The Gothic Thrill of a Rainstorm Rescue

Note: This incident happened a few years ago, while I was working at Target for the summer.  I found the story saved in a Word document, and thought I should share it on here (everyone loves a good dog story, after all).  I play the clumsy girl in the red and khaki.

A few days ago, I was late for work.  When I finally arrived, my hair was so soaked that it stuck to my forehead in thick chunks.  The top half of my red shirt was wet as well, and my shoes squeaked as I walked down the main aisle toward Pat, who was scanning in Kitchen.

I walked past Kathy, who said “Good morning, Holly,” as she always does.

In fact, Kathy uses my name every single time she addresses me.  It bothered me a little at first, because it seemed as though she was continually trying to prove to me that she remembered my name.  Now I like it, though, because she looks me in the eye when she says it, because when she says my name she makes it sound so solid and important, and because she looks cheerily satisfied when I follow my “Good morning” with her name in return.

I walked past Maria, who commented on my wet shirt.  “What happened?”  she asked.  “It’s not even raining anymore!”

“I know,” I replied, hesitating, “but there was a dog on the highway, and I stopped to bring him home.”

“What a do-gooder!”  I heard Maria exclaim behind me, but I was already moving toward the next aisle, not knowing how to explain more fully.  I’ll try it here:

It was about 6:40 in the morning.  I was on my way to work.  Red shirt, khaki slacks, name badge, What You Missed In History Class podcast.  I had just turned on to the highway when I noticed a large reddish dog standing by the shoulder.  My first thought was that the dog was from my neighborhood, and that his name was Buddy.  My second thought was oh Lord he’s going to run out in front of a car.  My third thought was blurry, because I found myself pulling over and jumping out of my truck, while in complete disbelief that I was actually pulling over and jumping out of my truck.

Up ahead I could see Buddy weaving in and out of traffic.  He was literally chasing cars.  On the highway.  I couldn’t tell if he was having the time of his life, or if he was scared to death, but I certainly knew that he was going to get hit any second.  I began to scream his name, but I could barely hear myself over the roar of traffic.

Just then, a car pulled up beside me.  The man inside rolled down the window and motioned toward Buddy, then toward me.  Then he spun around and drove off down the road, to where Buddy had disappeared amongst cars filled with caffeinated businessmen and moms on early morning shopping missions.  I quickly got into my truck and followed, turning onto a side road where the man had turned.  As I got out of my car a second time, I saw that Buddy was now lying on his side on the shoulder.  The man was squatted next to him, his hand on Buddy’s head.  I rushed toward them, wondering frantically if Buddy was dead, if I was going to have to be part of a roadside scene in which the actors are blurry eyed and messy instead of shining and composed.  I worried, as I hurried, about how I’d take it.  I worried about how Buddy’s owners would take it.

The man looked up as I neared, and said quickly, “Don’t worry, he’s okay.  He’s just scared, I think.”

“That’s good,” I replied stupidly, gazing down at the dog.

Sure enough, Buddy was breathing.  His long red fur moved up and down in big huffs, and he looked at me with as much gratitude as I’ve ever seen in a dog.  He’d had fun, but he was ready to be helped home now, thank you very much.

And then, because I realized the man was looking at me expectantly, I explained: “Oh-he’s not my dog.  He’s my neighbor’s dog.  He lives right down the next street.”  I checked Buddy’s tag to verify.  An address a few blocks away was printed clearly upon it.  Buddy was not a first time runaway.

Since the man already had his own dog in his truck, I offered to drive Buddy home in mine.  Clutching the still-trembling dog by the collar, I ran across the road to where I had haphazardly parked my vehicle.  The doors were locked, and through the streaked window, I could see the keys resting innocently on the seat.

