The week of Thanksgiving 2022 did not get off to a terrific start. I woke up at 5:15 A.M. on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving to arrive in Gaithersburg by 7:00 A.M. Plenty of time for a 45-minute drive to the outer suburbs. I had an appointment for a MRI procedure at Kaiser Permanente, my health care provider. The reason I got up so early was that it had taken almost two months to get this procedure scheduled, which was critical because I had an appointment next week with the doctor, who needed the results. I recalled talking to someone at Kaiser a while back who told me that if you are late to a procedure with a long wait list, you will have to reschedule, no exceptions. Apparently they now had a new, get-tough policy on flakes who never get anywhere on time, which, by the way, is not ME. I was determined not to be late.
I took the elevator to the basement garage where our car was parked and hit the start button. Nothing. Tried again several times. Still no luck. What to do? Hey, no problem, I told myself. Just a dead battery, and I will get a jump start later. I will call Uber. That is what Uber is for, right? So, I rushed upstairs to the main lobby where I feverishly tapped in my cellphone all the information for an Uber ride and was relieved that a driver was not far away; but instead of seeing “approval” pop up on the screen, Uber denied payment. (My card had been stolen and I remembered that I had failed to provide the information on the new one.). By this time, I was starting to become a tad worried. I typed in another credit card. Denied. Then two more. Both denied. Now my hands were starting to shake. I concluded I must be blacklisted from ever using Uber.
Just then –around 6:15 AM– a resident of the apartment house where Embry and I live—and a good friend from our neighborhood Episcopal Church–was walking out of the lobby headed for work. He noticed I was in distress and immediately offered to help. Now how lucky was that?
“No problem,” he said, “I’ll just call a cab,” which he did on his mobile phone. Still plenty of time, he assured me. Then his smile faded into a frown.
“Yellow cab said they could send a cab,” he said, “but it would be an hour or more before one of their cabs could get here.”
Plenty of time but not that much time.
My friend assured me everything would be ok and then called an Uber on his mobile phone, which worked: Driver in the area. Problem solved. Except Uber cancelled the 5-minute pickup and changed drivers to an 11-minute pickup time and then back to an 8-minute with yet another driver. At 6:40, finally an Uber driver arrived. I hopped in the cab, thanked my guardian angel friend, and told the Uber driver to step on it since we only had 20 minutes to make what Map Quest said was usually a 45-minute ride. The driver obliged by going over 80 in light traffic on I-270 and passing two cop cars, as I held my breath. We made good time, but it was still 7:20 when we pulled into the Kaiser driveway.
Doomed, I thought. I would surely be turned away.
But no, after hearing my sad story, the receptionist took pity and put me in the queue. The only glitch was that before the nurse could put me into the MRI torture machine, my blood pressure had to be at a certain level. “Oh, my God!” the RN exclaimed, “I think we should rush you to the ER. I have never seen blood pressure this high.”
When I explained the stress involved in getting to the appointment, she understood and was patient. Twenty minutes later my blood pressure had gone down to the normal range, and in I went into the dreaded MRI tube. And it turned out that the MRI experience was not so bad after all, though it did make a bunch of very weird noises.
After the hour-long procedure in the machine that looks like a prop from a Star Wars movie, the nurse said it was ok to leave, wished me a happy Thanksgiving, and called a cab for me, which I took to the nearest Metro stop where I took the subway back to my neighborhood—a $15 total charge compared to the $45 it cost for Uber to get out there.
The next challenge was to get the car motor/electrical system fixed. I thought it was a battery issue and just needed a jump start since this issue had happened a couple of times before, although this time all sorts of emergency warnings were flashing on the instrument panel. I even had received an email from Subaru about the warnings. (Somehow Subaru mysteriously monitors real time information about the car over the internet.)
I decided I would deal with that the next day, Wednesday.
We keep our car in a large parking garage under our apartment building. I called the manager of the garage for help. He is very savvy with cars and assured me that there was no car he could not jump start. He opened the hood and hooked up the starter device on the battery. No luck. Then several more times, still no luck. He then hopped in the driver’s seat and tried to see if he could start the car. Nothing worked.
