Back in the day...
...some of us lived dangerously in the 80s, when we were in our teens. We had skills that “kids these days” don’t always have. Like, how to handle a crisis hundreds of miles from home, no cell phone, no GPS, no Internet.
Like when one late January, I’d just completed three weeks of “J-term” at college in Pennsylvania and we had a long weekend before the real semester started. Two friends and I decided to go home to Massachusetts for the weekend, a six-hour minimum drive for me, more for them. I did what any sensible 19-year-old young woman would do: used the dorm’s pay phone to call home and say, “Surprise, I’m coming home for the weekend. Can you meet me at the mall in Waterbury (Connecticut)?”
I told my parents what time we’d leave and when we expected to get to Waterbury. If we had a delay, we’d stop and call. My friends and I piled our stuff into the back of a station wagon and set off. The northeastern Pennsylvania forecast was for six to eight inches of snow that night, with that same storm headed northeast into New England. But, a “bit of snow” didn’t scare us New England girls.
Finally it was my turn to drive and we were on the east side of Scranton and we hit I-84. Somewhere between Scranton and Port Jervis, New York, the roads grew slick. Then, during a downhill slope, it happened. The station wagon skidded with me at the wheel. We glided into the wire guardrail, soft as bumper car, then did 180.
The car died. As in, no lights, heat, engine, nada. I was stunned. I ‘d just wrecked my friend’s car. In a snowstorm. In the mountains of northeastern Pennsylvania. We’d just passed a sign that said an exit was less than a mile ahead where there was a truck stop.
Not five minutes after we’d gotten stuck and were making plans, a vehicle approached. Even in the storm, we could hear the chug-chug-chug of a souped-up engine.
Out of the Charger popped a pair of the Pennsylvania equivalent of country boys.
“You ladies got a problem, huh?” one asked. They offered to give us a ride as far as the next exit to a truck stop.
So we glanced at each other, took deep breaths and said, “Okay.” (I can hear all the mothers and fathers reading this, collectively screaming or bellowing silently.) The guys gave us a ride to the truck stop without incident, wished us well, and they were gone.
We called home and promised to call again as soon as we got some help. We learned all the tow trucks were on the roads, helping idiots like us. A trucker, riding out the storm overnight, offered us his sleeping cabin and he would sleep in a restaurant booth. We turned him down.
At last, a tow truck pulled into the station, and someone told him about the foolish young women stuck nearby on the interstate. He said he’d give us a ride back to the car and see what he could do. We made quick phone calls (our poor parents!) and we were on our way back to the car.
We arrived back at the car to find a very nice but cranky Pennsylvania state police officer reading our friend the riot act for driving in a blizzard at night. Tow Truck Man popped the hood, jiggled some wires, told Carla to start the car, and voila—it started.
We hopped in the car, our faces red, and promised to be careful. Tow Truck Man wouldn’t accept money for help. “Just get your ***** home in one piece.”
The rest of the trip was without incident, although we were two hours later than expected.
So, I dare you, especially if you’re under 30. Leave your cell phone home for a day and see how it goes. Do you know anyone’s phone numbers? Can you figure out to do in an emergency without help from an app? See if you can get by like we did, back in the day. One day, you might just have to.