just happy to be here

Well, last night we watched fourth of July fireworks from our family room because this year the holiday falls on a Sunday. When that happens, some Utahns like to say they celebrate all weekend instead of one day, but others say it’s because the dominant religious group call the shots for the celebration. While independence is something to celebrate, Pioneer Day on July 24 packs a much bigger wallop here and the streets will be lined with people along downtown streets celebrating the arrival of Brigham Young and the first group of Mormon pioneers into the Salt Lake Valley on July 24, 1847. But neither holiday has anything to do with what I’m writing about today, so I’ll go right to that and hope you don’t mind too much.

What embarrassing experiences have you found yourself in over the years? Did you ever tell others about them, or were they too humiliating? Or did you, as did I, just tuck them away in your memory box for the blog you didn’t know you’d be writing 20 or 30 years hence.

I find that the older I get, the less likely I am to blush no matter what situation I find myself in the situation in which I find myself. (I just did show of editing to prove that I really do understand the rules of grammar, but I’ve never figured out whether I should write phrases correctly or the way I talk speak. Over the past months, I’ve had to let go any pretense of modesty as first one and then another doctor of all ages see more than less of me in the altogether, even that good looking Dr. G (for gorgeous) that Hubby wrote about months ago. At the same time, I’m sure there are hundreds of Huntsman Cancer Institute and the University hospital staff who may not recognize me if we pass on the street unless I were walking topless. I’m not unduly embarrassed by issues of modesty. It’s like Mama always said, if they’ve never seen it they won’t know what it is anyhow, but what does bother me still–and probably will forevermore–is exposing the stupid side of me.

There have been times in my past that I have suffered great humiliation. The following story is one of them. It would have made a nice contribution to my Sunday Snapshots memories except that I was in no position to take a picture. So I decided to sneak in this mental snapshot on Saturday instead. I look back on it now as another funny story I can bring up at the right kind of party when the conversations began to lag. Perhaps it’ll remind you of some times you found yourself in weird situations and will share them either here in the comment section, or on your own blog if you write one. (If you do, then please link to this post so I’ll be sure to see it. ) And no matter what day you celebrate Independence Day this weekend, hope you have a great time. May there be many more for all of us.

* * * * * * *

It was in the early 1990’s and I was driving from our home in Tennessee to visit my mother in Florida, accompanied by my daughter and her dog. She was 25 years old at the time and was home briefly before leaving the country, having accepted a post-doctoral fellowship at a research institute in Berlin. Since she might be away for as long as three years, this could be their last visit for awhile. Mama was around 80 years old and not in the best of health, so it might be the last chance she’d have to see her grandma (turns out it was). I’d had the car checked out, oil changed etc., so there should be little worry about the car breaking down on the interstate. We left Knoxville in time to reach the farm for an early dinnertime of 5 or 5:30 p.m.

My daughter is a talker. We always thought she’d have made a great lawyer because she always had a lot to say about a lot of things. We’d already had one slip-up in our excursion after making a pit stop for coffee and then heading the wrong way on I-75 and not realizing we were headed back to Tennessee before we figured it out and re-traced our route southward. We’d made it without further incidence until we were somewhere in southern Kentucky or northern Georgia when the car lurched a little, like it had a tiny cough, but then it was okay so I kept driving. A mile or so later it began to shake again, this time the tiny cough was turning into a real spasm. I thought about Mama’s experience with a new car she’d taken in for an oil change once, and the mechanic forgot to put the plug back in the oil chamber and all the oil leaked out. I wondered if lightning could really strike twice after all and the more I thought about it the more convinced I was that was the problem with the van.

I was pretty sure the nearest service station was at least a mile or two away, but knew I’d never make it that far so I pulled off to the side of the road. I know absolutely nothing about cars so I knew there was no point in looking under the hood. We got out of the car, put the leash on the dog, and started walking toward the next exit.We could see the sign in the distance, and were vaguely sure it said GAS – 1 mile. If they sold gas, then surely there was a mechanic around somewhere, right? And we were dressed for hot weather, both in reasonably good shape, and walking a mile would be no problem at all. And maybe some kind people would offer us a ride without our having to raise my hemline and put up my thumb.

Even though I was a southern woman who didn’t usually sweat but glowed, I felt sweat trickle down my backbone and my dress was feeling damp. Meanwhile, the sun didn’t let up even a little bit. Seemed like hundreds of people were passing us by, some in big fancy cars, others in snazzed-up trucks or family vans. I noticed lots of women dressed up like they were going to church in air conditioned comfort. Most were certainly curious but nonetheless impervious to our plight. Then I started getting thirsty; I think I would have given a five-dollar-bill for drink of water or a coke about then. And that exit sign seemed to get further and further away the more we walked. Finally a truck pulled to the side of the road a few yards ahead so we raced to reach it lest the driver change his mind. Would have been nice had it been a modern two-seated pick-up, but anything with four wheels would do.

