On our yearly holiday round trip (Maine-North Carolina-Georgia-North Carolina-Maine), we were almost toasted chestnuts. On the Pennsylvania Turnpike. For reals.
Hurtling down the highway, listening to Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore (fantastic audiobook, by the way, a must-listen!), we heard weird mechanical car noises, followed by a jolt, a fishtailing, and mercifully, a safe-ditch landing.
We called a tow truck, and the first one appeared after 2 hours, only to drive off again a minute later when it was discovered that our car contained too large a contingent of people, plus one dog.
Nervous to have Roman so close to the highway, Jeff somehow sweet-talked a local Pep Boys employee into driving over to get the two younger kids and me, while he waited for the next tow truck with our oldest and our dog.
Tammy picked us up in her Jeep, explaining that her boyfriend was having trouble with his parole officer ("nothing too illegal"), and so she had been up to some "4-wheel therapy" the previous weekend, off-roading in New Jersey, which explained the missing side mirror and the mud spatters INSIDE the car.
After another hour spent in the Pep Boys waiting room, the car finally appeared, and they cranked it up on the lift. The whole shop gathered around and pointed while we watched from the other side of the waiting room glass.
Verdict? 4 out of the 5 lug nuts were gone on the rear driver's side tire. Disappeared along our southward path.
Lug nut number 5's head had cracked off, but it was still threaded in the tire, so the fates were on our side.
Tammy turned out to be such a sweetheart. She petted our dog, was nice to Roman (who asked her a million questions), and came to update us on our car's progress during her lunch hour. Who does that?
So at hour 6, the bill finally came, and we were nervous. But somehow, the total - including towing - was a lot less than we feared.
It's times like these, when the wheels stop spinning, and you're at the mercy of strangers, that a renewed holiday spirit looms large. And Tammy? Got a little envelope before we left, hopefully with enough cash to cover a new side mirror.