Tuesday, October 19, 2010

How Friday Ended

"We're just picking up the kids and you're not getting out of the car," I impatiently snapped at the kids, "Just leave your shoes and jackets at home. The sooner we leave, the sooner we'll get home and into bed."

My fate was sealed...

Here are the quick facts from the last post:
  • Elise is not home
  • Peter is at work until eleven
  • Ryan and a 16-year-old boy are waiting to be picked up 25 minutes away
  • 3/4 kids jacketless, 1/2 shoeless
  • Skunk issues in the yard
  • 2 hours past kids bedtime, approaching mine

1 0 : 3 0 P M
Like all good parents, or at least experienced ones, I cranked on the heat during the drive to help facilitate sleeping kids.  As I pulled into the roundabout driveway, I realized it was blocked by another car and backed out, slightly grazing a bush as I went.  What can I say? It was dark, I was tired, I'm driving a Suburban double the height of the bush, and backing up is not my strong suit anyway. So I pulled in the other side of the driveway and left the car running while I picked up the other kids.

As we walked back to the car, I jokingly told the 16-year-old my brain and patience shut off at 10:00 so he'd better be an angel for the ride home. (Jokingly because he really is an angel; the brain and patience part is cold hard fact.)

As we pulled from the side road onto the main country road, my car tire went flat- or so it seemed.  I pulled over to the side of the road and checked: the tires seemed fine. Being that there is no real light on New England roads, I couldn't see that well and assumed a piece of the grazed bush had gotten caught in my wheel well. Of course the obvious solution was to drive faster until whatever was caught knocked loose. (Remember the part where my brain is shut off and my helper in the passenger seat has no real driving experience yet?)

Despite the intelligence of my idea, it worked!  As soon as I hit 60 mph the bumping stopped.  Satisfied with my car fixing skills, I slowed back down to 55. And then the fun really began.

1 0 : 5 0 P M
Clunk, clunk, clunkity, chuggity clunk. I thought all 4 tires must have exploded at once! I knew I hadn't hit anything, but it felt like I was running over a ditch, or more like several ditches in a row. Luckily I had JUST COME to a part of the road with a wide shoulder.  I pulled over and put the car in park to jump out and check those tires again.  When I lifted my foot from the brake, the car began to roll down the hill. Checked again, and I was still in park. So I engaged the emergency brake. Still rolled down the hill. It is the middle of the night, on a country road without lights, and I can't take my foot off the brake without the car rolling. Oh, and as it rolled it made a nice crunching noise. Extra fun.

This is where having an angelic 16-year-old with me became important.  We took turns pressing the brake while checking the tires. Nothing. Finally, after the person with a still-awake brain asked, I remembered I had a flashlight in the back of the Suburban. It was with the flashlight that I saw the car's blood spilled all over the road. Streaking and puddling down the 3 feet the car had rolled since we stopped, it was reddish enough for me to briefly wonder if I'd hit an animal.

1 1 : 0 0 P M
I'm stuck with my foot on the brake of a bleeding car- with good tires, by the way- but, in the 10 minutes it took to figure this out, Peter's shift at work had ended.  "Ended" is arbitrary as he usually doesn't leave the hospital until an hour or so after the official end of shift. Not tonight. I called the Emergency Room and waited to be connected.

Our conversation is a little hazy.
  • I told him what happened ...
  • he reminded me we have road side assistance on our insurance ...
  • I told him I didn't have the most recent card- just as 16-year-old handed me said card from the glove box ...

I know Peter later chided me. Something about calling in the middle of the night, highly excited/upset, and rambling about car trouble. Apparently not answering the question, "is anyone hurt?" until the 5th time it's asked is not appreciated. Picky, picky.

He was on his way, I was calling insurance.

1 1 : 3 0 P M
Do you know the best time to find out your insurance has bad customer service? Well I know it isn't the middle of the night, with my foot stuck on a brake pedal, 6 mostly asleep kids in the car (many without jackets).

"We need to know where you want to take the car, then we'll give you a list of tow trucks that you will pay for and we might reimburse you for. You have to look all that up on your own."

After calling Peter to decide where to take the car, I called back insurance. After explaining that I didn't know what town I was in (there being about 300 choices on any given point of a New England country road), they transferred me and then hung up. I'd been explaining myself for ten minutes and they hang up on me?

I don't do well with idiots confrontations, so I decided I would rather apply the brake forever before calling again. (Remember that whole statement about patience evaporating at ten?) Luckily Peter arrived and checked the tires, checked the pool of car blood, and proclaimed it must be the transmission.  He called the insurance again and tried to give them directions for where we were located. After being told the roads of the intersection he gave didn't exist and giving them 50 alternate names for the roads (Thanks for that, too, New England), they finally put him on hold to find a tow truck.

