Thursday, September 27, 2007

Death of a Camry

(This happened Spring of 2007, but someone suggested that I post it so that they could send folks to read it. So, here it is.)

Well, in typical Johnson Style it was another exciting weekend.

I always said that I'd drive the Camry until it blew up and then I’d just leave it on the side of the road? Well, that day was evidently Saturday. The Husband and I had been putting off the inevitable, but decided late last week after the Camry started making some strange little noises, that it was finally time to buy a ‘new’ used van.

We bought a used Town and Country Thursday night. And I mean that van is fine. I was so excited! We left it at the dealership so that they could do a few little things to it, and we'd planned on picking it up Saturday. They offered me $750.00 for my very old and worn out 180,000 miles on it Camry (I almost did a dance right there in the parking lot at that offer—I thought that they were going to tell me to pay them to haul it off).

So I said that I needed to clean it out and we'd just drive it back on Saturday and drop it then. Deal done, we headed home and in a stroke of strange timing, the car started making a dreadful noise—like a knocking sound or something—so we decided to park it half way to the house at the Wal-Mart and clean it out on Saturday before driving it back up to the dealership.

Did the Spring Fling Easter Eggstravaganza thing at church on Saturday and loaded up the kids to go get the "new" van. We looked a sight too. The kids had been egg hunting and eating candy and jumping in that bounce house and looked like homeless kids. I mean down to the “grocery store feet.” They had dried face paint cracking and peeling on their faces and cupcake icing in the corners of their mouths and stains from every single thing they’d eaten that afternoon on their shirts. We looked scary.

Got to the Wal-Mart, and we cleaned the entire car out except for one car seat and off we went. Well, the car made this terrible lurching motion a couple of times on the drive and that strange knocking sound had gotten considerably louder, so I pulled off on the shoulder and told The Husband (who was driving our old van and the kids) that I was afraid to drive it anymore. We swapped up and about two miles from the car place I look up, and there is the Camry riding up the road directly in front of me on fire. No, that was not a typo, I mean on fire as in flames and smoke were shooting out from under the vehicle like Bruce Willis in Die Hard was riding down the road. Not just smoke mind you, but full on flames.

And there was The Right Reverend, riding down the road completely unaware. Do-dee-do-dee-do.

I grabbed the cell phone and dialed him up in a complete and total panic, and he didn't answer his phone. One ring, two rings, three rings, four rings…by this time I am having my own melt down. Folks, eight seconds is eternity when your husband is on fire riding 60 mph in front of you. My one thought was that my husband is going to burn to death while his kids watch. One too many shoot-em-up movies, but I had it in the back of my head that cars that catch fire blow up. I'm honking and swerving and waving my arms and screaming at the top of my lungs like a complete maniac, "THE CAR IS ON FIRE!!! THE CAR IS ON FIRE!!!," as though he could hear me from the van to the car. I just about decided to hit him with the van (since he's just Clark Grizwolding down the road with freaking FLAMES shooting out from under the car) and he FINALLY answers the phone.

He has no idea what I am saying because I’m just shouting something completely incoherent at the top of my lungs at this point, still swerving, honking, and waiving my arms. I’m actually screaming “OH MY GOD, OH MY GOD!” over and over as loud as I can (which at our house is the equivalent of screaming the f-word), so the kids have all dropped down into the fetal position in the back seat, covering their heads and ears, when I finally choke out the words again, “YOU ARE ON FIRE!!!! YOU ARE ON FIRE!!! YOU ARE ON FIRE!!!”

He says in this calm, hey-I’m-Joe-Cool-voice, “Oh, am I? Oh, well, okay then.” He drives another 50 yards to get to a “good spot”, pulls over, puts the car in park, removes the keys, and calmly gets out. By this time, flames are now coming out from under the hood, and he’s got this oh-hey-guess-I-really-was-on-fire look on his face.

The thing was flat in minutes. It was quite exciting. Tires exploding, glass shattering, black smoke billowing. I scared the kids half to death with all of the screaming and arm waving and “God” cussing. The fire department finally showed up and the car was still flaming and smoking and in perfect Johnson style, The Husband dead pans to the fire chief, "Well, you think I can still drive it?"

The fire chief, who wasn’t sure if he was joking or not, and said, “Um, probably not without the tires or windshield, Mr. Johnson.”

Oh, right. That might be a problem, eh?

Then The Husband turns to me and says out of the side of his mouth, "I wonder if that'll buff out?" He shrugged and said, “Well, at least we look like folks who would have their car burn down on the side of the road with our four kids under seven and everyone’s nasty and covered in food and in their bare feet. Nothing like completing a good stereotype. Now all we need is a Fox 6 News van to pull by and interview us.”

Only The Husband.

Another funny—a man pulled over to help us (one among about 8 or 9 folks who stopped which encouraged me that not all people are bad). He was wearing an Alabama sweatshirt and cap. He pointed at The Husband who was talking to the firemen and said, “Maybe if he’d change that shirt his luck would improve.” He was of course wearing an Auburn sweatshirt. Nothing like a couple of smarty pants men on the side of the road watching a Camry Car-b-que.

So, after I coaxed the kids out of the fetal position and Lily quit rocking herself and moaning, we cruised into the dealership and picked up the 'new' van and drove off like there was nothing to it. Talk about timing. Two more miles and the Handy-Dandy-Camry would have been on fire in the Carmax parking lot. Of course, two more miles and I’d have had $750.00 in my pocket instead of paying someone to tow it off of the side of the freeway.

Oh, and later, after everyone was secure in the fact that Daddy wasn’t going to die and that cars don’t normally burst into flames and no, this van won’t burst into flames, and no, Mommy won’t leave you if the van does happen to burst into flames and so on…Elise wanted to know if we were all allowed to say “Oh my G. O. D.” now since I screamed it about 15 times at the top of my lungs. When I said no, we don’t say that and that Mommy was actually sort of praying as opposed to cursing at the moment, Elaina piped up from the back, “Well, I think it’s probably an exception if the van is on fire or if you are on fire or if Daddy is on fire again...”

Touché, Small Child.

So, the new 'rule' is that if anyone or anything is on fire, you may scream "Oh my God" as many times as loudly as you want.

Welcome to the Johnson Show. I'll be your host...

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