What's the Boy Scout Motto Again?

By Jon Hillenbrand In Photography, Stories

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Continued from Motivation

When you suddenly find yourself locked out of your car that is in drive and stuck in a snow drift, your options are somewhat limited.  Your mind races.  Possibilities that had not occurred to you just moments before, such as freezing to death while huddled around your car’s exhaust, snap into view.  I actually considered continuing with my original plan of digging my car out with my windshield scraper, you know, to reduce my world of problems by one.  But a blast of Arctic air and horizontal snowfall convinced me try something else.  I considered smashing a window, something I’ve secretly always wanted to do, but which I’ve never wanted to do because of the cost and certainty that the replacement window would never be quite right.  But the cost convinced me to try. 

So how do you smash a car window if you don’t have a hammer?  Elbows and fists might have an effect.  You also have to consider that by the time the window breaks, you will most likely have shattered all bones in that part of your body and added several life-threatening lacerations to the scene of mounting desperation.  I decided to use the edge of my scraper.  I considered which window would be the cheapest to replace.  The rear drivers side is probably the cheapest.  So I took the scraper and lined it up so the most robust part of the handle, which came down to a point, would be good to do the job.  I cringed at the idea, but wound up and took a swipe at the window.  Nothing, not even a scratch.  I wound up again with a bit more strength.  Nothing.  I gave up all fear and gave the car window a huge hit.  The nylon scraper just folded away from the window transferring all energy into hilarious slow motion replays of my idiocy.  It was like trying to stop a tank with a McDonald’s straw.  A lot of noise subsided into the wind and idle of my unamused car.  I decided to walk to the nearest road and hope.

Beggars can’t be choosers is a phrase I learned from a young age.  And after about 15 minutes of unsuccessfully hitchhiking, I stepped out into the snowy path of a passing pickup.  Given enough desperation, you’ll get into a car with a stranger.  In my case, I was picked up by a man with his son.  The deal was that he would drive me to the police station after he made a quick stop.  Cue Silence of the Lambs music here.

So we drove to his soon to be ex-wife’s house.  The kid got out and went inside while we idled in the driveway.  I stayed in the back seat while the man spilled the beans about how he had caught his wife cheating on him and the divorce was slowly moving forward.  The presence of his kid was prolonging the miserable legal separation.  He made apologies for how that must sound and reassured me that he loved his son but couldn’t help but think that it would be going a lot more quickly if it weren’t for divorce lawyers having a taste for small children.  Normally I would have been into his story and would have offered buckets of sympathy.  And as the recipient of such generosity, I wasn’t really in the position to complain about the wait.  But after about 40 minutes of sitting and listening patiently in the back seat, I started to wonder how much gas I had in my car which was still slowly pushing against it’s snowy prison.  The man was a devastated fellow and to a certain extent, I can look back and wonder if the reason he helped me was to give himself a small feeling of humanity in the vicious world of adultery and breakup that he found himself thrust into one day just as suddenly as I found myself stuck outside of my car this day.  Misery loves company, but it takes a bit more to pick up a stranger, even if it is in the middle of a snowstorm and that stranger jumps in front of your moving vehicle.  Wherever this man is, I hope he’s doing well and happy.  At that point in my life, I had never personally met someone with such a sad story.  He went inside to find out what the delay was and for a few moments I was alone in a strange car in the middle of a suburb I was unfamiliar with.  I imagined some horrible happenstance inside as I continued to wait, a situation that often comes about on stormy mornings with heartbreak in the air. 

Eventually he came out and we made our way over to the police station.  I hoped the police knew where that parking lot was because in the white out conditions, and with the waiting, I had completely lost my way.  I thanked the kind stranger and entered the station greeted by the smell of coffee and triplicate forms.  I walked toward the circle cut into the glass divider and asked for help.  The cop behind the counter looked bored then glanced over to the two other cops lounging behind him as I talked.  I told him my situation and he asked me what I expected them to do.  I started to say something about the, “Serve and Protect,” oath, the prospect of being kind to someone in need and my probable cause to search the trunk of his or his buddy’s cruiser for a slim jim to boost open my locked door, but I was interrupted by a dismissive wave toward the corner and, “The phone book is over there.”

The incident furthered my years-long annoyance by the boys in blue and I shook my head in ironic satisfaction that even though I was getting screwed, I knew the cops were still jerks and I wasn’t going to be forced to change my mind that day.  Being that it was Sunday, finding a lock smith open was very difficult.  I called the entire page before running out of money at the payphone and calling people collect.  I finally reached someone at their home through a series of redirects and a patient operator.  The man wasn’t working and didn’t seem to want to help me. 

“Where are you?”

“I’m at the Police Station.”

“Hmm.  And you are locked out of your car?”

“Yeah, but the bad thing is that the car is still in drive and is stuck in a snow drift.”

“How did that happen?”

“Well, I got out of the car to dig myself out and the door locked automatically because the car was still in drive.”

“Hmm.  I’m on my way to go pick up my kids.  But I’ll pick you up afterwards.”

“How long do you think that will be?”

“Maybe an hour more or less.”

Waiting for someone for between 0 and 2 hours is difficult.  You’re never sure if they are going to come through.  So I was relieved when about an hour or so after that, the man arrived and got me.  He drove me back to the parking lot where my scraper was still sticking out of the snow next to the rear drivers side window.  He plunged into the snow next to the passenger side, asked me for $50 cash, and within 5 seconds had my car door open.  He then got into his truck, pulled in behind my car and pushed me out of the snow drift. 

This guy was pretty nice.  And even though it was for money, it was still a Sunday, he still accepted the collect charges and he still helped me out.  We talked about trucks and he told me how he’ll never get a car without all wheel and snow tires (a feeling I also share now that I have an AWD car).  Living in Chicago and the surround area, we just get too much snow to not be prepared, he told me preaching to the choir.   Getting caught unprepared in such conditions was pretty dumb.  I was living down in Kankakee area pretty much on my own.  If I lost my keys or something, it was 90 minutes one way for my parents to come rescue me, if they were even around.  Maybe because I was a Cub Scout and never officially made it into the Boy Scouts, I feel it’s OK not to continue to live with the, “Be Prepared,” motto always in the back of my mind.  But events like this have convinced me to at least pay it lip service in everything that I do.

As I drove up to my small little bunker-like house, the deep snow crunching under my shoes, I hadn’t worked out, I was out $50 and four hours but I was much richer for the experience.

What do you think?