1 2 : 0 0 - 1 2 : 3 0 A M 
Meanwhile I decided to take Peter's car to bring the kids home in batches. 16-year-old offered to stay behind and I loaded the oldest 4 kids into the car, leaving my 4-year-old asleep in the back of the Suburban. Arriving home, Ryan asked if he had to stay up since he was in charge.  "No," I replied, "just make sure you lock the door behind me." As I walked out the door to get the other load of kids I pointed at him and said, "Come lock this door RIGHT NOW." I walked away, pulling the door shut behind me. It was now half past 12, and I was starting to drag.

1 : 0 0 - 1: 3 0 A M
On the way back, I stopped to get Peter some food, since he hadn't eaten that day and had been planning to make a stop on the way home.  I also needed some caffeine if I was going to make the 30 minute drive to the broken car and back a couple more times. This is where I learned that Burger King is a happening place at one in the morning. Stupid lack of patience.

Back at the car, it turns out our customer oriented insurance had informed Peter that absolutely no tow trucks existed in our area that could take care of us- after a run around of 45 minutes on the phone.

It also turns out AAA will let you join in the middle of the night while currently in need of a tow truck.  One was on it's way to tow us to a shop AAA recommended instead of one pulled from a quick, random google search.

Peter had backed the car into bank on the side of the road so he no longer needed to brake.

"Why didn't you do that?" he asked.
"Remember how I am when I get tired?"
"Yes," he replied, with a sigh of resignation.

I grabbed our teenage helper -sidenote: his mom was out of town, so we couldn't call her to help us. On a plus side, that means she wasn't at home freaking out that her child was stranded in the middle of the night- and my youngest. After dropping off the 16-year-old, I headed home.

1 : 3 0 - 2 : 3 0 A M
It wasn't until I tried to open the front door and felt the resistance of the locked doorknob that I realized I had the set of keys that was missing a house key You see, I had Peter's set of keys and he had never put the key back after taking it off before our vacation last August. Despite my reminders every time he woke me up in the middle of the night to let him in.  I knew it would come back to bite some day, but I always thought it would be him that got bit.

At one-thirty in the morning, with a jacketless four-year-old shivering in my arms, I took a deep breath. Surely one of the four kids asleep inside will hear me knock and open the door. After all, how much more irritation could I have on this night? After a couple minutes, I decided to just go in through the garage.  Someone (who may be the same person who hadn't replaced his keys) had locked the garage-to-kitchen door. I tucked Matthew back into the warm car and went back to knocking and ringing the doorbell.  Now I started calling, too.  Leaving loud messages informing the kids to WAKE UP AND LET ME IN NOW.

After several minutes I decided to take a more drastic approach and sneak into the back side yard to knock on the boys' bedroom window.  They have bunk beds, so I would be knocking directly above my 12-year-old's head. As I walked around the house in complete darkness, I was relieved to see a light on in the back of the house. I was relieved, until the light revealed that darn skunk slinking around back there.

What to do? Risk getting sprayed or risk being stuck outside forever? You know what I did?  I knocked.  I was desperate and tired and ready to be done.  I then ran as fast as I could back to the front of the house.

It made no difference.  Not a single kids woke up to my risky knocking and I was too chicken to try again.

An hour after beginning I was still banging on the door, ringing the doorbell and calling the house. I just was doing it a little more desperately by then. And then when Peter called to inform me the tow truck had finally arrived, I gave up and went to join him at the repair shop.

Luckily he had my set of keys with a house key and we were able to get inside and end this awful night.  All told, we were stranded on the side of the road 3 1/2 hours:

  • I had my foot on that brake for over an hour of it, 
  • drove back and forth about 1 1/2 hours, 
  • and knocked on the door almost an hour.
For those interested, it was the drive shaft that broke, knocking and breaking the transmission casing (maybe?)  The mechanic was amazed at the damage to the shaft and said they'd never seen anything like it.  He wondered how I was able to do anything with the car after it broke loose. On a positive note, the car is fixed and back in the driveway.  I have the rental minivan until Saturday, though, and intend to use it.  I'm not ready to forgive my Suburban yet. Also, I am think we'll be switching insurance companies when we move.  And I am getting Peter a new key as he has admitted his is lost, not forgotten.

Drive Shaft
Some part of transmission



  1. Charlotte, this is just crazy! Pretty much the worst day ever.

  2. oh, Charlotte... you win "suckiest night of the year" award hands down. Sounds like new insurance is definitely in the cards!

  3. Wow, that was quite the experience... hopefully in about 10 years you will be able to laugh about it, eh?? Although if it had happened to me, I totally would have been in tears at the first. So obviously you have more patience than I do - great job. :)

  4. You deserve an award for making it through that night (and early morning). Just when I thought you were going to say you all got home safely...more happened.

  5. All I can say is you win. I don't think anything tops that. Holy crap! BTW we have AAA and LOVE it.

  6. Oh my…. what. a. crappy. night!

  7. I so understand where you are coming from but have to say I laughed. Of course, having gone through similar things with six kids, I think I am allowed. :)

  8. Holy cow!!! Is there some prize for worst day ever? Because you totally deserve it! :) I'm glad you still alive to write about it!

