Tuesday, September 23, 2008

One of Those Days. Only Worse and with a Side of "What the Hell?"

Today was destined to be a rough day from the start. Not just any rough day, mind you. More like the type that kicks you, then kicks you when you're down, then chews you up and spits you out and jumps up and down on your groin for a while.

It got to the point where Lyndsay and I couldn't really do anything but laugh at the absurdity of it all.

It all started off innocently enough... some continental breakfast with an appetizing waffle covered in strawberries and whipped cream. I should have known it was too good to be true.

About 15 miles into our 600+ mile drive for the day, Nate was following behind me when suddenly I looked back and he was gone. I knew as soon as I heard "engine troubles" that the day's original plan had just gone out the window. I knew as soon as I heard we were stopping at a truck center for service I was going to be staying behind with the truck, even before anyone else did.

So we sat for the better part of an hour and waited on a prognosis.

"Bad fuel injectors" was the confident answer to what was wrong, followed by "6 to 8 hours to fix it." Well, Nate had plans to meet his parents and is on a time schedule to fly out of Salt Lake City, so obviously he had to keep going, and Molly just got lucky or tricked us into staying or something, but Lyndsay and I ended up switching trucks and stayed behind with the hobbled truck.

Lyndsay and I got some lunch and ended up sitting around in the Holiday Inn Express lobby since we couldn't find anything better to do within walking distance. I came close to finishing The Kite Runner but stopped short, as this miserable excuse for a day wasn't deserving of such a good book.

Then, a pleasant surprise. Little more than three hours later, the truck was ready to go. Good as new. A stroke of luck. Then with unfailing certainty, 15 miles back on the road and the truck lost power again. And again. We babied the truck along hoping to make it to Lincoln, Nebraska. Our hopes of catching up with Nate and Molly were pretty much shot. To add insult to injury and reinforce my feelings that something was very, very wrong with the day, a semi nearly broadsided me as it went to change lanes right alongside me.

And then after fueling up having made it to Lincoln, a sure sign that it was time to be done driving for the day. I was waiting at a stale green to turn left. The light went yellow, but something told me to not proceed through the intersection. I watched as a red SUV a good 5 seconds from the intersection with plenty of time to stop, start again, and then stop again before reaching the intersection cruised right through a ridiculously red light right about where the truck would have been had I decided to turn.

I laid on the horn for good measure, and watched in horror as I saw that a red truck had decided to make a u-turn from directly behind me and couldn't see the oncoming red light offender because as you might imagine our truck is anything but transparent. I'm not particularly the swearing type, but a loud "oh shit" definitely came out at that point.

I don't know how there wasn't a collision, but I definitely had a slow-motion moment watching the SUV weave hard straight at a light pole, launching itself violently over the curb, somehow missing the red truck by mere inches and the light pole by even less. The SUV returned to the roadway and drove on, pretending nothing had happened.

This was about the point in the day where I started just shaking my head and wondering what would come next.

Well, next was truck service center #2. The weather seemed to fit. Dark and ominous.

The truck got left at the service center, with our reassurance of a solution being "we'll hopefully get to it by midnight." It's 11:00 right now, and no call yet.

We got a hotel, got to the hotel via cab, and check in went fairly smoothly other than the high schooler checking us in while on the phone with her mom talking about court dates.

We decided heading downtown for some food and a movie might help unwind and would be a fairly fail-safe way to make sure we didn't bring about our untimely deaths by something absurd like being charged by a rhinoceros (had it happened, I don't think I would have been the least bit surprised). 7:30 Movie, so I called a cab at 6:00. "10 to 20 minutes" was the dispatcher's reply. After waiting for half an hour, I called back. "They're on their way" was the reply. An hour after the original call, I called back "Our monitor shows that cab is in route and should only be minutes away." At 7:22, I calmly called back, ready to tell the dispatcher to cancel the cab, that his business practices were a disgrace, and I expected to have our cab ride back to the truck shop comped. And I probably would have thrown a mom joke in too. Except that at 7:22:15, the cab showed up.

With no time left for dinner, we hurried to the movie. We watched My Best Friend's Girl, which I expected to be fairly light-hearted and funny. It was funny, but it was funny like watching someone get punched in the gut is funny. It was so off the wall, I couldn't help but smack my forehead as the next bad sex joke was unveiled. Oh, and for some reason the filming style was more like an art film than a comedy.

After the movie we scramled to eat at Applebees before 10:00 when our cab was scheduled to pick us up (we thought pre-scheduling might give us a better chance of being on time, which amazingly enough it did).

Look Nate, sangria!

Then the cab ride back. A Prius pulls up. We get in. A fairly young woman is our driver. "Where are you guys from? What brings you to Lincoln? You don't want to get stuck here long. I hate this place. I wish I wasn't here. I'm from Annapolis. I came here because I'm broke. Lincoln is a good place to be broke. You work for Crocs? I have an idea for the owner of Starbucks, but I'm not telling him until he signs paperwork. Oh, they should sell Crocs at Starbucks. Where do they make Crocs now?"

"Uh, all over really. China, Mexico..."

"Yes, but where do they make them? Like where are the factories? Where do they get that rubber stuff? Or plastic? Whatever. Do Crocs make flip flops? I want to see them when you get out. Most people pay with vouchers, not cash. And they don't tip. People around here are like that. Bad tippers and cheapskates. Don't forget your reciept!"

Whew. We made it. Under normal circumstances I would feel safe in my hotel room from the absurdity that is today, but I'm not letting down my guard yet.

Tonight I completely expect a phone call in the middle of the night determining our fate of whether or not we'll be able to get back on the road tomorrow.

Tomorrow can't get here soon enough.