I went back—Buddy still in tow—to explain to the man what had happened.  He started to offer me a ride, but his own dog was in his car with him, and I suspected it might be easier just to walk, rain or no rain.  So, we set off down the street, a bedraggled parade of me in drenched red-and-khaki; Buddy, who had the good grace to maintain an air of humility; and driving behind, the man and his dog.  I wasn’t sure, honestly, why the man was still following.  I wondered briefly whether he doubted I—who had locked her keys in her car—could manage to successfully deliver a dog, whether he wanted to make sure his part in the heroics wasn’t left unmentioned, or, most likely, whether he also appreciated the break from the mundane and the gothic thrill of a rainstorm rescue.

My back hurt by the time we reached Buddy’s house: I hadn’t dared let go of his collar for fear he would bolt toward the highway again, and so had to walk with a hunched shuffle.  But it would be worth it, I was confident.  Perhaps I’m simply not as “good” as the good Samaritans I read about in newspapers.  They always say that they never thought about a reward, never thought about the end result.  They just did what they felt was needed.  But I of the racing thoughts imagined as I walked how wonderful it would be to reunite Buddy with his family.  I imagined they’d explode with relief and happiness and gratitude.

In actuality, the reunion consisted of me knocking on the door of a big brown house at the end of my street, the man standing on the porch behind me.  Three children answered, staring up at us with curious eyes and parting so that Buddy could run between them into the house.  Their parents came forth eventually, and we explained what had happened.  They didn’t seem surprised.  As I suspected, Buddy was not a first-time runaway.  The owners didn’t seem very grateful, either.  Sure, the tears and profuse thank yous I had envisioned were definitely unnecessary, but over the course of our five-minute conversation, the words “thank you” were not said at all.

So, the man and I left.  We were both a little stunned at the cold reception, although we didn’t say so.  We said goodbye, and then he drove back toward the highway, and I hiked home for the spare key to my truck.

I was late for work that day, and when I arrived my clothes and hair were still wet.

Kathy didn’t notice, but Maria asked me what had happened.  I didn’t know how to explain properly, so I didn’t.

I simply walked on toward Kitchen, where I began aiming my PDA laser at labels for cheese graters and garlic presses and wine openers that resembled Swiss Army Knives in their complexity.

Buddy, I hoped, was resting on a large pillow somewhere quiet.  I hoped that he could learn to ignore the faint rushing sound of cars on the highway.  Most of all I wondered, smiling to myself, what he would have done with a car once he’d caught one.

Not Buddy, but our own Ruby when she was still small enough and quiet enough to be a lap dog.  I thought this post needed a dog picture.

Not Buddy, but our own Ruby when she was still small enough and quiet enough to be a lap dog. I thought this post needed a dog picture.

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Adventure Day in St. Paul

It was adventure day in St. Paul for Holly and the Gentleman Caller.

Cossetta’s for pizza and antipasto salad (I ate the cheese, he ate the jalapenos and tomatoes.  I think I got the better deal):

IMG_0538Grand Ole Creamery for ice cream (it tasted a lot better than this young man betrays):

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The historic (think Gilded Age) James J. Hill House for a tour:

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The laundry situation was a downside.  All the way in the basement, and must be done by hand.

IMG_0628The place is move-in ready, which is a perk:
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And has lovely outdoor verandas:

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And my goodness, we could attend Mass right across the street!

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In the end, the house was a little out of our price range; so, we ditched the realtor and walked over to the cathedral:

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Not conducive to good photography, but very beautiful regardless.

Then, filled with good food, stuffed with culture, and sighing at the sunset glowing orange in the rearview, we drove home in the Subaru.

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Rite of Passage: Subaru Edition

Yesterday, I believe I utterly cemented myself as a liberal.  And perhaps more importantly, as an adult.

I bought my first car.  A dark red (I refuse to say ‘maroon’) Subaru Outback.

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What was adult wasn’t necessarily the writing of the check, the shaking of hands, etc.  It was the haggling.  Mom and Dad informed me on the way to the lot that haggling was normal when negotiating used car purchases.  My throat felt dry all of a sudden.  As much as I appreciate a good argument, mine have been restricted to classrooms as of late.  Don’t get me started on Virginia Woolf, but when it comes to the value of automobiles, I hardly know what to say.