  9. Glad you and your kids made it to the shoulder and weren't hit!
    AAA is a wonderful thing to have, it's saved me many times!


  10. Your poor kids have double damage getting sound sleeping genes from Peter and from the Tucker side. I only hope my kids can sleep as soundly as I do (unless it is the middle of the night and I'm trying to get inside the house). I think I would have curled up in the warm car with Matthew and slept until Peter got home!

  11. That is possibly the best story EVER! which means that it was undoubtedly horrible for you guys...but I am glad that it finally all worked out and you didn't have to sleep at the Burger King. Dumb cars.

  12. There should be a parade thrown in your honor!
    You win the Gold Star for most patient mom.
    I hope you got to sleep in the next morning!

  13. Okay, Charlotte, this reminds me of a few of my worst days ever, but all lumped together into one story! I'm sorry, but so glad you all survived unharmed.

    And if you're anything like me, you survived the whole thing because there was no other choice, but the whole time you wanted to give fate a swift kick to the face.

  14. What a night! Glad you all survived it! I would seriously consider getting 2 or 3 smoke alarms for EACH of your children's bedrooms. (I've been there.) They actually make some now that you can record your "Mommie voice" yelling, "GET OUT NOW!" They say kids respond better to that than an actual alarm when they are asleep.

  15. What a crazy night. I think I would have been in tears by the end of it.

  16. HOLY COW! That's crazy! So glad you're all ok.

  17. Loved the pictures of the broken parts, the transmission has a huge hole in it! No wonder your car was bleeding.

  18. What a nasty, awful Friday night! So glad everyone is ok. Geez!

  19. Horrific doesn't even begin to describe. It just sounds so awful. yuck!

  20. I can't believe you lived through this with enough sanity to blog it. May I suggest that when you move, you leave that hapless, transmission breaking, battery-sucking, gasoline fibbing suburban in New England, and convince Peter that a new car is a necessary moving expense? Just a suggestion :-)

  21. What an experience! Sounds awful. Glad everyone's safe.

  22. HOLY COW! What a night! Hopefully writing it down this way eased the mental burden;)

  23. If I didn't know you I wouldn't believe this... HOLY CRAP. When do you get a trip to Hawaii to recover?

  24. I almost cried while reading both posts because I felt so stressed out. I'm just sorry it's all non-fiction. May your new home be free of skunks and surrounded by well-lit neighborhoods.

  25. That's awful. at least you got a really good blog post out of it!

  26. That. IS. INSANE. And it would make a great sitcom--you should write it up. Oh, wait, you already did.:) Hope the skunk is gone and moving plans are going well!

  27. Charlotte, you need one of those insurance companies where the adjuster just shows up at the scene in a company vehicle a second after the incident! Actually, it sounded like it was my ex-employer, to be perfectly honest... And my to-this-day insurer. Glad it turned out well!

  28. This blog is great! Thanks for your hard work on it.

    kupit' brend sialis

  29. What? You hit our bush????!?!? The nerve of you! ;)

  30. Totally speechless.

  31. They say that all's well that ends well, but I think that you just proved them wrong!

    You totally deserve at least a year of perfect days after that doozie! Sheesh!

  32. Oh my goodness Charlotte, what a nightmare!! I've had a few bad days this year, but yours tops them. So sorry you had to go through all that. :(

  33. Holy Cow. I don't know if I've ever had a day quite this frustrating. Good for you that you're still standing. Sheesh.

  34. What the...? Wow, you were tried and tried that night!

  35. Oh no. That is all I can say. That and almost every day of my life will seem pretty easy from henceforth!

  36. Over from MMB. Wow. And everyone got home alive too.

  37. Oh.my. You must be exhausted. What a crazy night of events!
    From MMB's....

  38. But now you have AAA, and everything is fixed. I just hope you got a nap the next day.

  39. i'm so happy you didn't get sprayed by the skunk!!! that's the best i can do for looking at the bright side of this story. you have got to be the bravest mom in the history of the world. i am terrified of the dark...so i would have been huddled in the fetal position while i waited for someone to save me. you are awesome & i'm so sorry you had to go through this. i know, i know, it's a character builder that helped you become a better person & you are super grateful to have had such a difficult learning experience blahblahblah. I STILL FEEL SORRY FOR YOU!

    p.s. hopefully your new place of residency will have street lights & a more cooperative customer service oriented company.

  40. You. Are. AMAZING!!!

    Forget the whole I-have-6-kids-so-I-am-super-mom award...you have now earned the The-whole-world-was-against-me-but-I-never-gave-up award, too!

  41. Wow! THat is insane! I can not believe your luck. How awful. I guess I'll be grateful this can't happen to me since I don't have a car, right?! Seriously, you deserve an awesome Friday to yourself now.