Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Floods, Fires and Cars, Oh My...

The storms and rain have been so constant and unrelenting this year, which means we are having flooding problems in my town. The news just broke in saying there is a mandatory evacuation for downtown Cedar Falls, showing video of the levy and large numbers of people sandbagging in the hopes of keeping the water at bay. They are warning people to be prepared that we may lose electricity and our water supply, and keep emphasizing that the water levels are going to be worse than the flood of 1993.

I was in college at the time of the 1993 floods, and when you're younger everything seems a little less dire, doesn't it? We lived a few streets down from the Hill, which is where all the local college bars are located. One night, as we watched a river of water flowing down the street, my roommate Shaun and I had the brilliant idea of putting on our swimsuits under t-shirts and shorts and walking through the rain to the bars. It took all of three steps to lose our flip flops and, being the bright college students that we were, we ran the rest of the way there barefoot. How we didn't step on something that required a tetanus shot is just pure, dumb luck... and it was a ridiculously fun night.

That was the tame part of my flood experience that summer. The flooding in Ames was dire as well, so my brother Jerry and his wife Amy wanted to go help sandbag around Hilton Coliseum. Their oldest daughter Anna was only about 5 months old, so I offered to drive to Ames and watch her so they could help with the sandbagging efforts. At the time I was driving, only one road into Ames was left open and the line of cars on that road was endless going into town. The cars were moving at a snail's pace as the troopers were directing traffic, so a lot of time was spent sitting still waiting to move another inch in the right direction.

In the previous month I had been calling dad periodically with concerns about my car, an Oldsmobile Cutlass that was a bit unpredictable. It didn't have the little gauges that told me the exact temperature levels, but a little orange temperature light kept coming on and staying on for long periods of time. Being that I know nothing about cars I thought I should share this information with dad, but his response was that it was just a "dummy light." He told me not to worry about it - he was sure it was a problem with the light itself and not the car.

Which brings us back to that afternoon and the slow moving line of cars on that long stretch of road. I was rocking out to the radio with my air conditioning on, waiting for the next lurch forward when I heard this popping sound, followed by a clunk. Then smoke started billowing in through the air conditioning vents and something certainly smelled like it was burning. I turned off the key, leaped out of my car and did the only thing I knew to do... I started pointing at my car and announcing that it was on fire.

The gentleman in a truck behind me was kind enough to hop out and help me get my hood open, put out the fire and let the car cool off. A state trooper came by to say, "Yep... your car was on fire..." and told me I could ride with him into Ames. He dropped me off at a Hardee's where my brother Jerry came and picked me up; when I got in the car Jerry had other exciting news for me, which at first I thought he was saying just to mess with me... he told me that my new nephew Thomas had been born that day, a full six weeks before he was due. Seriously, people, what more could possibly happen?

Funny you should ask...

Jerry dropped me off at his house, and then went driving to the location of my abandoned car. He called from his cell phone as he was getting close to find out the exact location when he suddenly burst out laughing. "I think I found your car," he said. "It's surrounded by fire trucks."

When we pulled my car to the side of the road, someone must have closed the hood and it was hot enough that it started on fire again. Because I had locked it up and taken my keys with me, they couldn't pop the hood and the fire required trucks to come. Now, I should have been more concerned about my car and the contents in the trunk, but my only response was to ask Jerry to please call dad for me and tell him. I sooo didn't want to be the one to do it.

When he got back home he told me he called dad, who started inappropriately laughing as well. Apparently I had complained enough about the car not working that he took me seriously and had traded in the car the day before. We didn't even own the burning vehicle anymore. Of course, dad settled a fair trade with the dealer later, and after a few days of watching Anna we met dad and I got in a new-used-Oldsmobile and headed back to college.

So, I'm not looking forward to the prospect of losing water and electricity and my mind along with it if the Internet fails me ... but today's lesson is that there is always a silver lining, people. My car is not on fire.

Hope you all are safe and dry, and enjoying the extra edition of my blog today :)

1 comment:

  1. How are all of you doing? I watched the tornados and floods on the news in Costa Rica!! It's frustrating being so far away and unable to help.