Life in the Not-So-Fast Lane

So last night I’m on the 405 driving home from my niece’s baby shower when suddenly my Check Gauges light starts flashing. In a frantic panic-stricken sort of way. But I’m not too far from home so I think that maybe I can tough it out. People go weeks with their warning lights blinking. I can make it a few more miles.

But I was wrong. Less than a mile later, my headlights start to dim.

Now the last thing you want is to be on the freeway with no lights so I take the next off-ramp.

Into the darkest, most deserted area in the entire state of California.

Part of the darkness may have been due to the fact that I was pretty much done in the headlight department and my dashboard lights were beginning to go, irising in until there was just a barely visible glow in the center of the speedometer.

So I could watch the speed drop closer and closer to 0.

The street I am on, which seems to be a large street, comes to a sudden end at the next light. Maybe it’s the airport. Maybe it’s not. Whatever it is, I need to make a decision. Turn onto the dark scary street to the right or turn onto the dark scary street to the left. Since the light was red and slowing down seemed to accelerate the death throes of the car, I went right. Without even trying to stop. Half hoping a cop would see me and pull me over and give me a ticket and call me a tow truck.

But there was no one anywhere. No cops, no pedestrians, nothing. Just empty industrial buildings and streets without streetlights. Just me and my car and whatever was lurking in the dark.

So I flip a U and go back the other way. Ahead I can see something brightly lit. Gas station maybe, mini mart, football stadium. I’m not really picky at this point.

I just want to be anywhere but here.

It turns out to be a car dealership. I have to make a left into the driveway. Traffic is coming, but my car is threatening to die right there in the street, so I’m inching into my left turn, hoping the three other drivers coming toward me will take the hint and speed past before I die crossways in the road.

They do.

I pull my twenty-year-old car up to the front of the luxury car showroom. Hallelujah, there’s a security guard. I roll down the window.

“Excuse me, can I park here a minute to call AAA?”

“I’m sorry, the dealership is closed for the night.”

“Is there a service station around?”

“About four blocks that way.”

“Thanks.”

I step on the gas. My car flashes the Check Engine light, gives a little death rattle and ceases to function.

Great.

But the security guard is sympathetic and tells me that there are a few guys left inside the building. Maybe one of them can help me. I leave my poor burnt-smelling vehicle and walk into the showroom. It is full of cars I could never hope to buy ever. I wander up to the first person I see, a nice-looking man with a goatee.

“Excuse me, I’m broken down in your driveway. Would it be okay if I hang out in here while I call AAA?”

He smiles. “Of course. I’m stuck here until my clients finish up in Finance anyway.”

I thank him about a million times and pull out my phone. The battery is almost dead. For a moment, I have visions of being stranded in the dark with no phone and feel a surge of gratitude for this small oasis. In fact, if you have to get stranded somewhere, this is pretty much breakdown nirvana. Lights, bathrooms, water fountains, snack machines and a security guard.

I mean seriously.

Anyway, the tow truck comes an hour later. The driver apologizes and says that they are having a super busy night. He’s not sure why. Maybe the heat. I wave goodbye to the security guard as we pull out of the lot. She waves back.

Enough adventures for one night.

I’m going home.

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