The Car Incident
Going downhill in the center of a five-lane highway, I lost control of the breaks, the wheel and the accelerator.
All I could do was drive 35 miles per hour down the center lane and scream as trucks and SUVs sped towards the rear of the car. The boys were in the back seat.
It was the only time in my life I've felt like I was going to die. And by "I" I mean someone in my family. It was like we were one unit at that moment. And we were doomed.
Then, like the red sea, traffic parted. The trucks went around us. I even saw one driver do the calm down signal to me with his hand. So I stopped screaming and yelled, "Oh my God. Oh my God. Oh my God." Which is more serene, I think.
As one last car pulled around us, I looked in the guy's eyes and yelled, "Help me!"
He wasn't really in a position to help, though. On the highway, you have to keep going. I saw him look at us for a moment, wanting to help, then he sped up to get out of our way.
At that moment, I was like, "Wait a second, why did I have time to ask him for help? Where are the cars that are going to crash into us?"
And I saw that the highway was clear behind us. The hill flattened out, and suddenly, I had enough control over the car to cross two lanes, and finally screach to a stop on the shoulder.
I don't mean to get all mystical about this, but I felt pretty doggone lucky. Like maybe that guy said a prayer for us or something.
It was almost as if a giant J.J. had picked up our car, sent it hurling down a ramp with a bunch of other cars and then--maybe because his mom called him to lunch--picked us up and put us in his pocket, where we were safe.
On the shoulder, I frantically called 911. Meanwhile, J.J., who minutes before had been screaming along with me, smiled at me from the back seat--as if to say, "oh, hey mom, what's up?" Johnny ate French fries nonchalantly from his McDonald's carryout. And Richie yelled, "I don't want to die!"
"We're not going to die," I said, hoping that in my moment of panic I hadn't said that. (Because that was exactly what I was thinking.) No, he must have gotten that from a T.V. show.
The policeman arrived and followed us to the next exit as I drove 2 miles an hour. Then Justin picked us up and drove us home.
It was the scariest moment of my life. But since then, three people have told me that their cars have also come to a standstill on a busy highway. They either stalled or spun around so that they were facing traffic. How did any of us make it out of those situations alive, I wonder.
I'd say it was the hand of God, but it doesn't make sense that he was there for us but not for others.
I do think God was trying to give us a sign at McDonald's not to drive the car on the highway. Because a little girl climbed out of the car next to us and said, "Mommy, that car is broken."
The mom looked embarrassed and said, "Well, so is ours, honey!"
Even though it looked pretty good to me.
Well, I thought the little girl was referring to our broken mirror or duct tape interior. And I was thinking, "Geez, for a kid, you're pretty persnickity. Not everybody can ride around in their mom's SUV, sugar."
But it turns out, that little girl was right. Our car was broken.
Did God warn us? And then save us?
I wonder if he was up there with his assistants, saying, "Okay they didn't listen to our hint, so we're going to need the drivers on I-35 to be alert. So get inside their heads and tell them not to answer their cell phones. Make them think it's their annoying neighbor wanting to borrow the lawn mower again (and never return it). And then we'll need to slow down traffic after the powder blue SUV thinks about helping, and then realizes he'd just make things worse...At that point, one of you just swoop down and push the car to safety. And Gabriel, order in lunch. Let's do Chinese. No, make that Thai."
Would he do that? Could he do that? For four people? What about all the people in Iraq dying in bus bombings?
Or was it simply a matter of good timing and drivers paying attention? We'll never know.
And it may never happen again because we bought a minivan. As the boys point out during guided tours for anyone passing by, it has features like hooks for our grocery bags and clothes and a gray interior (which Johnny said is his new favorite color.)
I, too, show off the car by working it into every conversation.
Neighbor: "It looks like rain."
Me: "Yes, the clouds are white, like our new Chrysler Town & Country, and gray, like the interior. And it's cold, like our car air conditioning."
Well, Justin just called and now his car is in the shop. It's always something. And, this time, I don't think I'm in a position to call in a favor from the man upstairs. It looks like Justin will be driving the minivan. And the boys and I will be driving...each other crazy. Stuck at home. Although after the car incident, that's something I feel lucky to do.