So…today I was on my way to work. Singing Revelation Song along with Philips, Craig and Dean. Trying to decide whether to do Wendy’s drive-thru for a root beer. It was raining, so I passed on by.
I should have stopped. I could have used a drink.
Minutes later, I pulled onto my employer’s street. Her front door was wide open. A cop car sat on the street nearby. Had someone broken into the house? Or was someone in the family hurt? I glanced from the house to the cop (who seemed to be watching me) and back to the house again. The car was there. She must be home. So I pulled into the driveway, moved toward my designated parking spot, froze when I realized the cop was yelling and honking and waving his arms at me.
Oh boy. What did I do this time?
I stared at him, a bit wide-eyed, I’m sure. He was pointing somewhere. I looked back. There was a rope dangling from the tall shrubs lining the drive…and it attached itself to my truck somehow.
Okay. So I was about to pull down a tree or something? Fine. I’d try to dislodge it. So I put the truck in reverse and backed up a few paces. The cop started yelling and honking and motioning again. This time I saw the neighbor across the road. He had a slightly shell-shocked expression as he held a cell phone to one ear and raised his free hand to do that same stop motion. Okay. So I’d stop. I put the truck in park and just sat there. I looked in my rearview mirror again.
It wasn’t a rope, and it was not attached to a tree. It was a downed power line. I shut off the vehicle.
They were still staring at me, still motioning. My employer stood in her doorway. She yelled to ask me if I had my cell phone. I nodded and raise it. She went back inside, then reappeared a moment later with the house phone in her hand.
“Jenness,” she said over the line, “that’s a hot wire. Don’t get out of the car. Just stay there, okay? I don’t want you to die.”
Really? Me either, come to think of it, especially right before Christmas.
“A fire truck is on the way. Do you have a book with you?” she said, offering a smile.
I glanced at my purse. “No. But I have a notebook.”
She hung up and I looked over at the cop again. He was making me nervous. Apparently I made him nervous, too, because he shook his head, doing that whole stop motion, and said, “Stay there. Don’t get out of the car.”
I’m staying here. I’m not getting out of the car.
“Did you hear explosions?” the cop hollered to my employer.
She nodded. Apparently I’d managed to blow two transformers. That wasn’t helping my panic levels. Or my ego, for that matter. I felt pretty stupid. How could I have run over a power line? How could I have gotten it stuck on my truck?
This is why I’m a writer, because these things could only happen to me. And what would I do with this material otherwise????
I sent a text to my husband, and a couple others for good measure. I was a little scared to talk on the phone. All I knew about electricity was that it powered my computer. If I talked on the cell phone, could it somehow spark something and set the whole shebang on fire? I’m a writer. I don’t know these things. I figured I’d stay off the phone just in case. Actually, I was more afraid that talking to my husband, telling him exactly what was going on, would make me think about it a little bit too much. It was almost Christmas. I wanted to see him open the crazy off-his-list gift I ordered for him. Talking to him could set off, not a fire, but my tear ducts. So…no cell phone.
I pulled out the notebook. I should have worked on judging some contest entries I was supposed to finish today. Or maybe write a scene for my new book. But Jake and Raymi stayed far away, and the cop was still giving me that look. So the first words that came out were: Cop keeps doing the “Stop” motion.
Fine. I’d take notes. This was definitely story material.
A siren wailed briefly, then the fire truck came into view. The policeman directed it, and the truck planted itself in the middle of the road, blocking traffic. The policeman drove off, apparently to set up a detour. Three firemen got out, dressed in full gear, sans helmets.
“Stay inside the truck, ma’am!” one called. He did that same motion with his hands.
Next time you see me, don’t wave. Don’t raise your hands. Don’t motion or point. If you do, I just might go into full panic mode, and it probably won’t be pretty.
I nodded and mouthed okay. The truck was my little bubble of safety. A warm bubble, and growing warmer. But it was safe. And maybe it was getting a wee bit damaged? We could have used a new one. Would insurance cover this?
I had a flip cam in my purse. My husband would have been so proud of me if I took it out and started recording. The first vlog for his dream youtube channel. I wimped out. Electricity and all.
By this time I’d been sitting in the driveway for twenty minutes or so. The firemen had been there about five. They still stood in the middle of the road, far away from me, talking and pacing. I hoped they were waiting for FPL to cut off the power or something. If not, it didn’t seem like they were coming up with any ideas of how to get me out of the truck. Alive, anyway.
