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Saturday, February 26, 2011

How I Almost Died Several Times Last Thursday

Have you ever passed someone that was broken down in the middle of a busy freeway and thought “woah. I bet that sucks”?

It does.

And have you ever said something to someone and afterwards thought, “that may come back to bite me in the ass later”?

It will. I imagine this is what ran through the Native American’s minds after they said “hey, why don’t you guys join us for dinner”.

Fig. 1.1
Why women want you to ask before you invite people to dinner.

Thursday night, I was driving home from work.  It was about 6 p.m., so traffic on the major freeway I use to get home was pretty bad. Did I say pretty bad? I mean “the only way it could have been worse was if people had gotten out of their cars, set themselves on fire, and run around in circles blocking all six lanes of traffic”. Those of you from Houston understand how 290 works. For those of you who don’t know what 290 looks like during rush hour, below you’ll find a rough estimation.

Fig. 1.2
US 290: Where people in Smart Cars go to die.

So I’m driving along, cheerfully listening to the Huey Lewis and the News playlist on my iPod and I see a car in one of the center lanes broken down. The driver’s eyes have completely glossed over and he looks like Rain Man.

Fig. 1.3
"I get to drive slow on the drive way"

I assume this is because 90 million people want to kill him and his car is stuck in one of the center lanes.  Did I mention that his car is stuck in one of the center lanes? And also, 90 million people want to kill him? I know I said that already, but I mean, come on. That’s got to be a really horrible feeling. I hope Kanye West feels like this all the time, but I doubt it.

And I think to myself, “Woah. I bet that sucks”.

So I continue driving for about one more mile in one of the center lanes, when the following happens: my car is fine. my car is fine. my car is fine. my car is fine. MY CAR IS NOT FINE.

Fig. 1.4
Don't even pretend that you don't like Huey Lewis.

Everything died. My lights. My flashers. Huey Lewis. Everything. I couldn’t put the car in gear. I couldn’t coast to another lane. I couldn’t will it back to life with The Force. So I did what any normal person would do. I stared listlessly out the window like Rain Man and then freaked out.

Cars, already pissed off beyond all possible belief that they had to be stuck behind one stalled car a mile back, were driving past me at approximately 87 million miles an hour.  It very quickly occurred to me that if I didn’t get out of the car, at 18-wheeler would careen into the back of my little PT Cruiser convertible and smash me into a very tiny, but very adorable, Jennie sandwich.

Now I have to figure out how to 1) open the door and get out 2) move to the front of my car and then 3) cross two lanes of traffic 4) without dying.

Did I mention that I was wearing a dress? Did I mention that I was in six-inch stiletto heels?

So now, I’m teetering in front of my car in six inch stilettos with a needle-thin heel. About to cross one of the busiest freeways in Houston. At rush hour.

Fig. 1.5
Stilettos: Not cross trainers.

Have you ever run in stilettos across a busy freeway? Let me put it into perspective for you.  Put yourself on some stilts. Now get on a unicycle. Now juggle three grizzly bears. That should do it. Congratulations. You’ve just accomplished the equivalent of running in stilettos across 290.

This next part has a lot to do with the goodness of people and why I’m so thankful that I live in Houston because Texans are so friendly, so it’s basically boring and I’ll run through it pretty fast.

-Random lady offers me a cell phone, asks if I want her to stay with me. I do not want to be responsible for her death
-Very, very nice man who doesn’t speak any English pulls his car in front of mine, hooks up a tow chain, pulls my car off the road, pops the hood, points at a battery connector that is clearly not supposed to be covered in corrosion, fixed it, makes a very wide steering wheel motion that looks like a person playing the Daytona USA arcade game at Sports Page Skating Rink (if you don’t know about that, trust me, it’s cool), indicating that I can drive it
-I tell very, very nice man who doesn’t speak any English “Te Amo” and throw my arms around him
-Very, very nice man I’ve just pledged my love to drives away
-Car dies again
-Metropolitan Transit Authority guy knocks on my window

And I’ll pick up here.

MTA guy: What’s the problem?
Me: This is what I do on Thursday’s. I sit in my car on the shoulder of 290. You’re bothering me.
MTA guy (whose sense of humor is clearly not like mine):
Me: I’m kidding.
MTA guy: Pop the hood.

He looks at the battery, tells me it’s a bad connector, then tells me that IT COULD CATCH ON FIRE and then calls a tow truck for me. He stays behind me until the tow truck driver gets there.