No choice: I would have to get the car towed. But how could a tow truck get into a garage with low ceilings?
Subaru has an emergency service so that when you get into trouble all you have to do is press a button on the ceiling of the car, and someone comes on the line immediately and offers to assist you. I was very impressed with the help they provided, which resulted in scheduling a tow truck, which arrived on the scene a couple of hours later. The big question was whether the truck could make it into the parking garage. When the Subaru operator first asked me how high the ceiling was, I replied that I didn’t know but thought it was at least 10-12 feet, to which she replied, “Really? Well, that won’t be a problem.”
Then after she had hung up, I got out of the car and realized that by standing on my toes I could almost touch the ceiling. Oops. I immediately called her back and told her the clearance was well under 10 feet. She replied that she had doubts herself about the 10-12 feet and had told the towing company that the truck had to clear eight feet. Any clearance below that was problematical.
I spent the next two hours worrying about how high the ceiling was.
When the driver finally arrived at the front of the building–an affable Latino guy with a beard, broad smile, and strong accent– I hopped in front seat of the tow truck, still wondering how much clearance the truck would need, and guided him down the steep driveway to the garage entrance.
The driver edged the truck cautiously toward the entrance. I held my breath.
The truck made it with about two inches to spare.
But the next challenge was how to get the car on the trailer that the truck was pulling and how to maneuver the two or three sharp turns, pulling a disabled car. I could not see anyway this could be possible and was curious as to how he could pull it off.
But I never got a chance. He immediately hopped in the driver’s seat of the car, hit the start button, and the car started up immediately. I stared at him in disbelief. After a brief pause, we both looked at each other again and burst out laughing. How could this be? I thanked him profusely, gave him a tip with all the cash I had in my pocket (not a lot), and drove the car myself to the dealership where it will remain until repaired.
Would the tow truck driver have been able to get the car out of the garage? I suppose the answer is yes, but for the life of me I can’t figure out how. Before he left the driver confessed that he was worried about it. In any event, I will never know and I surely hope that I never have the opportunity again to find out.
Guardian angels, miracles, weird happenings—is there an explanation for this? As I think I mentioned in a previous blog post, I read somewhere that a coincidence—and “good luck” and unexplained mysteries– is simply God’s way of remaining anonymous.
Thanksgiving followed the next day in our apartment where we hosted the refugee family from Afghanistan that our church, along with two other Episcopal churches, has been sponsoring for almost a year: A young mother and father and three kids ages seven, four and almost two. They have been in the U.S. almost a year, and the three churches have been providing them financial and social support for over ten months. The father and his brothers worked for their dad whose company was a major contractor to the U.S. military. They got out of the country by the skin of their teeth when the collapse happened, crossing the border into Pakistan in a caravan of several cars when there was no hope for getting on the airlift. Two of the families eventually made it to the U.S. The rest are still in Pakistan.
Our Afghan family is doing remarkably well. The father now has a full time, $16/hour job, the mother is getting much better with her English, and oldest kids are in one of the excellent Arlington schools and are now almost fluent in English. They have a decent apartment in a good neighborhood in Arlington. We have applied for long term housing assistance to help with the rent when the church funding runs out in a few months.
But what a traumatic time they have been through!
This is the third Afghan family we have been involved with. The first two are now homeowners and well established. Both men have well-paying jobs. The family we were most concerned about now lives in Houston where the father, a long haul truck driver, now owns an 18-wheeler and is the owner of his company, “Shiny Transportation.” I have no doubt that this family will experience the same success as the two others. The courage and resilience of immigrants is extraordinary.
The dinner was a great success—their first Thanksgiving meal in our country. Despite the extreme hardships they have had, they are upbeat, optimistic, and hopeful—and very grateful for the help they have received from the coalition of churches.
Happy ending to a Thanksgiving week I will remember for a long time.