Of course, the very first place we looked had a Subaru.  Of course, it was far out of my budget.  And of course, when I suggested a lower price, the manager came out of his office and tried to bully me about it.  Maybe he could tell that I’m young and inexperienced and decided I would be easy to intimidate, but the more he rattled on about how he has to make a profit (how dare I mess with that!) and how much mechanical work he’d put into the car and how–good Lord–could I think of turning down the three-month warranty, the angrier I became.

And when he handed the list of work done to the car to Dad and not to me–“I’m sure he knows more about this than you”–I had had enough.

I told him we would keep looking.

At the next lot, we spotted an Outback right away.  It was a little older than the last, but the price was right.  I test drove it twice, heard lengthy descriptions from the salesman, and read over its history.  And then I signed the papers and agreed to come back with a check.

I’ve got my Monroe Crossing “I’m a Bluegrass Fan” sticker all ready to apply to the bumper.

In Which I Call for Help and am Answered by Tim

I am happy to report that the saga has ended.  My truck has been pulled free of its icy prison, and is currently resting happily, if tiredly, in the back alley driveway.

Really, the only unfortunate part of this ending is that I didn’t procure it myself.

Yes, friends, I caved and called AAA.

But only after another afternoon of scraping, gas pedal tapping, and boiling pot after pot of water to pour on the stubborn ice.  My housemate, Jordan, came out to help after a time, which was cause for additional optimism: Jordan recently bought (and maintains) a motorcycle.  Jordan recently started a business consisting of himself and a friend performing oil changes for college students who can’t afford to go to the local shop (or, heaven forbid, the dealer).  Jordan had some ideas.  He went to the garage and returned with several small planks of wood and a dirty towel.  The idea was that the planks would give the truck some leverage, and that the towel could fill in the watery tire grooves for added support.  It was a valiant effort, but after watching the planks shot forty feet from the truck by the force of spinning tires (I got out of the way, or else I would undoubtably be typing with my right leg missing below the knee), we decided that a tug was the only hope.

The AAA man was nice on the phone.  “I’ll send my son out,” he told me gently, “he’s going to delay his meal and head out there.”

“Oh, he shouldn’t do that!” I exclaimed, horrified at the prospect of the son, stomach growling, turning away his dinner in favor of helping an automobile-impaired college student who had managed to get her truck lodged in front of her own house.

The man insisted, though, and within a half hour, his son Tim was hooking a tow chain to the back of my truck.  One good yank and then a push from Tim, his right shoulder braced in my front wheel bed, and I was free.

I thanked Tim, drove a victory lap around town, and then went to the grocery store for a celebratory (and much-needed) shop.

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Ice

My dear truck is currently stuck on the ice in front of my house.  We had a winter storm over the weekend consisting of the star combination that is sleet and snow, and when I crept out yesterday morning seeking a ride to campus, I realized that the tires were frozen to the street with a thick coating of ice.

Fine, fine, I can walk to campus today, I said to myself.  I’d be worried about driving when the roads are so slick anyway.

This morning, however, I walked from the house with more resolve.  I had purposely gotten up early and forgone shower and morning BBC reading in order to free my truck from its glassy chains.

First, I tried simply chipping away at the tires with shovel, foot, and window scraper.  I got most of it off, but when I tried to drive forward, I could feel the tires spinning on the ice beneath them.

Not discouraged, I went back in the house for the bag of salt we keep by the front door,  I poured it on the ice in front of each tire, then tried to drive again.  Still nothing.  The truck, I realized, is not only stuck on the ice, but the ice beneath it had frozen into grooves in which each tire is nestled.

So, I called my Dad.  He directed me to the four sandbags in the bed of the truck.  I thought they were there simply to add weight to the bed to prevent fishtailing on slippery winter roads, but actually, they’re partially for traction-requiring times like these.  Use your keys to rip open one of the bags, Dad said.  Then spread it under each tire, let off the brakes, and let the car roll on its own.  The key trick worked perfectly, not to mention made me feel pretty darn handy.  But then there was the issue of breaking up the frozen sand, and scooping it out with the cumbersome shovel, and managing not to spill any while climbing down from the bed.  And I had to go to work.