I’ll pause here to let you know that he stayed with me for a couple of reasons, the first of those being that it’s probably his job, the last of those being that the area that my car stopped in isn’t exactly the best area of 290. It’s not horrible. But it’s not great. I mean, chances are you could get raped there, but probably not murdered. This plays a part in the conversation I’ll have with the tow truck driver in a little bit.  Another quick bit of information, Houston has the Safe and Clear program. If you break down on a freeway, a tow truck will come and take you to a safe place for free. Tow truck drivers apparently hate this.

And back to the story.

So the tow truck driver gets there, and he is very clearly not happy.

Tow Truck Guy: What’s wrong? It don’t work no more?
Me: It works fine. I just wanted to see you.
Tow Truck Guy (whose sense of humor, like the MTA guy, is not like mine):
Me: I’m kidding.

He tells me to get in the cab of the truck, hooks my car up, gets back in and asks where I want him to take me.

Me: I don’t know. Some place less rapey.
Tow Truck Guy (and I’m serious about this response): … that may be hard around here.
Tow Truck Guy:
Me: How much to take me to my apartment (which isn’t very far, by the way)
Tow Truck Guy: $100 cash. $145 if It’s a check.
Me: Apparently, you planned on raping me anyway.

And I immediately thought "that's probably going to bite me in the ass later." This is where I learned an important lesson: you never pop off to a tow truck guy responsible for taking you somewhere safe. Because apparently, “safe” is a relative word.

In the five minutes it took for him to get me to the gas station in the middle of murder town, I found out three things:

1)Tow Truck Guy hates doing  Safe and Clear tows.
Tow Truck Guy: I hate doing these safe and clear’s. We don’t make any money on them.
Me: Yeah. Sorry that my car died in the middle of one of the busiest freeways in Houston. And that I had to run across that freeway. And that I could have died. This must really be ruining your night.

2)Tow Truck Guy was fighting with his girlfriend.
Tow Truck Guy: Hello!
Cell Phone: ::Shrill screaming that can only be described as a noise that sounded like Rosie Perez had sex with Fran Drescher and they made a mutant baby that screamed all the time::
Tow Truck Guy: You know what?! Ima call you BACK. (and then he hangs up)

3) Tow Truck Guy stares at boobs. A lot.
I can’t really do any dialog for this. But here’s what it looked like.

Fig. 1.6
When in doubt, stare openly at a strange woman's boobs.

Then Tow Truck Guy dropped me off at TC Jester and 610 (not from Houston? TC Jester and 610 is less rapey than where I was. But more murdery. In his defense, he did exactly what I asked.)

My family came shortly after that and my father fixed my car.

Did you think this story was over? No. Almost. But not yet.
After my dad fixed the car, my family wanted to follow me home because they inexplicably love me. I wanted to go all the way down TC Jester, because it connects with a cross street near my apartment, and that way, if it died, I wouldn’t be on a freeway.

Here’s a very important fact: I am horrible with directions. I get lost all the time. I have left work, driven two blocks and accidentally gotten on a freeway that took me 20 miles away. I’ve been to my best friend’s house roughly eleventy-billion times. And 90 percent of the time I turn down the wrong street and it takes me fifteen minutes to figure it out. This kind of thing happens all the time. The really bad thing about this, is that I don’t usually think I’m wrong. So while I can admit that I’m bad with directions, (very, very bad. Like Moses leading folks through the desert for 40 years bad), I usually think I’m going the right way. That being said, I was very, very confident that I was supposed to turn left on TC Jester. So I did.

In my defense, my family knows better than to let me lead. Seriously. One of you guys needs to get me a GPS. Why hasn’t this happened yet?

We get about 20 minutes down the road (by the way, it should have taken about ten minutes, but I’m still 100 percent confident that I’ve made the right decision) and my brother says “where are we? I’m pretty sure those 15 year olds are doing a drug deal right there.”

Long story short, I took my family to Acres Home. Not from here? I Googled “Acres Home” to show you what comes up.

Fig. 1.7
Murdertown and Rapeville: 1, Jennie: 0

That’s right. I took my family to the most rapey and murdery part of Houston. With a car that had been randomly breaking down. Because let’s face it. If you want to test someone’s workmanship on a touch-and-go battery connecter, don’t you want to do that in one of the most dangerous parts of the city? At 9 at night? When there’s something at stake?

I know I do.