Junk in the Trunk

A funny thing happened on my way home from the barber shop on Tax Day (Friday 4/15). It wasn’t anything to do with a literal fleecing after mailing my taxes,  but I had dropped in to the Wyoming Barber Shop near four in the afternoon on a Friday, and lucked into a short wait. Marco trimmed me quickly, as seen in this video I took a couple of years ago. This afternoon, the skies grew ominously dark outside as most of my hair piled up on the floor.

Karen had meanwhile been shopping at Aldi. As the storm began, Karen called to say she was on her way to pick me up. I stepped out of the shop, and Marco’ed her. No, not the barber. As in Marco-Polo, referring to the very common use of cell phones to locate people.

Quoth she, “I drove into a ditch!”

I pictured a grassy gulley by the side of a rural road, and couldn’t picture that anywhere in the half mile between the Aldi and Wyoming Avenue. She told me to look south. I saw our car beyond a couple of other curbside cars. It didn’t look quite right, back there. The front passenger side seemed kind of low, sunken in.

Now there is construction going on along this commercial stretch of road. They are widening the sidewalks. As the curbs are poured, they leave a foot of margin dug into the street. On this block, the deep drop off the road right by the curb was partially filled in, and not well marked. Karen was stopped with the right front wheel hanging in the ditch. The car rested on one of the wheel support bars, so the wheel spun freely. Why? Because over 190,000 miles ago we opted not to pay an extra grand to have them activate the firmware for anti-lock and positive traction control. This is the first time we’d needed either.

So here was my wife, sitting in a car stuck blocking an alley on a main road as rush hour ramped up, and the skies opened up. AAA said it would be about an hour. So I trotted up the alley in the waxing rain and found some boards to try to build a ramp and/or lever that would get some traction and/or lift for the spinning wheel.

Then I paused and considered all the things we keep in the trunk, in case of road trouble. Most of the tools and such were selected for camping or long road trips. But there is help in there for this urban mishap.

I dug the entrenching tool out from the spare tire compartment and started scooping and hauling loose gravel from an open pit a few cars down. I was trying to build a ramp, and to get some friction between the tire and the wet board.

As the hail began (only pea sized) a few guys gathered around. My efforts so far got the board pulled under the tire and resembling a steep ramp. I filled the uphill side with gravel, put my foot to the lever, three or four guys grabbed the front bumper to lift, and Karen ably backed out. A couple of the guys found a traffic cone (that didn’t appear to be doing anything important) and marked the hazard, as I spread thanks. There was not a scratch on the pavement, and the steering seemed fine. Karen apparently dropped the car into the ditch as gently as could be hoped.

A spot of adventure to punctuate an ordinary haircut. Both the helpful bystanders and the rain quickly dispersed. We called off AAA, and headed home. Adventure is all in the attitude. And getting soaked in a booming storm is just part of the fun on a spring afternoon.

Later I considered the objects that we keep in the trunk. I thought that I could have taken the rope from the trunk, wrapped it a couple of times around the front tire (coming off the bottom rear, and then around the rear tire (bottom front) so that the front tire would either be held fast, allowing the front left tire to pull, or the rope would have forced both the front left and right rear wheels to pull the car out.

So the Object at Hand today is the collection of rarely needed tools that cost so little to have in the trunk, in case of emergency.


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