Tuesday, June 28, 2011

They Still Exist!

Knights in Shining Armor, that is.  Let me tell you how I know:

On the occasion of this post, dad's car had a slight problem starting and we had to go out after dark and find a random person to jump it for us.
It turned on successfully and we promptly forgot about the problem (At least, I did.  Dad monitored it for several days and it was fine, apparently.)
Then, on Thursday, I was about to head toward Houston for a little friends' reunion, and Dad, at the last minute, offered me the use of his car since my air conditioning is currently out of commission.
(Did anyone else notice the surplus of commas in that last sentence?  No?  Good. Neither did I.)
I accepted his generous offer immediately and only thought of the battery at the last minute as I was literally walking out the door.
"Dad?  Do you think the battery will be okay?"
"Oh yeah.  Definitely.  It hasn't given me any trouble all week."
"Great.  Thanks!  See you later."
*grab the car charger for my phone, walk out the door, crank the car flawlessly, turn on my music and the air conditioning, head out for a great day*

I stopped for gas at my favorite gas station.  Not the most pleasant place, but the best prices.  I filled up my tank and the lady commented on how much I'd just spent.  Yeah.  A Ford Expedition is not a cheap vehicle to maintain.  I walk out the door, step into the car and turn the key.

Nothing happens.  Nothing happens.  Normally, the gauges would all swing over to the right and swing back and there would be a little clicking or possibly an almost-turn-over of the engine.
But there was absolutely nothing.
Maybe I was just dreaming, so I tried again.  Definitely still nothing.

Oh, have I mentioned that I'm now in a tiny town, population two-thousand-something?

So I called Dad and he said to go inside the gas station and ask for the name of a reputable mechanic.  Sounds like a good idea, right?  I thought so.  So I go inside, smile at the lady who was fairly nice to me earlier, and say "I have some bad news.  My car won't start."
She looks at me like "What does that have to do with me?"
I gesture out the door "It's in front of one of your pumps."
She outright frowns and says "Now that is bad."
That means "I didn't care at all that you had car trouble until I realized you were in the way of my business receiving it's fair share of profits. Never mind the fact that you just spent practically a hundred dollars here."
So I smiled sweetly at her and her coworkers and asked for the name of a mechanic.  They all look at me blankly.  Turns out they all (all three of them) live somewhere else and commute to this tiny town to work at the gas station.  Really?

So one of them offers to jump my car for me and I go call dad to make sure that's okay with him.  (He doesn't like to jump it much because there's a computer inside that could get messed up.)  Dad says it's fine and the guy runs around the back of the store and returns in a decrepit Chevy Cavalier.  I'm driving an expedition here and I really don't think this is going to work, but I refrain from commenting because I'm not an expert on cars, especially not on jumping them.
First two times I try to crank it, absolutely nothing happens.  Next three, it sort of clicks.  Keep in mind we are taking a long time between tries to give it plenty of time to warm up. So finally we decide this is not going to work and the guy decides to get his co-worker's Dodge Nitro.
That one worked . . . on the third try.

I was exuberant.  I pulled out of the parking lot after thanking my rescuer effusively.  (Really, I wish I could have convinced someone to give him a raise.  He was fantastic and kept up a good conversation and was very understanding of the fact that I didn't understand a thing that was going on.)
Then, the car died as I was pulling out.  At least it felt like it died, but I just punched the gas and it kept on going.  Talk about a terrifying moment.  I was trying to pull directly into the left lane, so if it had died, I would have been smack-dab in the middle of the road!
But I was fine and I went on to pick up one of the girls.  I didn't stop the engine at her house, just picked her up and continued to our destination.  The car drove great, the air conditioning worked, and C and I had a good little catch-up time.  When we got to the sandwich shop where we were meeting the other girls, I turned off the car and immediately cranked it again, just like Dad had told me to do.

Nothing happened.

So I called Dad again.  By this point I'm sure he was getting fairly stressed out, but he didn't reveal it over the phone.  We decided it would be best to just have one of the girls jump it after we got through with our day, then drive it to C's parents' house because her dad is pretty much a car genius.
So I didn't stress about it for the rest of the day.  I just enjoyed my time with my sweet friends.

