It was my birthday and it came close to being my last one.
I was driving home from work on George Washington Parkway (GW Parkway) at around 6:00 p.m. My Chevy Cavalier decided to have a breakdown in the midst of rush hour. I could not get my car out of the path of those heading to Virginia or Maryland who were wanting to get home as much as I did.
A Red Cross van driver was my knight in shining armor. He called Triple A and told me they say it would be about a half hour. He gave me a flare in case it got dark. Well, 6:30, 7:00, 7:30, and I was still looking in my rearview mirror hoping to see some vehicle resembling a tow truck. I can laugh about it now, but at the time, I was absolutely terrified!
I had seen flares on the highway, but I had never been up close to one. Since I had nothing else to do, I lit the thing. There’s nothing wrong with lighting a flare. But you don’t do it INSIDE your car with ALL the windows rolled up. That’s not a bright idea.
It was the biggest birthday candle I had ever seen. I kid you not! I saw my life flash before me. The Good Lord must have been watching over me because I was the sort of person that in a panic, I would have tossed the thing. Instead I held it in my right hand for dear life while I was trying to open the car door with the other hand. I managed to get out and had the wits about me to not throw the hot flare on the grass.
I still didn’t know what to do with the thing. The burning flare was getting awfully close to my fingers. Hoping another knight in shining armor might be out there who’d want to rescue a damsel in distress, I held the flare up. I became the Statue of Liberty on GW Parkway. The only difference was I wasn’t made of stone and I wasn’t as pretty as the lady in the New York harbor.
Nobody stopped! I doubt that I would have stopped myself if I had been driving by.
I laid the flare down on the median which I should have done all along. Well, I shouldn’t have lit the flare in the first place. A GW Pkwy patrol officer spotted my Cavalier and came to my rescue. He called in a tow truck and it arrived about a half hour later. The driver explained that when my call first came in, it was during shift change. Someone didn’t want to take my call. I didn’t take it out on him since he was the one who did take me home that night.
I finally got home and then listened to my Mom sing “Happy Birthday” on the answering machine. “Happy” is not the word I would use to describe that birthday. I didn’t tell her what happened on the Pkwy. She wouldn’t have been surprised since this wasn’t the first time I got myself into a “Lucille Ball” antic. It wouldn’t be the last time either.
A week or so later, I had a rash that wasn’t responding to any medicated cream. It didn’t itch but it sure burned. I went to the doctor who recognized the rash right away as being shingles. He explained that when I had the chicken pox when I was a child, the virus stayed in my body. He said that sometimes when was in under tremendous stress, the virus breaks out in shingles. I told him my flare story and he told me, “Maam, that would wake up any virus that’s been dormant for 30 years.”