By JANET HART LEONARD
You probably know Carrie Underwood who sings “Jesus, Take the Wheel,” but on Sunday I was praying for Jesus to hold me back.
Just when I think my travel troubles are over…here’s another one.
As I head to St. Pete Beach with three of my best friends, whom I call the Golden Girls, I slam on my brakes to slow down. I’m in six lanes of traffic on 275 South, just past the Tampa airport exit. The traffic is heavy. Speeds range from 65 mph from a standstill.
Lots of braking… except my brakes aren’t cooperating. My right leg gets a lot of practice as I press my brakes down to the ground. I remember the brakes on my ’65 Mustang that I drove after I got my license at 16. No power brakes.
I put on my best face calm and in control as I grab the steering wheel and pray…Jesus, please give me the brakes! The panic I feel inside is hidden from my three friends, Patrice, Linda and Joan. Inside, I have a “compare yourself”. I can’t begin to describe the fear I feel.
We are less than an hour from the beach, but it seems like an eternity as we drive there. I stay away from the cars in front of me only to have cars cut in front of me, increasing my anxiety to the max.
Please Lord keep me calm and let me take my friends safely to the beach. PLEASE.
We arrive at St. Pete Beach. Parking the car at the hotel, I thank God for his protection and for providing me with the brakes I needed.
Our room is not ready, so we leave for lunch. The Golden Girls still have no idea what race they entered. While waiting for our lunch, I keep my phone on my lap and scroll through the list of nearby mechanics.
Scroll. Scroll. Scroll.
Mobile mechanic. WHAT? “We come to your company, your home or wherever you are.” Alleluia! I apologize to go to the bathroom. I went there so I didn’t lie to them. I make a call and immediately a man answers his phone. Now you have to understand it was 3am Sunday afternoon and I’m stuck in a hotel on the beach. (I know there are worse places to get stuck.) He’ll be there within the hour.
I go back to my friends and take back my “in control” face. I swallow a few bites and place my napkin over the large portion of my lunch that I left untouched. My exhausted nerves did not allow me to eat.
We take our luggage to our room, and I receive the text message from the mechanic and his assistant who have arrived. I apologize for going back to my car because I had “left” something there.
After checking the brake fluid, the mechanic turned to me and said, “Madam, you are so lucky to have made it here because you have NO brake fluid. Somewhere on Interstate 275, you’ve lost everything.
If you google what brake fluid does, you’ll see how dangerous it is to drive a car without it. I had driven at least 25 miles without adequate brakes.
Believe what you want, but I know that Jesus gave me a brake.
I go back to the bedroom and confess to my friends what happened. They said they knew something was up because I had become very quiet. They said my silence weighed on me. They also noticed that I had backed up from my usual proximity to the cars in front of me. They know me too well.
The mechanic orders the part and says the problem should be fixed by the time we were due to leave in two days.
Fast forward two days and while the mechanic is working on my car, I get a text. “Do you have a minute?” I know it won’t be a good minute.
It seems that the repair is more important than they thought. The role wouldn’t be available for at least a week. I have to have the car towed. I call Chuck. He told me to call AAA. The dispatcher informs me that I am not on his account and that AAA will not be able to help me. I am now at the crusty edge of my nerves.
The mechanic and his assistant didn’t know they were my guardian angels. They had the car moved and calmed this lady who had a partial “dismemberment”. Chuck said he knew I was upset because I spoke in short sentences. I guess he knows me as well.
I knew the Golden Girls felt bad for me. I assure them I’m fine as long as we’re safe.
We call a Lyft and drive home. This has been quite an adventure and number 4 of my “Misadventures of Janet”. I hope this is the last of my traveling disasters.
Chuck decided we were going to buy cars and I’m now on his AAA account. May 2007 Focus RIP. It served the Leonard family well for nearly 200,000 miles. I will never take good brakes for granted again.
Janet Hart Leonard can be reached at [email protected] or follow on Facebook or Instagram (@janethartleonard). To visit janehartleonard.com.