Stranded and Saved

My housemate told me when I got in tonight that what I have lived through today is stuff of legend, or at least stuff worthy of journaling. I decided, despite it being past 1 a.m., that I would re-tell the story as a future reminder to myself, and far as the legendary-ness of it…you can be the judge.

Today was Seminary Day. For my school, that just means we send students out to various churches in Canada to encourage the churches/their leaders and contribute to the service somehow, whether that be via preaching, doing something musically, or sharing a testimony. I went to the area I was assigned yesterday afternoon. It’s 3-4 hours from where I live. The roads were fine. Granted, at one point I saw about 12 cars total buried in the snow in the median (and this is off a major highway). But still, the poor weather had passed, or so it seemed.

The service today went great, and I got to go out to eat with some people from the church afterwards. Coming back, however, was not as easy as going had been. Initially, the problem was just snow blowing. For those who do not live in snowy climates, just imagine if someone had a fog machine and they were blowing white fog across a stage. That’s kind of what the road looked like. Granted, it was just snow, but it made it more difficult to see the road underneath, and I didn’t want to get carried away driving too fast and slip on an ice patch I couldn’t see. Besides that, the blowing snow was also kinda distracting because if you looked at it too long, you could lose yourself in it and become disoriented from the road. So I was very focused and intent on driving. So far, so good.

By the time I hit the next big town–the one between the Seminary Day church and my school–things were quite different. There were places where snow was blowing, but now the problem was more snowy and icy road conditions. Despite my time here, I still have not managed to really figure out the art of how to handle a sliding or spinning vehicle in wintertime. Therefore, as you can imagine, I was white-knuckling it and driving at a snail’s pace in that area. I actually took an exit to get off the road for awhile because my whole body was so tense from driving.

I finally got back on the road, and after what seemed like an eternity, the roads started looking clearer. I began to relax a little more. About an hour, an hour and a half away from my house, I hear a ding and see the battery flash up on my car panel. I’m still kind of trying to keep an eye on the road, and my car has electrical problems anyway, so I kind of write it off and think maybe in a minute it will go away. The light doesn’t go away. Suddenly, I hear another ding. I happen to glance over at the rad thermometer, and it’s pointing straight up, right in the red. I didn’t understand it; I hadn’t been having any issues like that with my car. But, I had been warned enough about the dangers of being in the “red zone” that instinct took over and as soon as I saw the thermometer temperature I pulled over off the highway. I popped my hood and saw my car was smoking, though only slightly.

I was stumped. My boyfriend is usually the go-to guy, but he’s out of pocket for a little while. I called my friend Danielle and we discussed some possibilities. She agreed to look up tow trucks while I called my boyfriend to ask if he could get his car insurance company to offer me roadside assistance. He said it was a no go. However, a gentleman at our school, Dwight, had told me if I ever needed anything to give him a call. My boyfriend suggested I call him. At this point, a man pulled over off the busy highway and offered to give me a ride to the next (small) town. It was a tempting offer–especially when he pointed out that because of the weather, I would be stuck waiting awhile. Did I mention the weather was about -22 C? Yeah. Though it was tempting, I figured taking the word of a lone male stranger might not be the best idea, and it’d probably be better to hold out as long as I could in the car. I had blankets and a candle in the trunk if I needed them; cranking the car again was pretty much out of the question. I politely declined and the man went on his way.

I got back with Danielle and she said there was no luck with towing companies; either way it went, I was out of their range. My boyfriend hadn’t had Dwight’s phone number, so he gave me the number of another family on the hill who are friends with Dwight and his wife. I tried the family and got their voicemail, followed by a message that their voicemail was full. About this time, I remembered that they were away for Seminary Day, also. I called one of my profs to see if he might be able to get me Dwight’s number. He gave me a number; I called it. My housemate answered (I’m still confused as to how they could’ve been that wrong about the number). I briefly explained my situation to her and told her I was looking for Dwight’s number. She didn’t have it and wasn’t anywhere that she could get it, so she gave me numbers of two other families on campus. I tried both numbers, and neither of them were home.

At this point, I was starting to get a little panicky because I was starting to run out of options. I had been out there for awhile, and the cold was starting to penetrate into the car. As a last-ditch phone call effort, I tried the school facilities manager, but the number I had was for his office at the school, which did me no good on a Sunday. Then, I remembered the man who is interim pastor at my church has a huge diesel truck; I thought maybe he could tow me. I called Danielle for his number. She informed me that here, it’s illegal for a plain vehicle to tow another vehicle; you have to have a trailer. She agreed that this guy would be a good bet, though, because he had connections. We hung up so she could call him.

About this time, an SUV drove up. A lady got out and asked if I needed help. She and her husband saw me there, and when she saw I was female, she felt especially obligated to do something because of the cold weather. She said she had heard recently a 16-year-old girl was taken by a guy who was dressed as a policeman, and even though he was caught, the story bothered her. She went on to say that if she were in my shoes, she would probably be wary of getting in the car with strangers, but she assured me that she and her husband were not creepy people. They offered to take me to their home to wait on help (ironically, in the same town where the previous guy had offered to take me). Danielle called back, and the lady went back into the SUV, and they stayed and waited patiently while I talked things out with Danielle in my car. Danielle suggested that I have them wait with me awhile til help came.

I guess at this point the couple realized there was another, less awkward solution. They offered to take me to a Tim Hortons in the town I had just passed. At least that way, they said, I could eat something and be warm and safe while I waited. While I was still thinking about this offer, the pastor called my phone. I explained things to him, and he suggested that I take their offer (as long as I called him as soon as I was at Tim Hortons). He was rounding up the facilities manager and the head of disaster relief to hook up a trailer and come get me. So, I got in the car with a couple I didn’t know, trusting that they would take me where they said. We didn’t even exchange names during the drive; the most I found out about them was that they were originally from Nova Scotia. Several minutes later, they were dropping me off at Tim Hortons, as promised. I called the pastor and he said the earliest the group could get to me would be 9:30, so I may as well make myself comfortable.

I did. I sat around at Tim Hortons for about 2 1/2, 3 hours.

The “Three Musketeers” arrived to save the day. We drove out to my car, which still had the hood propped up and flashers blinking dutifully. They loaded my car onto the trailer pretty quickly, and when they came back in the truck, their report was that my fan belt (the belt that goes throughout everything) had come loose, so the car was overheating. They said it would be easy to fix, and that they would fix it for me. This was quite a relief since I was already nervous about yet another car repair Bill of Doom.

The drive back was fairly slowgoing because little did I know, the roads past where I was stranded were once again bad. We got in around 12:15.

Legendary? I don’t know.

As I’ve been pondering over these events, though, I’ve thought several “what ifs.”

What if there had been no second car come by to check on me?

What if there was a second car but it was another lone male?

What if, for some reason, the “Three Mustketeers” hadn’t been able to mobilize and get to me?

What if I’d been stuck outside in my freezing cold car the whole time I was waiting?

There are myriads of “what ifs” and potential answers to those “what ifs.” Still, I think maybe the best way to sum it up is, “Thank God I didn’t have to learn those answers myself.” While I was in the middle of it, I wasn’t really seeing the way the pieces fell into place as divine intervention, per se. Now, though, with a few hours’ worth of perspective, I can at least say that God orchestrated things so that I could be very, very fortunate. To be more definitive, I might say God was looking out for me tonight when I really needed it, and I am thankful.

I am also convinced that I need to sign up for a roadside assistance program asap. In realizing how fortunate I was this time, I can also see how easily the situation could be repeated, except next time, I may not be as fortunate…

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