Trip of a Lifetime

4 April 2019

The gas gauge was dropping, getting perilously close to “E,” but my aunt paid it no notice. We continued at 70 miles per hour down the Kentucky highway, singing along to the radio. Suddenly, the Jeep lurched backwards, bounced, slowed down, and continued forward. My aunt looked at me and pressed harder on the gas pedal. The Jeep slowed down. “I told you we should have gotten gas,” I said, my voice just out of audible range.

We pulled over to the side of the highway, and I was sent to the back of the car to keep my fourteen-year-old brother and four-year-old cousin calm. In the front seat I could hear my aunt on her cell phone, presumably with AAA, hysterically recanting what had just happened. She turned back to me and said, “Do you know where we are?” I solemnly shook my head. “They can’t find us,” she said. “We could be here for awhile.” I was crushed. But being the oldest grandchild on both sides of the family, brave faces are my specialty. I smiled and sang along to Lion King with my little cousin and helped my brother explain the situation to our mom on the phone. After sitting it out in the car, we all reached an internal body temperature of about 105. Everyone was hostile and frustrated. Luckily, a kindhearted stranger, who happened to be driving a tow truck, stopped to assist us.

After uncomfortably squeezing three adult bodies, one child in a car seat, and two Labrador Retrievers into the tow truck, we were off. The stranger drove for roughly a half hour off the highway, after which we finally reached “Al’s Garage” in Somerset, Kentucky. We were then informed that the damage to the Jeep was irreparable. It turned out that we hadn’t run out of gas, but had busted the engine. Unless we wanted to spend a week in Somerset, we needed a rental car to get us home. So my aunt hitched a ride with Al’s son to the local Hertz. Meanwhile, it was my job to look after my brother, cousin, and the two dogs. At the sight of my aunt’s disappearing back, my little cousin’s lip began to quiver. It was a look I knew too well. Thinking quickly, I whipped my iPod out of my purse and scanned the list of Disney songs. Once the Lion King was back on and the headphones were in my cousin’s tiny ears, everything was alright.

Twenty minutes (or five Disney songs) later, my aunt returned with a Ford Focus. We contorted ourselves and our luggage into the tiny car, and were headed home once again. Looking back on this experience, I can’t help but laugh. It’s the kind of thing that seen in movies, and it happened to me. I learned the importance of staying calm, and also that I am a role model for my younger family members.

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