But 5:00 eventually rolled around and we decided it would be best to allow plenty of time for me to get home before dark and some of the girls had husbands to take care of, so we all headed back to the sandwich shop to jump my car.
K pulled her car (which is not really much bigger than a Cavalier) up next to mine and pulled out her jumper cables.  None of us were quite sure we knew what to do.

Since both the nodes (Is that what they're called?) of the battery on my car were red and both the ones on K's were yellow, we did a pretty good job of figuring it out.  We were actually quite proud of ourselves when we got it all connected.

About the time we were going to crank K's car, we saw a man who appeared to be in his late thirties walking toward us.  He was wearing a white shirt, black slacks and a tie.  Good!  A man to double-check and make sure we are not doing anything incredibly wrong here.  He got about ten feet away and we noticed the badge and gun.  This guy was an off-duty policeman.  Perfect!  A civic-minded public servant.

I am not being sarcastic here.  I am telling you what we were really thinking.

So, policeman-friend gets about six feet away, stops, stares at us, and says, in a monotone, "Are you girls okay."  (Whoa!  There go those commas again.  And yes.  That period is there on purpose.  He did not sound like he was asking a question.)
We were a little taken aback, but I put on my sweetest smile and said.  "Yes sir.  I think we're alright.  You wanna check and make sure we hooked everything up properly?" (Definitely in a questioning tone.)
Policeman-friend steps forward about two feet, looks in our engines from four feet away and says, "Looks good.  Do you know what the trouble is."  Still in a monotone.
This time I stumbled a tad. "We think it's the battery.  Maybe the alternator?  We're really not sure.  *long pause in which one of us should have said something*  It's my dad's car and I'm just trying to get it back to him before dark."
I only said that last because no one was saying anything for a really long time.

Policeman-friend says "Where are you going?"
I told him, he literally snorted, looked at his watch and said "Good Luck" in that annoying tone that Good Luck tends to take when people don't really mean it.  Then he turned on his heels and walked off.
Just walked off!
I was shocked.  Here was this man who was supposed to be a public servant walking as fast as he could away from four poor young girls who obviously had no idea what they were doing.  I'd heard stories of terrible policemen, but I never really believed them until then.
I was so disappointed.  Literally on the verge of tears.  And it takes a lot to put me on that verge.

But we rallied.  After considerable mocking of policeman-friend (which probably should not have been done, but which made us feel much better), we cranked K's car and then cranked mine.  It worked like a charm on the second try.
There was considerable rejoicing and we let it run for a little while in order to say our goodbyes.

As luck would have it, there was a traffic light at the entrance to the plaza which housed the sandwich shop.  The other girls made it through, but C and I got stuck at it.
It was a long red light and, of course, as I was turning left out of it, my car died.  No punching of the gas could bring it back this time and it took all I could to pull it onto the shoulder.  We didn't get very far off the road either.  The car literally shook every time anybody drove past in in the right lane.  C and I both got out of the passenger side and discovered not one, but three ant beds.
When I say "discovered", I don't mean we searched them out.  I mean one if not both of us stepped in each one before this ordeal was over.  It was pleasant, let me tell you.
We promptly called K and as soon as she heard the news, she was headed our way.

About the time C hung up with K, a green truck pulled over in front of us and who should get out but the photographer from C's wedding.  Yes.  She had recognized us so we had a miniature reunion right there and she made sure we had someone coming to help.
About the time she was headed toward her truck, a little white truck pulled over in front of hers and a man got out who was holding an open container of something and was clearly intoxicated.
This fella proceeds toward us in a rather weavy manner and says (in a very slurred voice which I would love to imitate for you, but sadly you can't hear me) "Y'all need to get out of the way.  I'm a paramedic and I know the fatalities that happen around here.  That big silver thing is fixin' to run right into y'all.  I'm just tryin' to be helpful."
He raises whatever he's drinking and goes off to his truck.
Really?  Because I was in the driver's seat of that big silver thing a few minutes ago and I can tell you it's not going anywhere, much to my dismay.

Now, before you start seriously doubting my definition of a Knight in Shining Armor, let me tell you that policeman-friend and tipsy fella do not fit that category.  In fact I'm pretty sure God put them in this tale purely as a foil for what happened next:

K arrived and we had just gotten the cables hooked up again and two thirds of us were on the phones with our fathers when a little white truck pulled off in front of us.  For a split second I thought Mr. Tipsy had decided to rejoin us, but no.  An angel stepped out of this truck.
Just for clarification, the most commonly spotted angel in East Texas is a twenty-something young man in a sleeveless "work-shirt" (t-shirt with a pocket for all you foreigners), holey blue jeans with mud up to the knees, and some sort of sturdy boots.  Sometimes they even have several hard hats in the back of their truck.

