I waved. They did not stop. They were laughing and pointing. They were laughing so hard I could hear them from where I stood, about 50 yards away. And maybe because I have repeatedly told my boys to say the same thing when they are confronted with frustrating people, I reflexively raised my voice and said, “Seriously?” With their cellphones aimed at directly me and my car (which really was photo worthy, I might add), they ignored me and kept on snapping. “Really?” I continued. I paused, looked straight at them, waving and yelled (because they were far enough away), “Do you want me to smile for the camera?”
Thinking I was serious, the woman yelled back, “Yes, but wait. Let me get my friend. She will want to get a picture too.”
“I was joking.” I shouted. “Hey, so this is really embarrassing. Will you at least NOT post these photos on Facebook?”
They gave me a halfhearted, “Sure,” and kept on snapping.
My guess is that as I type the photos of my embarrassing moment have already been posted on some Facebook account or some Twitter feed out there. Oh well.
Oh the humanity! Or is it, oh the inhumanity?
As the far away crowd continued taking pictures, two women walked right up to me. “Are you ok? Oh man! How did you do that?”
“I am ok. I am just really embarrassed. I cannot believe I did this (And this meaning, drove up onto the divider and onto a giant rock).” I sheepishly uttered.
The two women could not have been more kind. In hopes of letting me know I was no more stupid than anyone else on the planet, one of the women began telling me of about all of her mishaps. I was so stressed out that all I remember is something about her horse ending up on her pool cover and all the damage it caused. They were sweet and as the same story-telling woman pulled out her camera and said, “I have to show this to my daughter. I want her to see what can happen.” I told her to go for it and that I would be taking pictures too. It wasn’t the picture taking that bothered me about the far-away folks, it was that they were taking so much pleasure from my misfortune. None of them asked if I was ok. They just laughed, snapped and pointed. Ouch!
As the two ladies comforted me, I continued to call Dave. “Hey Dave, it’s an emergency! Please call me NOW!” I called and called again. I also tried to call my mom, who lives close by and then I texted a friend, who I knew would give my the response I needed: humor combined with compassion. Her “OMG!” was exactly what I needed. I tried to stay in the moment, tune out the stream of gawkers and listen as the lovely ladies told me about their kids, their lunch date and their friendship. “I need to go. I am sorry. I wish I could stay,” the story-telling lady said as she started to leave. Then she stopped, looked right at me and told her friend, “you should give us your number so we can go to lunch sometime.”
Running through my life-saving techniques (reach throw row go, reach throw row go), I remembered that because I was with my incapacitated car, Eli would need a ride home from school. I called Dave again. No answer. She saw the panic on my face and with her gentle words, the remaining woman filled those anxious spaces while I texted Dave a photo of what had just happened.
Maybe three seconds (if that) later my phone rang.
“A picture is worth a thousand words.” Dave said as I began to tear up. “You better believe it. I was hoping I would get your attention.” I gave him the details and hung up so I could focus. “I have to go.” The remaining woman said, “I was hoping the tow truck would get here before I had to leave. Oh wait. Look. Here it is.” At that she gave me a hug and was on her way. Thank you wonderful strangers. I know I asked you your names at least three, maybe four, times. I cannot remember them now. I hope you understand.
And here is how it happened:
I had just finished a business lunch and was driving out of the parking lot when there was a tangle. A car would not get out of my way so I had to go in reverse. I did not see the median. I did not see the rock. I knew I hit the median and because I did not expect the boulder, I kept on going. I kept on going until a kind man waived for me to stop and the person who had blocked me in sped off. I unrolled my window to hear him say, “Wait a second. Let me see if I can help you.”
We both realized I was beyond help (so was my car). “You need a tow truck.” I paused, and in my mind, I did my very own Reach Throw Row Go reminder. “Calm down and breathe. What does Dave always say? Oh yes. Call AAA. Don’t do anything drastic. Breathe. Don’t cry.” So I did. I took a breath. I dug through my wallet, located my AAA card, bowed to my parking lot audience and dialed the number. The AAA lady rocked! Yes, I asked her name and no, with my stress-induced amnesia, I cannot remember it either. In fact, I was on the phone with her while asking the far away folks not to post my picture on Facebook. She was kind and appropriate: “Some people, they should just mind their own business.” I loved it. I loved her. She made me feel like I could get through this disaster. I couldn’t care less if that is what she is trained to do because it was working; trained compassion or real compassion. “Oh honey, don’t be embarrassed. This sort of thing happens all the time.” I know she is right because the tow truck driver told me about another mom who was distracted by her noisy children. “She drove over the wall at the Kentucky Fried Chicken.”
Because Dave was not there to explain and unravel the laws of physics, Jerry, the bald tow truck driver (I think I asked him his name at least twelve times) and I worked carefully and made ourselves a plan. I kept asking myself, “What would Dave do? How can we make sure not to damage the car any further?” When Jerry suggested we tow the car up and over the rock it was me who thought of the boards. The boards guided the car onto the flatbed and saved the day.
When we were close to success I could see two men gawking and talking. One man got into his car and the other man walked up to me, laughed and smugly said, “That rock is pretty big. I don’t know how you didn’t see it.”
And then in a very calm voice I responded, “Really? Really? That was a smart ass thing to say, don’t you think? This is no fun for me. Really?”
“Yes. Yes it was a smart ass thing to say.” I explained a little more, he made a little bit of small talk and walked away.
Jerry saved the day and waited to make sure I could drive my car home. I could. I drove off, stopping to get something to drink (nothing strong) and use the Whole Foods Bathroom. As I checked out the sweet lady asked my how my day was. “Oh, I just had my car towed off a rock.” She grabbed my hand, which startled me. She sensed my stress and continued, “Oh sweetie. I think I am tearing up. I hope your day gets better.”
It has. I did not stand my ground (or my parking lot presence) and so I ended up high centered on a rock. I was powerless — literally, or at lest my car was. Instead of falling apart (which I wanted to do all exposed like that), I “Seriously’ed” the voyeurs and embraced every kind word that came my way. I moved forward and as overwhelming as it all was and it was, I made it through. Thanks ladies and Jerry. I saw the humor (because it was crazy funny) and knew I was going to be ok.