I don’t remember my dads exact words but they were something to the effect of: “Get it figured out. I am NOT coming to save you.”
That’s my dad for ya. It was a great life lesson. Not an easy one, but one that meant something.
Let’s rewind as we take a trip in the wayback machine.
December of 1989. I was 16 years old and only had my licence for about 6 weeks.
I lived in Massachusetts with my dad and my moms family was getting together in Connecticut for an early Christmas. Of course I was all set to make the 3 hour drive there and back in one day with my Red 1979 Plymouth Volare station wagon.
No big deal. Driving 2 states away which included a trip through Providence, Rhode Island. The snowstorm we just had?
Whatever. Roads were pretty clear and I was good to go solo.
The only stipulation my dad had was that I needed to find someone to go with me.
No problem. I called my friend Jason. He said yes, and it was off to Connecticut.
We got there just fine and had a great day. Lots of food, laughs and presents.
We left to make the drive home in the early evening.
We made it back to Cape Cod and crossed over the Cape Cod Canal. All was going great until it wasn’t.
We were about 30 minutes from home, driving 55 MPH on the Mid Cape Highway when, all of a sudden, a loud, very unnatural and unnerving sound came from the back of my car.
Remember. I’m 16 and I’d been driving for over 2 hours. Roads were clear but still wet and slick.
Did I panic? Not really but just a little. I pulled the car into the ice covered break down lane and brought the car to a stop without hitting anything or blocking the highway or anything crazy like that.
Jason and I let out the breath that we had been holding and breathed a sigh of relief.
What next? I wasn’t a car expert so I thought we were broken down.
I’ll always remember what I said next. I looked right at my 15 year old friend Jason and said, “Have you ever hitchhiked?”
Keep in mind. It’s 1989. No cell phones. No AAA. All we had then was our wits and problem solving skills and….yeah, that’s pretty much all we had.
We looked around and noticed that there was a service road next to the highway and some houses a few hundred yards away.
We proceeded to trudge through the snow to get to the service road and ran (because, yeah we ran) to the closest house.
We knocked on the door and asked to use the phone. I guess these two out of breath teenagers didn’t look all that sketchy because the lady let us step into her kitchen and use the phone.
I called my dad and he told me I’d probably dropped my muffler and the car was just fine to drive albeit a bit loud.
We ran back to the car, saw that the muffler was detached and proceeded to start the car up. It was loud but it ran just fine.
Ok, let’s go home. Interesting story but it’s over….
Welp. Not exactly.
When I pulled onto the highway I could tell I had another problem. I pulled into a rest area which was not far and got out to inspect my car. Sure enough, as I had expected: FLAT TIRE.
Whatever. I was 16 but not dumb. I could surely figure out how to change a tire.
I found the jack, jacked the car up, took off the flat, put on the spare… easy a pie.
All was going great until the jack stated sliding until it was stuck at 45 degree angle. Good grief.
Yep. We ran back to that nice ladies house and called my dad again.
This is when my dad was very clear that he wasn’t making the 30 minute drive to come save my ass. I was one my own he said.
“Figure it out” was what he said.
We went back to the car and tried to figure it out.
The spare tire was on so we tightened the lug nuts, put it in drive and, much my surprise, was able to drive up on on the jack enough to lower it and get it off the car.
We drove home incident free.
When life goes wrong FIGURE IT OUT. Maybe you need to phone a friend for advice, maybe you need to limp home to regroup, maybe you need to start over, but at the end of the day it’s YOUR responsibility to save you from problems that will arise.
I’ll always be thankful to my dad for that lesson that cold night over 30 years ago.
That night I took responsibility for my own shit and was better for the experience.
If I’m being honest I think a lot of people today need this lesson in the worst way. But what do I know...