was the most fun I’ve had in an entire year. Hands down. I have not laughed that hard—especially while waiting for a tow truck, twice—in ages.

I wrote once that if you don’t laugh, you’ll cry. I have been in so many seemingly crisis-situations where one person can have a make-or-break attitude. On the one hand, you can bitch and moan and think it’s the end of the world. That’s a perfectly human way to handle things (I’ll be the first one to raise my hand and say I’ve taken this approach—many times). It will, however, make you a very miserable person to be around.

Or—

You can accept that it is what it is. Although I did say many a F word when I found I was missing two lug nuts, I knew my rant would not fix my tire. I love the sh*t out of my friends because they know how to make the best out of any situation.

Besides, if everything went perfectly, there would never be great stories to tell.

Conclusion:

As Derrick said, the story wasn’t over. Willie found his spare keys in my back seat forty-five minutes into our trip home. We turned around, drove north, and got back to DC after six and a half hours.

Skiing

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For All the F Words
You have flaws. You f-up on a daily basis. And that should be ok.