Back in the day, San Bernardino was the shopping destination for anyone in or near my town.
It was a 15-minute drive, depending on traffic, and there was a foul sewage smell that let me know when our offramp was near.
One year my mom and I had a disastrous trip to there.
It started out fine. We pulled into a great spot in the Toys R Us lot and spent an hour or more tossing goodies into the cart with wild abandon. I always say things should be tossed into carts this way. Sometimes I even do a little foot-lift thing.
We stopped at the automatic glass doors leading out. It was pouring rain.
There’s nothing worse than a Southern Californian in the rain, (unless it’s one behind the wheel of a car). (Bonus bad if that person is my mother.)
We leaned over the booty to effect a shelter and made a run for it.
We loaded the goods and jumped in, sopping despite our rush.
Click. Click. No juice. My mom had left the lights on.
After some dramatic exhaling we ran back into the store and borrowed their phone to call for a battery jump from Triple A.
It occurs to me that several of my stories would be non-stories if they had happened in the age of cell phones. This one is doubly obsolete, because now headlights turn off automatically.
Triple A took a long time. I was a kid, so however long it took, it was longer in kid years. It was, like, a hundredth of my life. Who knew there was a circumstance under which I wanted to not be in Toys R Us?
The dude came. Clip, turn, rev. We were all set.
Mom left the engine running for warmth and battery charging while she climbed in the tow’s cab to do the paperwork.
Naturally she locked our car, so no one could steal it or the presents.
Naturally we didn’t realize this was a bad idea until the guy had driven away.
Back in the store we went to call and wait all over again.
After another 100th of my life had passed, we were on the road.
I think we moved four blocks before we ran out of gas.
In the moment an hour later, when I walked dripping and hungry into my home, I had never been and would never be so surprised not to have gotten a flat tire.