It was starting to get hot, but I didn’t know if I could do anything about it without blowing anyone (um, mostly me) up. Maybe I should have paid more attention in science class…
I looked at my purse again. My mp3 player rested inside, so I could have music at least. If these were going to be my last moments on earth, which song should I go out on?
One of the firemen yelled for me again. “You doing okay, ma’am?”
He made a motion—a different one!—with his hand. I could roll down the window. Damp air rushed in as I manually opened it. If I stuck my nose out, would it have gotten zapped? This was all such a shocking experience.
Har har har.
“It’ll be about twenty minutes, ma’am. FPL’s on its way.”
He reminded me of someone. I couldn’t figure out who. But then I started wondering: if they couldn’t do anything—only FPL could—then why were they there? Just to block the road? Or maybe to put out the fire if I blew up? Or for CPR if I got electrocuted?
No, I wasn’t freaking out. Not really. I just tend to be a tad morbid. My nerves were pretty bad, though. Almost as bad as when I gave that devotional at the conference…but not quite.
By this time I’d been there for thirty-five minutes. I’d have had my employer’s kitchen cleaned by then. Instead I had some material for a scene to put in who knew what story. Should it be a comedy? The hero could be a firefighter—
—Who did that guy remind me of?—
—and he could talk the heroine through it. Maybe crack some morbid jokes, flirt, exchange
phone numbers or something.
Or I could up the tension and put it in a romantic suspense. Decisions, decisions.
I was on my second page of notes now, and I was calming down. I had a new scene for a new story, some fresh air flowing through, paper and a pen and words. But yeah, I definitely should have stopped for that root beer.
Still in the truck. Still having morbid thoughts. If the cop hadn’t been there, I would have gotten out of the car. If I’d been electrocuted and died, did I have any regrets, anything that wasn’t in order?
Well…my husband’s work clothes were lined up and ready for the next month or so. That was good. I’d swept and taken out the trash. The dishes were clean and most of the laundry done. Christmas gifts were bought or at least figured out, although not wrapped, and a couple needed an explanation, but that was okay. Jason’s coffee was even ready to go. Not bad. A pat on the back…As for my writing, there were some documents that needed to spontaneously combust in the event of my death. Anyone know where I could get a program to do that?
There were some things I wished I’d done better. But all in all, I think it would have been okay. Of course, that could have been the shock speaking…
I should have been recording this. I waited until the firemen weren’t looking, then snapped a picture on my phone. I could at least have that. I sent it to my husband. He got that one first—an image of the fire truck and firefighters outside the truck window—then the text that started out “I’m stuck in the car…” I’m not sure if he was more concerned about me or the fact that I should have taken the other vehicle—the one we needed to total. When he found out what really happened, his main question was, "How did you...?"
All I can say is, only me…
My brother saw the picture and texted back: “They’re staying awfully far away.”
That they were. But then the familiar-looking one stood at the edge of the lawn again.
Brad Johnson. The actor. That’s who he reminded me of.
He said, “We’ll get you out in just a minute, ma’am. FPL is here. You okay?”
A big truck from the power company rounded the corner, and the fire truck made room. It had been forty-eight minutes.
I knew this was a scene worthy to go in a book. But was it newsworthy? I hoped not. This wasn’t exactly the kind of press I wanted.
Moments later, the power was off and a guy in jeans and a t-shirt sauntered up to the truck, while the firefighters in all their gear still kept a safe distance. The FPL hero untangled the now-dead wire from my bumper, and I was good to go.
The firemen and cop and my boss gathered around. I gave information for their report. I told them they’d all end up in my novel. The cop apologized for yelling at me. He’d only wanted to make sure I stayed in the car. I said I was sorry for the trouble. The shorter fireman with the mustache gave a happy smile and said, “These things happen.”
I wanted to ask, “To who?” But I knew the answer to that one already.
He said he was just glad it turned out this way. Because what could have happened was…and he proceeded to tell me a little about electricity and the wet cement and the metal car and me frying myself.
I’m glad it turned out this way, too. I think maybe I owe some people some Christmas cookies.
The moral of this story: Do not drive over a hot wire. Or…don’t go anywhere without a book. Or…just go ahead and ask the Brad guy if you can take his picture, because he saw the one you tried to sneak anyway.