It was like any other summer day for my son and me, where I had work and he had camp, then afterward we joyfully headed off to the pool to soak in the sun and splash around in the water together (a.k.a. he was blasting me with his squirt guns). But, we were in for a terrifying ride we never even saw coming; this day would prove to be anything but another ordinary summer day for us.
After our pool fun, we packed up our things and jumped into the car, ready to head out for our next task that we routinely share together: allergy shots. It wasn’t exciting, but it had to be done, and we just embraced our mission. Yet, we didn’t quite make it to the doctor’s office.
My car was acting differently than ever before, yet that morning and on our way to the pool, it was totally fine. I couldn’t put my finger on it, but as we ventured onto the interstate that afternoon, something seemed off. Then, an orange light I had never seen before activated on the dashboard. Uh oh, I uttered, my stomach dropping, wondering what the heck that particular little neon symbol meant. The car started acted funny like it was struggling to accelerate. But it was a sizzling hot summer day, and I was just hoping that because of the excessive heat, my air conditioning was working overtime in the vehicle.
Yet, just two minutes later, as I was on the phone with my husband inquiring about the warning symbol, nerves transformed to sheer panic when the orange light was joined by two red lights, the oil icon, and the engine icon. Here I was on the always-crowded and hectic 465 East of Indianapolis with my 6-year-old boy, and the nearest exit was a little more than a mile away. I knew I needed to get over to the shoulder, as the car sputtered, but I couldn’t…the car DIED! It just absolutely seized and shut down while I was trying to get over, leaving us helpless and like sitting ducks in the middle lane of the interstate.
Fear invaded my body, quickly transforming into what felt like an out-of-body experience. Oh my gosh, NO! What is going on?! Is this really happening?! Oh boy, it was. It really was.
I told myself there was no room to panic, and I had to keep it together for my son and our safety. I put on the hazard lights. My husband had called 9-1-1, and a state trooper was on the way. But how long would that take? How could I get my car started again and safely over to the shoulder? Should we try to get out of the vehicle? Why is this happening, and why is this happening here?!
I reassured my son, who is young enough to where I don’t think he fully understood or appreciated the danger we were in, and explained we needed to wait for help. And do you know what he did? He started praying. “God, can you please watch over my mama and me and this car?”
As much as I was supposed to be his rock during a tumultuous situation, my sweet boy was also my rock. Getting out of the car was not an option, as semis and other vehicles zipped by us on the left and the right side. There was no safe, viable way for us to exit the vehicle. Yet, I knew just sitting there was an awful option as well. We were stuck in every sense of the word. So, we prayed and waited for the state trooper. I remember looking in my rearview mirror, watching cars advancing at such an incredibly fast speed in our direction. Every time one zipped by us, I heard it and felt it to my core. We waited eight agonizing minutes; those eight minutes felt like an eternity.
I remember being disturbed because we were honked at by several cars and semis as we sat helpless in our car. In particular, a woman in a minivan even gave me the finger as she buzzed by next to us. My son said, “Mommy, didn’t she just do a bad thing?”
Absolutely, she did. She literally flipped me the bird. I bet my car being dead on the interstate with my son and I trapped inside was such an inconvenience to her day, and I apologize if that set her back a minute or two in her commute to wherever she was heading. I hope she slept well that night and wasn’t haunted the way I was after what my son and I endured. Poor woman.
I was reminded that day that sometimes people can be so selfish. I know there are a lot of wonderful people out there, I really do. But it was a sad lesson in how humanity can truly be awful. I mean, did these people think I really wanted to be stuck on the interstate with my 6-year-old boy?! To be in the face of danger? To feel trapped and helpless? It’s just about the least fun thing I can think of; I certainly didn’t wake up that day and expect to be in that situation or imminent danger.
The first thing the trooper said when he arrived was he needed to get us off of that road. I was totally ok with that plan, by the way, and I was so appreciative he had his lights on, and it drew attention to our stopped vehicle so hopefully, everyone coming kept avoiding our car.
The trooper was our guardian angel that day. He was a bright spot amidst a supremely stressful situation I wouldn’t wish on anybody, let alone a mom with her baby or babies. In fact, just a few days after my incident, I was horrified to learn a mom and her two 18-month-old babies were killed when a semi driver neglected to see stopped traffic on the interstate and smashed right into stopped vehicles. This happened on the same stretch of interstate where my son and I were stranded just days earlier. My heart hurts more than words can explain; I typed this blog with tears in my eyes.
I learned a lot about myself from this personal disaster on the interstate; I need to act calmly, yet rationally amidst chaos, I need to count my blessings, I need to not expect others to always be kind in difficult situations and I need to love more even when others love less (or when they do not exhibit any love at all). I learned about society, too: A lot more love and compassion and empathy, and a little less middle finger, can go a long way on this road of life.