The truck had an old, round-looking cab with fading paint of nondescript color. Rather than the usual truck bed, it had a wooden flatbed with no sides that looked as though it had been bolted together by hand. When we reached it, nearly out of breath from running, I  leaned down to speak with the driver, a heavy-jowled white man with a mottled reddish complexion. Just my luck–instead of ruggedly handsome country singer type, this one looked as if he’d come straight from a casting call from Deliverance. Now, as a southerner born and bred, I’ve always been a bit perturbed by much of the country’s stereotyping of southerners, and I’d be damned if I was going to hold the appearance of one lone man along a very busy interstate highway willing to stop and offer assistance to two women against him. I’d been around the block a few years, had lived in the South and North and EAST and had known enough Yankees and knew race-ism and dumb-ism is not limited to any one part of the U.S.

An unrestrained Pit bull–who looked as if he would very much like to tear my daughter’s Australian Husky into shreds–lunged at me immediately. My daughter grasped her dog’s leash tighter and we both backed up a few feet. The highway noise and the Pit bull’s incessant barking forced me to shout that we were trying to make it to the exit to the service station as our car was broke down “a ways back” and would certainly appreciate a ride. (It’s funny how quickly I can revert to southern vernacular when I’m in the South.) At the same time I was wondering how we’d all fit on the seat with that Pit bull, the man was offering his idea of what might be wrong with our car. We waited like he was thinking on what to do. Finally he said hop in, and I asked if there was room for all of us–two dogs, two women and him–and he gestured toward the back and said “plenty of room back there.”

Neither of us were that tall, 5’4″ and 5’3″ so it wasn’t easy climbing the height onto the flatbed but we finally made it. I could only imagine the stares we were getting at this point from passing cards. We were still scrambling to get the dog up safely when we heard him pull the truck’s gears into motion and felt ourselves pulling onto the highway. Somehow we managed to position ourselves with our backs towards the cab with the Pit bull watching us. As I remember there was very little to hold on to except each other and the wind blew our hair backwards flapping into our eyes. In spite of our predicament, we had to laugh. I could just imagine how we looked. There’s no better music to set the scene to than “If My Friends Could See Me Now.” Soon enough we felt ourselves veering off the exit. Funny how I hadn’t noticed how woodsy this part of the country was. My daughter shouted more or less what I was thinking. “Mom, you think he really intends to stop at the station.” All I could think of was what could possibly be at the end of that dark and lonely looking graveled country road that disappeared quickly into woods beyond it.

True to his word, the nice country man stopped at what turned out to be a sad-looking 7-11 type store that had been a service stations years before. It was quite evident that the gas pumps in front hadn’t pumped gas in a long time and naturally there was no mechanic. There was a selection of snack foods and soda pop, however, AND there was a dilapidated but working public telephone, one of those open air types. Remember, this was long before we’d heard of mobile telephones. I called the Triple A and after awhile a truck showed up and drove us all back to our abandoned van. He opened the front hood, checked a few things and told us we were–yup–out of gas! Boy did I feel stupid!

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6 thoughts on “just happy to be here

  1. But, Oh what a great story this makes.

    Happy forth to you there high amid the LDS folks. Or Mormons as they now call themselves. You just take care of you and make sure you have gas in your car. LOL

  2. Embarrassing situations make the best stories. How exciting would be it to say, “I was on my way to Florida when I ran out of gas along the interstate. There were no gas stations in sight! Fortunately, I always carry a two-gallon can of gas with me. So, I put some gas in the car and found a clean, air-conditioned station at the next exit.” Yawn. Glad you’re doing well and really enjoying the small things in life.

  3. I agree … embarrassing stories do make the best writes! I have almost got to the point where after I have some kind of an an accident, misfortune, or do something embarrassing I immediately think “Oh, this will be fun to write about”. I enjoyed reading about yours!

  4. Alice, I just have SO much to say about this MOST ENTERTAINING post.

    1. I LOVE knowing this elegant Southern lady experiences embarrassing moments!!!! (My life is one continuous embarrassing moment, and because of that, I’ll NEVER be considered a lady! Sniff.)

    2. The more I read, the stronger the southern accent in my head became! I even heard the banjo start strumming before your DELIVERANCE comment!

    3. I thought I’d fall off my chair laughing when I read “plenty of room back there!” Seriously, I didn’t see that coming! Should have, but didn’t. Too funny.

    4. And about celebrating the 4th of July Sabbath in Utah: C’mon, Alice. You forgot to mention that the reddest COUNTY in the COUNTRY sponsors the STADIUM OF FIRE!!! And the FREEDOM FESTIVAL – complete with a PARADE. (I was in California over the 4th and was surprised that the block party we attended was held on Saturday. Do you think Utah’s predominant religion extends its influence that far west? Scratch that question; I forgot about prop 8.)

    I think the world of you, my blogging friend!

    Renae, who is one of them-there Marmons or LDS folk – whichever is yer preference! 😉

    • And I ‘preciate you back, Ranae, more than you know your being Marmon and all! Your sense of humor is close to that of our good Marmon neighbor Pat who’s about 70 and lives across the street. She watches out for us and we watch out for her although her big family who live here are always checking in on her.

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