This weekend was a whirlwind and, although it didn't turn out as expected, it definitely will become a strong family memory. I was invited to speak at an event in New Jersey and we decided it was best if Timmy did not accompany us on this trip. The time in the car was going to be lengthy, especially since we would be in the thick of Friday rush hour traffic. I knew that he would quickly melt down, and his crying would make everybody else just as miserable. I am lucky that my Mom was both willing and able to take Hamlet for the night, allowing us to travel to the event baby-free.
After meeting my Mom halfway to do the baby transfer, I drove directly to Robby's school to host his Pirate Party. All of the little buccaneers had a great time! After the party Robby and I headed home to pack for our big New Jersey adventure. The car was packed and we were ready to roll by the time Scott came home from work.
Unfortunately the timing for hitting Washington DC and Baltimore traffic was not advantageous for a smooth and quick trip. As predicted, we managed to hit rush hour in both heavily congested cities. What should have been a three hour drive slowly turned into a tortured 4.5 hour trip. Despite the time in the car, Robby was a trooper and rarely complained. Scott, on the other hand, did not handle the delay nearly as gracefully.
After checking into the hotel and eating dinner, I was ready for bed. Scott and Robby stayed up late, watching a "man show" on the History network. I enjoyed a solid night of baby free sleep. What a luxury!
The speech on Saturday went well, and we all had a blast at the event. (I am sure I will write more about it in a future blog.) Before I knew it, we were loading into the car and getting ready to head to my Mom's to pick up Timmy. Thankfully the traffic was light and we were making good time. Going at a good clip on the Pennsylvania Turnpike, Scott and we were talking about the fun day. Perhaps we jinxed ourselves?
Without notice, and while we were cruising 70 mph, the car suddenly lost power. Our SUV would no longer accelerate. Vulnerable and drifting along the speeding road, we were lucky to be able to bring the car to the side of the turnpike. Scott parked the car while Robby and I sought safety from the hazard by climbing up the side of a hill. It was during this time that I witnessed how my husband and I have polar opposite reactions to a crisis.
Being stranded on the side of a road was a familiar experience as I was growing up. It seemed that our dilapidated cars were always breaking down on family road trips, or during everyday excursions. Each of those incidents were then and continue to be referred to as unexpected adventures. From breaking down on the side of the highway leaving Disneyworld to the broken fuel line in Key West, I don't remember the experiences being marred by panic or frustration. I learned from a young age that things break down and that you have to roll with it.
I was surprised to learn that this was the first time Scott has ever been stranded on the side of a road. What was oddly familiar for me was completely foreign and terrifying for him. He met the incident with panic, frustration and anger. As Robby and I sat on a blanket and quietly watched the traffic fly past us, Scott angrily paced and lamented the power failure. He was miserable, whereas I was okay.
Taking his father's cue, Robby began to complain and quickly became upset. I recognized what was happening and decided that we were in the midst of a teachable moment. I put my arm around Robby and quietly (well, as quiet as I could talk and still be heard on the side of a busy highway) that bad things happen. We couldn't do anything about the car breaking down, but we could control how we reacted. We could be angry and miserable, but that wouldn't help the tow truck arrive faster or magically fix the car. Since the situation would not improve by being miserable, it was better to remain calm and optimistic. After all, feeling calm always trumps feeling panicked and upset.
After Robby calmed down and opted to remain optimistic, we began to explore the situation to count our blessings. The sun was shining and the temperature was perfect for sitting outside. We drifted our car right next to an emergency call box. With the push of a button a tow truck was summoned. We were only 40 minutes from my Mom's house, and we were able to call her for a ride home. We didn't have Timmy with us, for he surely would have been scared on the side of the road. Most importantly, we were all healthy and safe. We easily could have been hurt, but we were able to stop the car safely and without incident.
With one phone call, my sister immediately hopped into her car and headed out to rescue us. Unfortunately we were on the turnpike, which does not have closely spaced exits. She had to drive 25 miles past us in order to get to the nearest exit before she could turn around to head in our direction. By that time the tow truck had arrived, and we were all en route to the nearest service repair shop. (We didn't end up at the repair shop I preferred, but at a tow rate of $4.50 a mile, I figured that the dealer closest to our location would be adequate to fix the car.)
The car is in a repair shop in Pennsylvania, forcing us to rent a car for the week. I have no idea what happened with the vehicle, but I'm fairly certain the malfunction will be expensive. There is never a good time for a costly car repair, and the expense certainly has me feeling worried and stressed. Unfortunately Scott is still having trouble processing the incident, so I have to keep my own financial anxieties to myself.