Friday, November 10, 2006

If I wrote this in a story…

…you’d swear it was unbelievable.

It’s the late afternoon. Kevin’s already called to say he’s on his way home from work. I’m finishing up a few things at my computer and have started making dinner.

The phone rings. It isn’t We Wish You A Merry Christmas this time. That’s what plays when he called from the office. Instead, it’s wop-wop-wop, wop-wop-wop - the asinine tune auto-programmed when he calls from his cell phone. Okay, so what if the phone’s being playing We Wish You A Merry Christmas since last November? I can’t find the programming book and forgot how to change it. I’m technologically ungifted, and I admit it.

So, Kevin’s calling. And this is odd, because he already called to say he’s on his way home. I answer.

The car has died.


I turn off the oven, bring the dogs in etc. etc. and drive 40+ kilometers to where he’s stuck on the side of the road. We boost the car. And it starts. I begin the process of following Kevin home, although the car is straining to do 80 in a 100 km/hour zone.

The car died again. We boosted it. Drove. Guess what?

This time, it won’t even hold a charge.

At some point, we decide to go home in the truck. One of the things that attaches to the battery was lose, so Kevin thought if he tightened it, it would work, assuming that was the problem. He needs tools.

We come home. Eat. Drive back to the car. This time, I’m guessing about 30 km away.

And guess what? The loose cable wasn’t the problem.

We’re running out of options, stuck on a pitch-black road that is outside the city, no street lights, no services. And it’s down to a few options. The alternator or the battery.

Kevin takes the battery out and we drive home so that he can try trickle-charging it for an hour.

Which we do. Then we drive back. Bear in mind, the objective is to get the car home, which means Kevin just can’t go off and fix the car. Nope. I have to go along for the ride, in case it starts working.

As we’re driving back it starts to rain. Not a soft mist. The world hasn’t seen this kind of rain since the days of Noah. It’s the thick, torrential kind, coming down in buckets, and the wind is picking up.

Lovely. Bloody fucking lovely. That’s what I’m thinking, and I got to stay in the truck as Kevin got out to put the battery back in the car. Well, for most of the time, anyway.

But the car still wouldn’t start.

He tried… everything. And in the process, realized that a fuse had gone in the car.

There was no way it was moving.

At this point, the car break-down fiasco has eaten up about four hours of time. And I’m looking at the gas gauge on my Rodeo. When Kevin finally gives up on the car and pushes it as far off the road as he can get it, I tell him we have to go to Airdrie for gas.

Which is about 15 kilometers, mostly in the wrong direction. We were soaked. We were tired and grumpy. And we were annoyed.

But the drive had us feeling a tiny bit better by the time we got to the gas station. Fill up and another 20 minutes and we’d be home. At least we could go to bed, right?

Ha. That’s funny.

My keys had been in the ignition, because Kevin needed his to try to start the car, remember?

I took them out for the easy pay, to fill up with the gas. Kevin topped up the windshield washer fluid and returned to the truck, reached for his keys….

I bet you can guess. No, they weren’t inside the station, from when he bought a pop. They weren’t in any of his pockets, or on the floor of the truck or outside. He hadn’t dropped them, because he hadn’t brought them with him.

Now, from Airdrie, it was 20 minutes until we’d get home. From the car, about the same amount of time. Except now we had to turn around, and drive back to the car.

And I don’t think I’ve told you that Airdrie has been going through road construction hell for a looooooonnnnnnnng time. We were on the wrong side of town – east – needing to head south on the Number 2.

Which meant braving the overpass from hell.

We survived that, although there are about 20,000 lights set up along there, just to congest traffic deliberately. Remember how the rain was coming down in Aberdeen in the first chapter of Stuart MacBride’s Cold Granite? It was pissing down rain.

Now, in a book, it would have been necessary for me to preface this, so it didn’t come as a complete surprise. But this is life. So, occasionally our one windshield wiper has been known to fall off. It just falls down and sits between the hood and the windshield and sooner or later we have to stop and put it back on. No biggie, doesn’t happen often. Just one of those things. I mean, it wasn’t like it went flying off the truck or anything.

Until now.

So, here we are, on the Number 2, Deerfoot Trail, tearing along at 120 km per hour (or more if you aren’t a cop), driving through a wall of rain alongside semis and the usual idiots on the road, and we’ve lost a windshield wiper.

I think it was at this point that I suggested if Kevin was nicer to me, maybe his karma wouldn’t be so bad.

Seriously, sometimes you just have to laugh. What else can you do? We got to the car, despite the best efforts of the complete fuckhead in front of us hugging the shoulder (so we couldn’t see where we’d left the car) going 75. Asshole. I mean, your time might not be valuable but some of us just wanted to get home.

The keys were inside, and Kevin took a windshield wiper for the truck. And I was scanning the skies for signs of a meteor about to land on us or something, just hoping that when we got back to the village we live in, that the house would still be standing.

If I wrote it in a book, people would say it was too much, unreal. I had someone say that about part of my first Canadian book, actually. It involved a natural disaster that would be common for the area, and a resulting encounter with an agitated bear. The reader said, “I know animals act strangely when there have been disasters, but it’s too much.”

Something nobody else has commented on, though I’ll have to think it over in edits. Truth is, personally I think it would be unrealistic not to have something like that happen. I’ve spent a lot of time living in bear country in my life, not to mention areas populated by cougars. And nothing pisses me off more than people who disregard the necessary safety protocols when entering the wilderness.

