The Vagaries of Existence

The Vagaries of Existence 

By Patrick F. Cannon

In the event you think I lead a charmed life, what with my lovely wife Jeanette and two doting children – not to mention my new Forest Park, IL condo, which overlooks one of the nicer alleys in our new community – let me disabuse you of that notion.

Life, as they say, is fraught. On the 8th day of July, while motoring to St. Louis with my brother Pete and his wife Mary Beth to my great nephew Patrick’s wedding, with my wife Jeanette at the wheel of the BMW, a semi decided that it wanted to be exactly where we were at the time. Throughout the history of motoring, this has never worked to the advantage of the smaller vehicle. Such was the case here, as the driver’s side of the BMW was more or less destroyed. Through some miracle of physics or geometry or perhaps magic, no one was injured. Jeanette kept her cool and managed to get the car on the right shoulder; the truck came to rest on the left shoulder, just opposite.

It was about 3:30 pm and we were just approaching the bridge over the Mississippi that would land us in St. Louis. From there, it would be a mere twenty minutes or so until we arrived at the conference center at Washington University, where we were staying and where the rehearsal dinner was scheduled to begin at 5:00 pm. Now, if the world worked with the efficiency that I mistakenly think is actually possible, we might have still made the dinner dressed appropriately. But, as you may have guessed, it rarely does and this was no exception.

The truck driver turned out to be a nice guy, and apologized for hitting us. He said he thought one of his tires had blown and pulled over without looking. Eventually, an Illinois State Trooper showed up. He questioned everyone concerned and then spent what seemed like hours writing up his report in his air- conditioned car while we amused ourselves on the shoulder in 90 degree heat. An Illinois emergency tow truck also appeared, but not to tow us, but to be on stand by to prevent further calamities. Eventually, the trooper called a state-approved towing company, who had to tow it to their facility in Illinois, as they were not permitted to cross the border.

Breaking some kind of law, I’m sure, the trooper and the state emergency vehicle drove the four of us over the river and dropped us off at Busch Stadium, home of the hated Cardinals, where our son-in-law would eventually pick us up. By the way, across the street from the stadium is quite a nice pre- and post-game facility where they sell cold Budweiser, if you can believe it. We indulged. My son-in-law, Boyd, then drove us to the towing company’s lot so we could retrieve our clothes and other stuff.

After arriving at the conference center, while the rest of the crew was at the rehearsal dinner in their sweaty togs, I was on the phone with State Farm for a good hour. Thankfully, a large Manhattan and dinner were sent along to me. The next morning, I rented a car. The actual wedding and reception were great and the rental car got us back on Sunday. Alas, I had to keep it longer than I wanted, because our other car was in the shop n Oak Park!

The local repair shop, which had done OK for us in the past, finally decided that the starting problem (it didn’t) was a keying fault. After a couple of days, it was determined that his computer couldn’t handle the job, so referred us to the local Ford dealer, who did the rekeying at a cost of nearly $600. The very next day I went to the Village of Forest Park’s municipal building to get some forms (did I mention that we were in the process of moving? Which we did this past Monday).

When I tried to start the car in their lot, it of course didn’t start. It was towed back to Ford, who concluded that the real problem was some kind of transmission module, which they replaced at no cost, since it was still under warranty.

In the meantime, the BMW was making its way to St. Louis and then back to Illinois. As mentioned, it was initially towed to a facility in Illinois. State Farm called the towing company to arrange to have it towed to their facility in St. Louis. Regrettably, they didn’t call until the next day, a Saturday, and the towing company said they were closed for the weekend! In the event, they didn’t get the car until the next Tuesday, whereupon they had it towed to a body shop in Freeberg, IL for repair. As I write this on August 4, it’s still there.

My good friend Jerry at Freeberg Auto Body, in explaining the endless delays, said: “If it was a Chevrolet, I would have had the parts the next day, but it’s a different story with a BMW.” After having talked to Jerry many times since July 13, he now seems like a member of the family. On Tuesday, he said all was well and the car would be ready today. So, I made a reservation on Amtrak for the morning train to St. Louis tomorrow to pick up the car.

As I’m so fond of saying, “It’s an ill wind that blows no good.”  I have always enjoyed train travel, and as a young man even worked for the New York Central Railroad. My last long trip was overnight to Saratoga Springs, NY to spend a few days at the races and enjoy this lovely part of New York State. The trip was a thoughtful birthday gift from my wife Jeanette We hit a truck in Cleveland.


Copyright 2016, Patrick F. Cannon



6 thoughts on “The Vagaries of Existence

  1. Well that was quite an adventure. Jeanette never told me all the details. Sounds like my trip to Huntington Beach a couple of years ago. And people wonder why I don’t go anywhere. Great job Pat as always.


  2. OMG – I am SO glad that none of you were injured!! What a hair-raising tale! Clearly, you handled it as well as any human could have; that is to say, with the assistance of a stiff Manhattan. Cars can be fixed, thought some much more easily than others. But cache does have its price. Surely you have endured several years’ worth of “bad juju”, and life will be a bowl of cherries for quite some time to come!


    1. Thanks, Kathleen. Found out our former neighbors at 321 are now in Austin (he was rarely there, just had it because his son was still in school in Oak Park). He and his new wife are running some kind of new program at UT.



  3. Your humor overcame your curmudgeonliness on this one, and although you had every right to wail and groan, you did it with such a light touch that it’s only later the reader grasps just how awful and serious and terrible everything actually was. Good on you and your wife, Pat — grace under pressure, indeed!!


    1. Thanks, Karen. It’s only later that you realize how close you came to a real disaster. If the truck had hit us a split second sooner or later, we might have spun out with who knows what results.



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