The van was a bargain at $800. It ran great, had a great body and It was just what we needed for our family. It was good for the farm as well because the seats popped out allowing us to fit six bales of hay in the back. It was even great for taking sick goats to the vet. Perfect. We bought it.
Shortly after we purchased the van, Bill took it to buy hay. When he came home, he unloaded the hay in the barn and cleaned out all the soccer clothes that had been left in the van by the girls. He put the clothes in a plastic bag, brought them in the house and deposited them in the dirty laundry basket. The next day, I left early for work and took the car because the van was out by the barn. When I left, Bill, Lulu and Katie were still home. I’m not sure what transpired next except to say that Katie decided to take the van to school that day. This is where it gets interesting.
Let me preface this story by saying that my husband can be a bit forgetful from time to time. He will tell you that this is not true, but this story will illustrate that it is indeed true. I, too, am forgetful. I can’t tell you how many times I find my coffee in the strangest places or lose my glasses five times a day. That said, this is a story about a series of unfortunate events based on the fact that Bill and I sometime forget things.
So, Katie was ready to leave for school when she discovered the van keys were not hanging on the key hooks by the door. She asked her dad where the keys were to the van. He said they must be in the van. Katie went out to the van and could not find the keys anywhere. Now, I know we should have had a spare key but it was one of those things on my “to do” list that I kept forgetting to get done. So, Katie and her dad went on a exhaustive search of the barn and the house for the van keys - all to no avail.
The van had one of those ignitions with tabs on either side of the keyhole. For some strange reason, Katie made a desperate attempt to start the van without the keys by holding the tabs and turning the ignition. I mean, how did she even think the van would start? But, sure enough, the ignition switch turned. Low and behold, the van started! Katie told her dad that she was able to start the van without the key. Bill went out to the van and turned it off and back on again - amazing.
I don’t know how the conversation went after the van miraculously started, but it was determined that Katie could take the van to school without the key.
I have to stop here and add my observations. Why the heck did the van start without the key in the first place? And, even though it started twice without the key, who’s to say that it would continue to start without the key? What if this was just a fluke and half way to school, the van stopped? What if she got to school and the van wouldn’t turn off? What if she got to school, parked the van and then could not start it when it was time to come home?...I mean I’m just saying....
Okay, now I got that out of my system. So, Katie takes the van and makes it to school without incident. Meanwhile, I’m still oblivious about any of this because I am at work. Fast forward to around 5:30 PM. I have arrived home from work and am making dinner when I get a phone call from Katie.
“Mom,” she says in a panic stricken voice, “The van is stuck in a ditch on the side of the road.”
“What!” I scream into the phone, “Are you okay?”
“I’m fine, but there’s something wrong with the van.”
“What’s wrong with the van?” I ask innocently.
“It’s stuck in a ditch.”
“Okay, I got that part. But why is it stuck in a ditch?”
“Because I tried to turn the corner to go to the gas station and the steering wheel locked and I couldn’t steer it.”
“The steering wheel locked up?”
“Yeah and the guy at the gas station was going to try to get it out of the ditch but he couldn’t start the van.”
“Why couldn’t he start the van?”
“I don’t have the key.”
“Why don’t you have the key?”
“I never had the key.”
“What are you talking about!”
“I took the van without the key and the guy wants to know why I don’t have the key. The van is smoking too.”
“Yeah, it’s smoking.”
At this point, I felt as though my head was going to explode. I tried to make sense out of what Katie was saying, but I was unable to comprehend how in the world she had managed to drive our smoking van into a ditch without the keys. Bill came into the kitchen and asked me why I was yelling into the phone.
“Your daughter is saying something about being stuck on the side of the road in a ditch without the van keys.” I answered exasperated.
“Where is she?” was all he said.
“What do you mean where is she?” I yelled at him, “Aren’t you the least bit curious how she got there without the keys?”
“I told her to take the van without the key.”
“What are you talking about!” I screamed again.
“Calm down.” He soothed, “Let me talk to Katie.”
He took the phone and spoke to his now crying child.
I listened to his end of the conversation still trying figure out how Katie got where she was without the keys.
“Smoking from where?”
“Calm down, I can’t understand you when you are hysterical.”
“Tell the police that we will be there with the title.”
“Did he put the fire out?”
“No, don’t try to start it again.”
“We’ll be there in a little while.”
“Mom will call AAA.”
“Okay, I’m supposed to call AAA (I didn’t tell Bill that I forgot to pay the AAA bill and we didn’t really have AAA anymore, but I didn’t think this was a good time to bring it up.)
and tell them that the van is stuck on the side of the road smoking but we have no key for it?” I said as we gathered up Lulu, the title to the van (to prove that we owned it and Katie didn’t steal it) and made our way out to the car.
“Don’t give me an attitude.” Bill retorted.
“ATTITUDE!” I shouted, “I’ll give you all the damn attitude I want!” I was on a roll now. “Why the heck was my daughter driving a van without the keys in the first place! And why is the van smoking! And why did the steering wheel lock up! Could it be because there was no key in the ignition and the steering wheel locked when she tried to turn the corner!”
The rest of the trip was made in silence. When we arrived at the infamous corner, the van was no longer smoking and our daughter was talking to a police officer.
“...don’t have the key.” I heard her saying as we approached.
“Hello, officer.” I said in my most pleasant voice, “This is our van and our daughter.” I handed him the title to the van. He looked it over and handed it back to me. He checked my ID and Katie’s ID to make sure that she was indeed our daughter.
“Okay,” He said as he made his way back to the patrol car, “This is one for the record books.”
It took us a few hours to get the van home. The towing company was cash only. We had to stop at a store with an ATM and withdraw the cash to pay the guy. When we got to the store, we were told that the ATM was broken. I had to buy five candy bars in five separate transactions (each time getting cash back) in order to withdraw enough cash. Needless to say, by the time we arrived home, we were all exhausted and no one was really talking.
The next morning, we discovered that the “smoking” was from the overheating engine. Why, you might ask, was the engine overheating? Well, it was because Bill wanted to make sure the van was okay for Katie to drive so he put water in the radiator. The only problem was; he forgot to put the cap back on. The van was officially declared dead by our neighbor mechanic who said the engine block cracked.
A few weeks later, I was doing laundry. I got to the bottom of the laundry basket where I found a bag full of soccer clothes. I emptied out the bag and, low and behold, there at the bottom of the bag were the keys to the van!