Of course, I’ve also been ten feet from a wild bear and I’ve done a lot of wilderness research on bear attacks because of traveling in the north. Maybe I’m just a bit prejudiced.

Anyway, that’s a side note. The moral of the story is, no matter how much you try to plan out your time efficiently, you never know when life is going to completely screw you over.

So, I’m a bit behind on some things. Oh well.

*sarcasm alert*

The good news for Canadian crime writers is that Ontario’s homicide rate is up. Edmonton Alberta still holds top spot for offing people in our lovely nation, but folks in Ontario are killing each other more often.

And this one is a lot of fun, in a disturbing sort of way. What are we becoming, a northern LA? A 23-year-old man was shot at on a Mississauga highway in a "scary" case of road rage that started with an unsafe lane change, the OPP says. Uh, the OPP is Ontario Provincial Police.

But, in keeping with a recent discussion here about how the media can twist things new facts are emerging about the American sex offender allegedly exiled to Canada to serve his sentence. I’m not even going to comment. The notion that even a minor sex offense is brushed off so lightly is a bit disturbing, because I’m used to the authorities regulating the location of people on parole, etc. And I don’t really see how the US can do that when he’s not in the country. But it’s another one of those hot topics. Main point here is, what the newspapers in this country reported was slanted.

Allegedly slanted.

Tune in tomorrow for more on the war of the words between Canada and the US over this one.


SAND STORM said...

Unfortunately been dare dun dat. The great Canadian pastime cars, weather,
lonely highways, hey maybe there is a book in this....nah! It's -33 with the windchill here so I'm just chillin:)

Sandra Ruttan said...

Yeah, I have a story that's even worse. If I get motivated some day, maybe I'll tell it here. Complete with photographs. It was a bit like Gilligan's Island - how a day trip turned into the longest day ever.

John McFetridge said...

Well, of course we're becoming a northern L.A. Or a northern Detroit (where the guy doing the shooting on the 401 is from). Why wouldn't we? We're not going to become a northern Costa Rica.

And quit giving away all my material!

Sandra Ruttan said...

Oh, damn John, there you go bursting my bubble. I love Costa Rica.

If you want material sounds like you should move to Edmonton...

Anonymous said...

At severals times in recent North American history, drivers have been treated to the spectacle of a grown man at the side of the road, screaming, weeping inconsolably, and beating on the hood of various broken down vehicles.

That grown man would be me.

I feel your pain.

Sandra Ruttan said...

OMG Bill, I didn't realize that was you I drove by the other day. Sorry!

You know what we saw a month back? A van on fire. Wrong side of a divided highway for us to do anything. Puts things into perspective, doesn't it? It can always be worse...

Stephen Blackmoore said...

That was you, Bill? Wow. If I'd known, I wouldn't have aimed for you. If it's any consolation I slowed down to 80 before I hit you.

And Canada becoming a northern L.A.? Oh, please. You call that tragedy? You call that criminal? We eat people like that for lunch down here.

Sandra Ruttan said...

We eat people like that for lunch down here.

Ah, so that's why it's called Jack in the Box. Kind of changes my interpretation of what some call people food.

Anonymous said...

Mmmm, Jack in the Box. Alas, the full body cast keeps me from lifting the delicious burger to my lips!

Anonymous said...

"I think it was at this point that I suggested if Kevin was nicer to me, maybe his karma wouldn’t be so bad."

They say comedy is all about timing!

I think you were lucky not to be left out on that road in the rain!

Sarah H

Sandra Ruttan said...

Sarah, I completely agree we were actually lucky! It could have been much worse, which is the only reason I'm laughing about it now!

Bill, full body cast? So how do....? Wait. Never mind.

Evil Kev said...

You forgot to mention that I also had two rabid bears and ten truckloads of armed hillbillies to deal with. It is pretty challenging when all you have is dead battery to use as a weapon.

As far as the conversation about north L.A. goes, I would take L.A. in a heartbeat. At least in L.A., you don't need to worry about gang bangers running you down because they are looking for a last ingredient for their road kill stew.

Wait, Stephen did say that they eat people for lunch down there. My question is what wine goes with that? I'm thinking a nice cabernet sauvignons from the Napa Valley would be best.

S. W. Vaughn said...

Oh my. Car breakdowns give me massive and uncontrollable fits. You should see how many times I had to retype this comment. :-)

I feel your pain. Glad you are both home safe!

Anonymous said...

Well, Stephen did run in to me at 80 kph. Or was it mph? Either way. Ouch.

Sandra Ruttan said...

Evilkev... that's just wrong.

SW, I'm happy to report the car is now home, and fixed. Here's hoping it stays working.

Bil, how do you type? Your nose?

Bonnie Calhoun said...

It sounds like the beginning to a Stephen King could only happen to you!

James Goodman said...

Oh, Sandra...that is almost too much to believe. :( Sorry to hear about the car woes. For me, few things can be more frustrating.

mai wen said...

Don't they always say that life is stranger than fiction (whoever "they" are)? I've written scenes that are based on real events or some knowledge I have on a certain subject matter and have more than once gotten the "that's not believable" comment. I talked about it once with my mentor and he said plainly that it's not What you write about but How you write about it that makes it believable or not. Though some wacky things I think are just not believable no matter how you write about them, even if they're one hundred percent true.

Sandra Ruttan said...

It goes back to what Michael Connelly said Mai Wen - true and believable are two different things.