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So there I was, minding my own business, behind the wheel of my car. It was Christmas night, around 6:30 or so. The Cranberries were on the radio. I had completed about two hours of driving and was about 45 minutes away from home. We’d gone to the farm to visit the boy’s aunt and uncle, and I had to work the next day, so I drove back alone rather than staying overnight with the rest of the family.
I'd been admonished by no less than four family members to be careful driving, leaving early in order to drive in daylight and avoid driving the rural Minnesota highways in the dark. In fact, I’d gotten in a tiff with the boy over my winter driving skills on the drive out to the farm; he’d insisted that my notorious leadfoot was going to get me in trouble on snow-infested roads. I brushed him off, getting angry and insisting that I’d learned how to drive in the stuff, and having driven in snow for the last 15 years, I knew what I was doing, thankyouverymuch, and if he was going to critique my driving, he might volunteer to do the driving next time.
You know where this is headed, right?
I’d made it back to the outskirts of civilization, noting that I had just passed the turnoff for Ric’s town. (Remember Ric? Filmmaker? Right. Him. Nice guy.) As I came around a curve, I was in my own head, gliding across the road, well below the posted speed limit. Dolores O’Riordan and I were having a grand old time of it, not letting it linger, when I felt the car start to fishtail- the tires had run afoul of something on the road-likely a patch of fresh snow-and before I knew what was going on, I was careening out of control, heading for the opposite lane of traffic. I remember thinking to myself, “Just don’t hit another car, we can’t afford a new one or the insurance hit…”
I think I overcorrected my steering, but whatever happened, I slipped out of control and did a sliding 180 degree turn. I managed to keep the car on the correct side of the road, but ended up facing the wrong way, up to my driver door in a soft bank of snow. In the ditch.
Once I stopped, I performed a quick inventory:
Engine: still running.
Lights: still on.
Driver door: blocked.
Almost immediately, there were people stopped up on the road, pulling over and approaching the car to ensure my well-being. My phone had been tossed somewhere in the car, and I couldn’t find it, so one of my Good Samaritans called the authorities and a tow wrecker. Another one, whose name was Tom, volunteered to stay with me until the tow truck got there. We chatted for a good twenty minutes, and I found out that he owned four horses and was a former corrections officer. I don’t know why I trusted him; but in my circumstances (woman alone, in a car, in the ditch, at night, bad weather), I had very little choice.
By this time I’d found my cell phone, and I called Ric. I was making contingency plans for rescue; if the car was broken, I would need someone to pick me up, and the family would take a few hours to get to me. I wouldn’t have wanted them to come out anyway, so I planned to stay at Ric’s until they could arrive, likely the next morning given the conditions. I found his number in my phone and hit the green call button.
“Ric…hey, it’s Kate. Merry Christmas.”
“Hey…you too. What’s going on?”
“Oh, well…I’m in a ditch.”
“I put my car in a ditch…kinda close to where you live, I think.” (I described my location and Ric confirmed that his house was nearby.) “So…are you home?”
“Yeah, yeah- I’m home. Looking at adopting another ferret right now.”
“Ah…okay. Well, the wrecker is going to be here in a bit, but if we get the car out and it’s busted, would you be able to come get me?”
“Yeah, of course. Just let me know…I’ll keep my phone close by. Just let me know what you need, okay?”
“Okay. Thanks, Ric…sorry to bug you on Christmas.”
“Hey, it’s okay. Just hope everything turns out for you.”
“Okay, I’ll call you back once I know what’s going on. Thanks again, Ric.”
Once the wrecker showed up to haul me out, Tom left, and I shook his hand through the open passenger window. I wish I had his full name or address or anything, so I could send him a proper thank you. I’m about as resilient as most Midwestern girls, but I know the difference between bravado and safety, and Tom helped me stay calm and keep a good attitude throughout the whole ordeal.
Once I was hooked up, the wrecker dude coached me on how to turn my wheels, when to put it in drive and cued me to goose it up the hill as he pulled with the tow cable and then drove forward. He was assisted by two police cars, which were kind enough to block traffic so that the wrecker could do his job. I found out the wrecker dude’s name was Shane, and since he was kind enough to spend his Christmas hauling me and other motorists out of our vehicular mishaps, I tipped him an extra 10% above the tow bill. I'm also going to send a note to the tow company, complimenting Shane on a job well done. I hope his boss buys him a beer or something; he looked like the kind of guy who should have a beer bought for him every once in awhile.
The car seemed to drive fine, so I continued on my way home, calling Ric back to let him know that his (most appreciated) services would not be needed that evening. We chatted for awhile about school and Christmas doings, and what we planned to do for the rest of our break. By this time I was on the interstate headed toward home, and I knew I’d make it home without further incident.
I made the decision not to tell the boy or the family about putting the car in the ditch until tonight at dinner. I didn’t want them to worry and since things had turned out in the best possible manner given the situation (seriously- spinout, into the ditch, no injuries to person, vehicle or object? Damn good.) The family was obviously slightly fermisched that I waited to tell them, but as there was nothing to be done and all was well, the boy agreed that I’d exercised good judgment where that decision was concerned.
I also decided that the next time I see a car in the ditch, I will be one of the kind souls to stop and check the driver, call the cops and stay until the wrecker got there. A ten percent tip to the tow wrecker guy only goes so far in your karmic payback, no?