October 20th, 2004
If you had to pick a single word to describe me, and “callipygian” was for some reason disallowed, you couldn’t go wrong with “lucky.” I consider myself to be an inordinately fortunate guy. And I don’t just mean in the passive sense of having a wonderful wife and a great kid and two awesome cats and living in the best nation on Earth, although all of that is certainly true so long as you replace “awesome” with “worthless.” No, my luck is more active than that — or, rather, reactive. It seems that, just when I need it the most, fate will step in and save me from one disaster or another, usually of my own making.
This story is just one such example. Truth be told, the Cosmic Cavalry pulls my fat from the fire fairly often. And lest you think this phenomenon is all in my head, let me assure you that other people have noticed it as well. Once, back in college, I spent my last $5 on a ticket to a movie ticket, even though my next paycheck was two days away and I had nothing to eat in my house. When I told The Queen this — whom I had just begun to date, and had accompanied to the film — she marvelled at my idiocy, but I assured her that it would all work out. And sure enough: before the movie began an usher came out and announced that they were going to hold an impromptu raffle. He pulled a ticket stub from a bucket, and when I stood up to announce that the number matched my own he said I’d won a free meal at a local pizzeria. To this very day she begrudges me that.
Anyway, last Saturday my car ran out of gas. Do you like the way I used the passive tense there, like no one was to blame, despite the fact that I’m the only one who drives this vehicle? Anyway. Halfway across Washington’s famous floating bridge, the car gave one last, hearty “vrrrrRRRRRRMMMMMmmmmm” and coasted to a stop.
Now, his was all sorts of bad. For one thing, I don’t own a cell-phone, as part of my plan to eventually become a cranky old geezer out-of-touch with modern technology . For another, the shoulder of the bridge is just a smidge wider than a single car-width, so by abandoning my Toyota there I was running the very real risk of it getting hit by some passing vehicle. And, worst of all, I was at least a mile from the nearest gas station. I knew that, in the time it would take me to jog to Mercer Island, purchase a gas can, fill it up with fuel and return, my car would almost certainly get towed.
The shoulder was so narrow that I couldn’t exit on the driver’s side without stepping into traffic, so I clambered over to the passenger’s side and squeezed out the door. Only after I locked and closed the door behind me did I realize that I’d left the keys in the ignition.
Now thoroughly dispirited, I trotted to the nearest town (about two miles away), called The Queen, told her the situation, and asked that she come pick me up. Twenty minutes later she arrived. We stopped at a station, filled up our gas can, and hopped back on the freeway.
Nearly an hour had passed since I had ditched the vehicle, and I had no hope that my car hadn’t been hit or towed in my absence. Sure enough, when we reached the bridge we could see flashing police lights ahead, right where the car had died.
“They must be towing it right now,” I groaned.
“Maybe we can get there before they take it away,” The Queen replied, but I shook my head. “Once the tow truck arrives, they won’t let you get your vehicle until they’ve towed it to the depot,” I told her. “We’re going to have to pay for the towing no matter what.”
Then, as we got closer, things looked worse. Not only was there a cop car stationed there, but was a huge tanker truck parked on the shoulder as well, a few feet behind my vehicle. The obvious reason for it being there, of course, was that it had hit my car. “Aw, crap!” I told The Queen. “It looks like the Baldwin luck ain’t gonna save me this time.”
We pulled over to the shoulder. I grabbed the gas can, exited, and trotted up to the police car, where a cop stood waiting for me. Because the tanker filled the shoulder I was unable to see my car, and therefore didn’t know what damage the collision had done to it.
The officer saw me approaching. “Do you own the Toyota?” he asked.
“Yeah, that’s mine,” I confessed, bracing myself for the worse.
“Okay,” the cop replied replied.
I waited for a moment, before saying. “Uh, ‘okay’ what?”
“Okay, go ahead and fill up it up and leave,” the cop said.
“Leave?” I was confused. “Didn’t this tanker hit my car?”
I then occurred to me that the tanker might carry gasoline. “Are you guys refueling my car or something?”
I couldn’t think of any other explanations for the situation. Finally I asked, “So, does this tanker have anything to do with my car?”
“Nope,” said the police officer. “He overheated. It’s just a coincidence he pulled over right behind you.”
I nodded and headed towards my car. As I passed the cop he added, “Lucky for you, too: if we hadn’t been so busy dealing with this guy, we would have towed your car half an hour ago.”