This guy walks up and does everything right.  He stands far enough back to not seem threatening, but asks in a tone that is clearly concerned. "Do y'all need some help?  Because I'd love to help if you need it."
We all look at each other and say "Yes.  Please."
"Good."  He says.  "I just had to stop.  I know how it is to have people just drive right past me when I'm stuck on the side of the road."
And he promptly pulled some tools out of his truck, stepped in, and took over.  Clearly this guy knew what he was doing, so we stepped back and let him do his thing.
After several tries, my car still wasn't doing anything, so he started walking back to his truck without saying anything to us.  I have to admit, for the slightest amount of time I thought he might be abandoning us in frustration.  But no, he returned from his truck with the hugest set of jumper cables I have ever seen.  I mean, these made K's look like a toddler's toy.
He grinned at me and said "These will start a track-hoe.  If they won't start your car we're in real trouble."
I just nodded dumbly, being not really sure what a track-hoe was and even less sure that anything in the world could start my car at that point.
But, sure enough, on the second try, my car started.  Not exactly like a charm, but with minimal trouble.
By now my dad had told me to make sure to rev the engine a little after I'd gotten it jumped.  So I did that while my Knight in Shining Armor went to put up his jumper cables.
He came back from his truck, made a peculiar face at the front of my car, and put his ear to the hood.
Now I'm thinking "Oh great! What now?"
He asked me to pop the hood again, and he poked around a little bit, slammed it down again and came around to my window.  He grinned again and said "I'm hearing things.  Thought there was a rattle but I didn't see anything.  Mind if I take a look at the gauges?"  I didn't, so he did.
"I think everything's good.  It's not your alternator.  Must be the battery.  Walmart has free battery checks.  You should go get it checked out before you drive it any distance, and don't turn it off until you're somewhere safe."
I smiled, said thanks, and he left.
Thanks was not enough.  This guy was the definition of a Knight in Shining Armor:
He purposely made himself non-threatening
He actually cared about the welfare of three girls whom he didn't know and will never see again
He didn't hit on any of us  (Yes.  This is an important element of Knighthood.)

The successful starting of my engine was followed by C and I talking alternately with our dads, trying to reach a consensus among the four of us, a nerve-wracking quick stop at Starbucks for directions to Walmart, and getting the battery replaced . . . for free!  Apparently it was under manufacturer's warranty, so everything turned out alright and C and I just figured it was good all around because we got to catch up more and watch the most gorgeous sunset together.

And, on the way home, I snapped some lovely pictures of a public library in the dark which I wouldn't have seen if everything had gone according to plan.

Other good things lately:

I'm headed out of here with this lady to visit this lady.  So excited!

The little girl I nanny really does like me!  She's not the most demonstrative or responsive little thing, so I really wasn't sure until today when her mom (whom she definitely adores) called to offer her the option of running errands with Mom rather than staying at the house with Esther. She said "I want to do whatever gives me more time with Esther."  Melt my heart!

Also, I'm in my coffee shop and there was a guy in holey jeans, sturdy boots, and nerd glasses reading a book  on the couch earlier.  Those angels.  They're all around if you just look for them.


  1. Esther. I love you sweet friend. I'm glad you got time with C and K. I am also glad you are safe and that you are being blessed with "angels" all around. Thank you for the laughter this morning. :D

  2. :) I'm glad I heard this story in person, but even more glad that I read it here! Made me laugh! Love you sister!

  3. Oh Esther, I read this story in a living room full of people who didn't know you (well, I guess Nicole might remember you...) and every time I wanted to stop and say "Listen to this HILARIOUS thing Esther wrote!" there was no one there to sympathize with my joy. Alas!

    This simply means that I need to travel to Texas some time soon where Esther stories can be appreciated by all! (And where everyone recognizes your description of these angels!) So there!

  4. Awwww, I love and miss all of you sweet ladies . . . And YES. It's definitely time for some Cabbage presence in the South :)


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