In my ongoing effort to return my shoulders to somewhere near my torso instead of up around my ears, I had scheduled an appointment with the massage therapist on a Friday at 4:00. It was perfect. I could leave work a little early, let the magic-handed lady apply her knuckles to the permaknots in my neck, and be home close to the regular time.

In theory.

I was tooling along toward home thinking about how the enchiladas for supper were in the fridge but I still needed to make the sauce when a car rose up in the road ahead of me.

Yes, I know. It didn’t really rise up in the road. But this is my story, and that’s how it seemed.

I wasn’t going to be able to stop. I shouldn’t even have had long enough to think that, but time did that surreal elastic thing time does when disaster is imminent, and I had a choice. Smack into an unmoving two-ton object (with humans inside!) at speed, or ditch out. I chose the only real option.

For .6 seconds, I thought I might make it up and out on the other side. We all have dreams.

What I did was move a lot of snow for a vehicle without a snowplow, and then I settled in for a nice long wait.

I called Paul. Hi, I said. I am a strong independent woman. Also I am in a ditch and I need to be rescued please.

Bat signal sent, there I was, with not much to do but berate myself. It’s not that fun and not very productive, so I stopped and texted my friends Jen and Tricia.

Well, I am in a ditch, I said. I am fine. I think the car is even fine. This is not how I expected my Friday night to go.

They expressed their shock and good wishes for my self and my car. Where was I? Did I need anything? Supper? Company?

I was fine, I said, but if anyone had a mulligan, I’d take that.

People streamed by on Route 3, leaving work, going to dinner, occasionally slowing to look. I wondered how long it would take before someone I knew went by. Both I and my car were easily identifiable, and this is Wayne County, after all.

Less than ten minutes later, a car slowed alongside me, flashers lit. The window went down and my eyes went up. It was Steph, from church, making that face. The one you make when your friend is in a snowy ditch, but doesn’t look injured. I was fine, I said, fine fine fine. Embarrassed. Steph’s husband got out and looked. From the front, it had looked like maybe he could push me out. From the back, that was laughable. People are coming, I said. I’m FINE. They weren’t completely sold, but they took off for dinner, rolling up the window with admonitions to call if I needed them.

I’d gotten a text while I talked. Jen was sitting in the parking lot behind me. I didn’t know there was a parking lot behind me, but I craned my neck around and saw her. I hadn’t asked her to come, but there she was, with a warm car and a phone charger and company. My door wedged open just far enough for me to slide out into the snow. I trudged up the road, watching for vehicles, and giving a thumbs up to a guy in a big truck slowing down to check on the car.

Paul, who had been on his way to pick up our great-nephew, didn’t come after all. I’d gotten a text from Tricia, and she and her husband were coming with chains and a truck — I hadn’t asked them either — and it didn’t make much sense for him to come, too. We didn’t really need two hooligans and a toddler in the mix. He went home to make supper.

And that’s how it came to be that Jen and I sat in her car, and Tricia and her husband sat in their truck, all of us talking through the open windows and reliving old stories while we waited on a tow truck, the chains and pickup having been deemed insufficient to the task at hand.

There was a lull in conversation, and I sat for a moment and realized that something seemed odd. It took a moment to identify the feeling. I was having fun. Against all odds, in the freezing cold, feet wet from tromping through snow, having completely undone anything good the massage therapist had accomplished, I was having fun. I laughed more in the two and a half hours we sat there than I had in the entire month before.

We are all ditched out right now, I think. Things are not going the way we had planned. It is harder than we thought, and everything is taking longer than expected, and we are cold and grumpy.

If anything is going to keep us sane while we wait for the tow, it is going to be the kindness of people who stop to check in, the stories that make us laugh till we cry, and the friends who show up without being asked.

And if you have friends that can help the tow truck driver figure out what on earth is going on when the hook gets stuck on your car for half an hour, and help free you from the second absurd muddle of the evening, even better.

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