Three years ago I woke up at home, the Florida sun shining through the window, obtrusively nudging me out of bed, and I remember feeling thankful, not because of nature’s wake up call but because less than twenty-four hours before, I thought I might die. On January 9, 2014 my wife and I checked out of the Walt Disney World resort and began our two hour drive back home to Fort Pierce. It was an overcast day and a light drizzle turned into a torrential downpour as we got closer to home. The windshield was fogging up, so like any intelligent motorist, I flipped on the defroster and continued on my way. We were on a lonely stretch of highway 68, passing houses every once in a while, but mostly nothing but land on either side, and that is when smoke started pouring from beneath the hood. I pulled over to the side of the two lane highway and opened the hood, fully expecting to battle a flame and that’s when it hit me, the honeymoon was over.
Luckily there was no flame but apparently the car we had borrowed from my father-in-law had a really fun defect wherein the engine would overheat if the heat was turned on, which it was, to defrost the windshield. That might have been nice to know before we went on a two week trip during December and January, months that people often turn on the heater in their cars. We spoke to my brother-in-law, the mechanic on the phone and he told us to add some coolant and to drive slowly to the nearest gas station. Unfortunately there was no engine coolant to be found, however water would do the trick as well. I stepped outside into the pouring rain with a taco bell cup thrust above my head, collecting the tears of heaven to help us on our journey, like a deranged witch doctor. If you’re a normal person and have never done this before, you would be surprised at how long it takes to fill up a cup with droplets of water, and after about ten minutes, with the cup less than half full, I decided to pour what I had into the coolant reservoir. I eased the car back onto the road, determined not to stop until I reached a gas station, but the car had other plans, and began to overheat within seconds, so once again I parked on the side of the highway, next to a pasture full of cattle, and dialed triple A.
It was about two in the afternoon and the car service told me it would be about an hour to get a tow truck to me. Perfect. My wife and I sat in the car, talking and playing cards. The hour came and went, the rain continuing to fall around us, and no sign of Triple A. I waited a while and called again. It would be about an hour. That seemed familiar and didn’t inspire confidence, but I tried to stay positive and continued to play games as we waited for our hero to arrive. By about 4:30 I was starting to panic. It was rapidly getting dark and we were sitting just a few feet to the side of a somewhat busy two lane highway that was slick with rain, and I was sure that someone, a trucker probably, would lose control of their vehicle and come smashing into us, ending this nightmare, but also ending our lives. I called triple A at least six times, desperately seeking a tow truck driver and trying to figure out what was taking so long.
About seven o’clock the tow truck finally arrived, making me the happiest man in the world, the driver’s explanation for the delay being that there was flooding all along the Treasure Coast and he had been called in to help tow police cars and emergency vehicles that had been stuck. We were glad that we were on our way home but as it turned out, we weren’t out of the water yet, so to speak. The quarter mile road that led from the street to our house was flooded, so much so that our driver, in his massive truck, couldn’t drive on it. We had him leave us and the car by the street and we would wade through water to get home and come back for the car later. Desperate times call for desperate measures. The dark road leading to the house loomed ahead, water nearly to my knees, splashing gently as we walked slowly, trying not to make much noise, lest that draw unwanted attention to us. Our house backed up to a canal, home to alligators and snakes, and due to the flooding the canal was now connected to the yard, in one big pool of water. As we got to the end of the road and stepped off the flooded pavement into the flooded yard, the water became even deeper, resting midway between my knees and thighs. We were walking in a swimming pool in the pitch black of night, alligators presumably lurking nearby. The twenty yards needed to reach the front door seemed impossibly far and we lacked the confidence and fearlessness to continue forward. We turned around, walked back down the dark road, and waited by the street; my father-in-law was coming.
A big blue truck that I had never seen before pulled up beside us and the window revealed the driver to be my wife’s father. He had borrowed the truck from a friend and he thought he would be able to drive us to the house, but I had my doubts. We hopped in and slowly made our way back towards the house, the weight of the truck in the water causing waves to roll off both sides of the road. We pulled into the yard and he drove us as close as he could to the front door and bid us farewell. First my wife, then I jumped from the truck into the dark pool below, then ran up the stairs to the front door, finally home. It was a horrible experience, but was an absolutely fitting way for our vacation to come to an end, leaving no doubt that the honeymoon was over.