On Saturday, all I wanted to do was take everyone to a show in the city. We almost paid with our lives.
I was darting up the New Jersey Turnpike towards the Lincoln Tunnel. Just before Exit 15, in the heart of the industrial ugliness of Newark, a piece of something—metal or rubber or plastic—catapulted off a dump truck ahead of us in the next lane. It bounced in a high arc once, twice, and then shot under our car. It happened in a matter of seconds but I saw the whole thing unfold in slow motion.
It smacked the bottom of our car hard, like someone punched it. *bang* I looked in my rear view and saw thick smoke billowing out the back of my car. My wife yelled, “What was that?!” I looked at my daughters and their eyes were wide with fear. My oil light clicked on. My hands hurt and I realized it was from gripping the steering wheel.
My mind was racing through scenarios. The object could have gone through the windshield instead of under the car. It could have ruptured my fuel tank and we could’ve been blown to bits. The car could have flipped. There could’ve been someone tailgating and they might have slammed into my back end. We weren’t out of danger yet.
An exit came up. I took it. The car was losing power fast. It finally died, and I mean died, on a street that might see traffic during business hours, but on a late Saturday afternoon with a winter storm and a deep freeze approaching, there was no one. We were across the street from some giant oil tanks. Nothing was open. It was an apocalyptic, industrial wasteland. The temperatures were plummeting, it was getting dark and it started snowing.
I am never going to badmouth cell phones again.
Miracle #1: My wife is a member of AAA but the membership is restricted to her car. It doesn’t include mine. A few days ago, I received an offer in the mail to attach a second driver in the same household to the membership at no additional cost for the length of the current contract. I rarely drive but I thought it couldn’t hurt and since it’s free, I responded to the offer. Guess when I signed up? Right before we left for the city. I was a member for about an hour and I called AAA to come get me.
Miracle #2: We sat for about :15 minutes gathering our senses, calming down, figuring out a plan when a Port Authority police car just happened to pass by. It was one of the few cars we’d seen since we broke down. They set up flares and called for the police. We were only about five miles from the Newark Airport so they drove my Bride and Daughters to a Hertz rental car agency there while I stayed with the car. We called AAA to confirm the tow truck was on its way and everyone left.
Busy night for tow trucks. I waited for three hours. It was dark, scary, lonely, quiet and cold. I froze my ass off but was glad my family was somewhere safe and warm. During that three hours, I had two complete and total strangers pull up and ask if I was okay or needed help. One was a Latino kid in his mid-20’s and the other was a middle-aged Jamaican. Who pulls up to a car with its hood up in a desolate neighborhood during a winter storm and says, “Hey, brother, are you okay?” Angels walk this earth.
A flatbed tow truck took my car to a garage in downtown Newark. They called me this afternoon. The object I hit pinged around and caused severe damage. My oil filter housing was snapped clean off and lodged near my muffler, becoming a second projectile. All the oil drained and that caused irreparable damage to the rods and bearings, whatever the hell those are. The engine is cooked to the tune of $3,200.
But we’re alive.
My wife drove the rental from the airport and picked me up at the garage in Newark. We got home late. The dog was laying on the sofa. The tip of her tail started the thump-thump-thump, happy to see me dance. I sat next to her. Pet. Pet. Pet.
That fucking dog bit me again.
I didn’t touch her in a weird spot or approach her in an aggressive manner. It came out of nowhere. I wish that dog would drop dead. Dogs suck. They’re dirty, stupid, needy, smelly beasts. I’ve never liked them. Plus, I think my car it totaled.
So…How was your Valentine’s Day?