So I abandoned the project and walked the treacherous sidewalks all the way to campus.

Tomorrow, however, I’ll be back with reinforcements.

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Home for the Weekend

Typical Saturday at home, complete with:

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1. Spotting Fabio at Whole Foods.

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2. Generally drooling at Whole Foods.  How I love this place.  I would have taken a better photo of the salad bar or the fresh meats, but people were starting to eye me with suspicion.

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3. Lunch at Cossetta’s, where I hid from the parking lot attendants, hoping they wouldn’t remember the time I took up two parking spots with my massive truck, and then ate/talked for two hours with friends while remaining blissfully aware that “the girl with the massive truck” was being paged over the speakers.

4. Dessert at Garrison Keillor’s Common Good Books, which I evidently frequent.  Just kidding about the dessert.  Not kidding about this book, which I giggled over, but couldn’t actually justify buying, mostly because it’s a ‘show’ book more than a ‘read from cover to cover’ book.  What I did buy was Keillor’s Good Poems for Hard Times, because I love Good Poems, American Places so much.  I’ll admit that I’m a little afraid of poetry.  Have been for years.  It’s getting better slowly, but I still appreciate a good anthology, because someone else has already claimed that the poems inside are respectable and worth reading.  I feel free, then, to go around quoting this Robert Bly, or that Walt Whitman, confident that what I’m quoting is profound and beautiful.  Or, at least Garrison Keillor says it is.  And who’s going to argue with that?

5. Walk across the frozen lake with Mom and Dad.  And Ruby, of course, who galloped about, sometimes taking a rest to walk in the snowmobile tracks behind Dad, sometimes veering to sniff at an abandoned fishing hole cut in the ice or a piece of log jutting above the surface.

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In other news, I hiked smugly after taking this shot, convinced I had captured something pure and lovely and perfectly lit.  And then I saw the smudge of finger in the corner.

Minnesota Nice

Only in Minnesota does the first week of December usher in a winter storm on Saturday evening (we got about 8 inches of snow), followed by a blizzard on Sunday evening (gusts of 40 miles per hour, windchill at -30 degrees).

I stayed at a friend’s house last night, as we had a gas leak yesterday (to make a long story short: carbon monoxide is scary, CO sensors are necessary, and we’re all very lucky to be alive). Although the energy company declared us in the clear, I was still feeling nervous about sleeping at Bag End.  Someone from my high school died of CO poisoning when I was in 10th grade or so, and I’ve been extremely wary of it ever since.

Anyway, when I set out this morning, the first step was digging my truck out of the snow.  The second step was driving at a crawl until I reached the turn for my alley.  I thought it would be smart to park there (in our small driveway) instead of on the street, given snowplows would likely be making several passes before Monday.  The snow was deep in the alley, but I didn’t let that stop me: I have a truck!  I am invincible!

I promptly got stuck.  No amount of maneuvering or gas application was helping, so I got out to dig.  Then I walked the two minutes to Bag End to get a shovel so I could dig some more.  Then I slumped against the bed in despair, certain I was meant to die a cold death in the snow, wearing bright blue Boise State sweatpants.  Suddenly, another truck drove down the alley toward me.  The woman in the passenger seat grinned, and the man in the driver’s seat jumped out, grabbed a tow strap from his bed, and hitched me up in the cheeriest and most efficient manner possible.  A few good tugs and I was off the ice my tires had apparently been spinning against for the past half hour and on my way home.

This is why I live in Minnesota, folks.  Because while I was being helped by a stranger, I noticed that a few blocks down, a van had gotten stuck near Casey’s.  Several people had abandoned their pre-blizzard gas pumping in order to push the van out.

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This has nothing to do with the above-described blizzard: it’s just a snowy picture of my Dad and Ruby that I happen to love.