Last Friday was an unexpected adventure for Lola and me as we headed to her three-month check up with the veterinary oncologist in Century City. I always make her appointments for 11am in order to miss morning traffic on the 110 Freeway through downtown Los Angeles – and to be ahead of afternoon traffic going back to the San Gabriel Valley.
My GPS route was the 210 to the 134 to the 5 to the 110 to the 10. While on the 5, I happened to glance down at the temperature gauge and saw the needle in the danger zone about to go into the red. OMG. As I stepped on the gas pedal, the car would not accelerate, but it kept moving. At that moment, I saw an exit and had to make a split-second decision to get off the freeway or keep moving. My gut said to stay on the freeway. As scary as it was, I still felt safe in our SUV, a used Range Rover (2007) that we bought last year after our sedan died.
As the car moved at a smooth clip, I noticed that we were on an incline on the side of a hill. What the…, I said out loud. This stretch of the 5 Freeway looked more like a narrow road (no shoulders) and both lanes were full with cars. Lola was laying down peacefully in the back seat. I felt an adrenaline rush and prayed that we could make it up the hill. I’m usually calm as a clam in stressful situations, but I could feel my body begin to shake as worst-case scenarios flashed before me. As we rounded the hill, the lane merged onto the southbound 110 Freeway just before the Academy Road exit to Dodger Stadium. Immediately ahead, I saw a spacious turn-out to pull into. As soon as I parked, I saw smoke coming from underneath the hood. The car was overheating. Holy moly.
I called the Auto Club for assistance. They were Johnny-on-the-spot and dispatched a tow truck. But because of Covid, I would not be able to ride in the tow truck. And I had Lola. The car was not drivable and would have to be towed to my mechanic. Auto Club would arrange for Uber to take us home. Before that, though, the tow truck driver had instructions to drive us -– we would remain in our car -- to a safe location off the freeway and to stay with us until Uber’s arrival. This was a good plan; however, the weather was getting hotter by the minute, and I worried about Lola. Instead, I called Louie to pick us up in our other car -- a two-seater. It didn’t matter that Lola and I would have to squeeze into the small passenger seat.
While the friendly tow truck driver and I waited for Louie, we had time to chat about the weather, family, and his long tenure in his line of work. Then, without saying a word, he walked to the tow truck and raised the long bed to its highest level so that Louie would see the truck’s flashing lights as he heads down the freeway – Louie would have to quickly and safely cross over several lanes to get to the merge lane and the turn-out.
I had never been stranded on a freeway before. Let’s just say it’s a bit stress-inducing. I think my angels guided me up the hill to the turn-out.
Louie was relieved that we were safe and that nothing worse had happened. After we bid a huge thank you to the tow truck driver and after we were securely in the car, Louie confessed that he also had an “ulterior motive” in picking us up: We could stop by historic Langer’s, our all-time favorite deli on the other side of downtown to pick up corned beef sandwiches on lusciously soft fresh rye bread and piping hot clam chowder soup packed in a bottle. I knew it.
On the way home, as we drove the streets through downtown, it was torture for Lola to sit with her nostrils right above the brown paper bag and the aroma of our hot sandwiches and fries wafting upwards. Poor girl. Louie snapped a photo of her smacking her lips. But she’s so polite, she didn’t even try to get into the bag.
It ended up that my car was leaking coolant, which was repaired right away. I was so happy to have my car back. As I drove home from the mechanic, I made a hands-free business call on my cell phone. I pulled up to the house and continued my call for another 30 minutes. Then, I realized my car key was not attached to my key chain. (When I picked up the car, the mechanic had already put the key in the ignition. So, I just drove off.)
I couldn’t find the key anywhere, even though I didn’t move around much after arriving home because I was still on the phone. I emptied my handbag to find nothing. Relax, Louie said, close your eyes, and retrace what you did. Do you remember locking the car with the key? “It’s so automatic…” I replied. I don’t remember. Then I went back and forth to the car several times more, checking the floorboards and under the seats. It’s expensive to make duplicate keys. Louie said not to worry, it will probably show up later. “It’s nothing to get another copy if we have to. I’m just happy that nothing happened to you and Lola.”
Another possibility was that I dropped the key on the lawn. We walked along the short walkway and saw nothing.
Hours later, as I was doing dishes, I glanced over to the dining room, then looked down underneath the dining table. In the dim light and barely visible was my key on Lola’s bed. Then I recalled that upon arriving home from the mechanic, I had let Lola out. She must have found my key on the grass and brought it to her bed – where it would be safe. And not a single tooth mark on it. That’s my girl.
Needless to say, we rescheduled Lola’s appointment.
Washing Hands + Wearing a Mask + Social Distancing = Saving Lives