There I was sitting in a hotel room somewhere in the middle of Wyoming. Yes, that was kind of unexpected. Our 80 hour long-haul trip to rescue a couple of tigers and a bobcat in the mountains of Montana had come to a screeching halt due to a temperamental fuel pump in one of our vans. I gave myself the short straw and decided to stay behind to wait for the it to be repaired while the rest of the team headed back down south in the sprinter van and a rented U-Haul box truck. We were still fighting the clock. I wasn’t really sure why the tigers needed to be in Mississippi by Friday at 3PM but that was the deadline. Either way, we had a big event on Saturday back at the sanctuary in Wylie and 4 of us had to be there. It was the annual Easter egg hunt. It's usually the busiest day of the year as well as the biggest fundraiser. We all were assigned to help so that started to be another deadline that was edging closer. Since I stayed behind, I was preparing myself for the 16-hour solo drive back to Dallas. Sitting in the room I tried to unwind, go through some photos and respond to emails. My plan was to finish eating and be asleep by 9. The van was supposed to be ready by 10:30 so that would put me home by 2AM on Saturday morning. I could get a few hours of sleep and be at the sanctuary by 9AM. Unless anything unexpected happened.
I ordered a taco burger and burrito form place called Taco John's. We saw them as we were driving through Colorado, Wyoming and Montana. I figured I'd give it a try. Their tater tots and raspberry tea were pretty good. That's about it. If the place was called Taco Juan's, I'd a been a whole lotta disappointed. As I was about done eating I started to think about my work situation or lack thereof. It was a weird feeling. I worked at the same place for 18 years. I had been there through 2 major moves, 4 company name changes, 5 title changes, 4 CEOs, you get the picture. Now, it was over. I started to feel bad about it. Then I started to wonder if I would find another job. I could freelance, I thought, or open my own shop. But then I would need clients. What if I couldn’t find any? These thoughts swirled in my head. I started to get a feeling of overwhelming insecurity. Then I realized that something else was swirling. The toilet. I guess the flapper didn’t set right so I got up and jiggled the handle and after a couple of minutes it stopped. Ok, it was time to go back to my wallowing. What was I going to do? What’s next for me? Just then, the toilet started again. Self-pity was put on hold. I opened the toilet tank and watched as the float would rise and then the water would shut off. After a minute the water would start again. It would run for 5 minutes and shut off for one. This was as inconvenient as it was unexpected. I was tired. I really didn’t want to wait for a maintenance guy to come and get the thing fixed. I also knew that the hotel was sold out so they weren’t going to give me another room. The off and on of the water was unacceptable so I did the most logical thing. I cut the water at the shut-off valve. Boom. Done. Back to back to my sadness. Just then I got a call from Ken. Gees, can’t a guy feel sorry for himself without being constantly interrupted?
“Hey man. we had a problem with Mindy” Ken said. Both Mork and Mindy were pretty fat. While that seemed normal for Mork, the male tiger, we already had a suspicion that Mindy might be pregnant. We were in a rush to get them delivered to the rescue center in Mississippi as soon as possible because of the potential complications of giving birth on the road. Being confined in roll cage could be dangerous for Mindy and the newborns. Since she had a prior pregnancy where she lost the cubs, there was a possibility she would require a c-section to help the delivery. None of the scenarios were good. “We can’t go on until we get her checked out” Ken continued. “Where are you?” I asked. “We’re at a rescue in Ft. Collins”. Apparently, they had only traveled about 100 miles south before they had to stop. "Tomorrow morning we’re going to Colorado State University. They’re taking some x-rays and then we’ll figure out what’s next.” So now my plans changed too. If I got the van at 10:30, I could meet them at CSU and then we could drive back together after all. Ken said he would keep me posted if anything happened over night but for now everything was ok. I hung up the phone with Ken. Where was I? Oh, yeah, woe is me, I don’t have a job, blah, blah, blah. Then the phone rang again. It was my wife. She has the most comforting voice. She wanted to make sure I was okay because I had told her about David, the garage owner that was quite vocal about his disdain for Hispanics and African Americans (See previous post). I assured her I was fine. Whenever I talk to her everything seems right with the world. We talked for about 45 minutes. By that time all the day’s excitement had taken it’s toll. At that point I was too tired for self-pity or any emotional self-flagellation. I’m generally not that type but somehow I figured I was probably entitled to it or something because of what I was going through. Right? Either way, I was done. I had everything ready for my long drive back but it was time for bed. I don’t remember a thing until my alarm went off at 9AM.
At about 9:30 I got a call from the young lady at the garage. "Your van will be ready in one hour” she said. “Ok. Will someone be picking me up at the hotel?” I asked. “Hmm, I guess that would be me”. She didn’t seem too happy. I told her I had confirmed that with David. “Well then I’ll just have to get him to come get you” she snapped. I guess we know who actually runs that place. I finished getting ready and then I got a call from the garage. David was on his way. About 5 minutes later he pulled up. He rolled down the window and greeted me. “Good morning sunshine” he said in a chipper tone. “How’s it going?” I said in a low voice. It was a rhetorical question but David went off on another one of his stories. “Well I’ve had this problem with my knee. I can’t seem get this thing fixed.” Then we passed an auto repair shop. They were working outside. There were several cars up on jack stands. He waved at one of the mechanics. “Yeah, I’m gonna sell him my shop one of these days. Though I don’t think he would get used to working indoors. Haha!” He talked the whole way back to the shop. I was reduced to an occasional “Yup” and “You’re kindling” and “Really?” He parked the van and we got out. I pulled out the cash for the repair. “Five-hundred-and-nine dollars”. I tried to say it with the same emphasis as he did when he gave me the estimate. He told me to pay the young lady as if he didn't want to be tainted by the appearance of an under-the-table transaction. As I paid her, I asked if she could give me a receipt and the original part. She handed me a piece of paper and we went into one of the repair bays to retrieve the old fuel pump. David saw her putting in the box. He came at us quickly and said “Yup, it was the fuel pump”. When I was back in high school my Dad taught me to ask for the original parts whenever I had work done to my car. That was just to make sure they actually did the work. As I was walking out, David followed me through the door and said goodbye after one last story. He was an interesting character. His comments from the day before really shook me. Once I let the feelings go, I stopped trying to figure out why he said what he said. Thanks to him my insides were stirred. My passion was ignited. Quite unexpectedly, David had become an important part of my adventure. I really wasn’t expecting that. I asked if I could take a picture with him. He said “Oh, one of them selfies, sure!” Snap!
I jumped into the van just and as I put it into drive my phone rang. It was Ken. I was waiting to find out what had happened to Mindy. He said “Hold on to your seat.” He started to break up as he was talking. I lost the signal. I tried a couple of times but couldn’t get through. I would have to wait to find out what happened.