The Gilligan’s Island Effect

The Gilligan’s Island Effect

There used to be a show on TV called Gilligan’s Island. It was about a group of passengers and crew who went out on a 3 hour pleasure cruise and ended up stranded on a tiny island in the middle of nowhere. That was how my day felt Wednesday.

At around 1pm a friend texted me: “Hey. Can you give me a ride to Lancaster to pick up a car?”

Yeah, okay, I figured I could spare a few hours from studying. I figured I would be gone for 6 hours, tops: 3 hours driving and 3 hours wriggle room to factor in traffic and such. I also figured while my friend did what she needed to do to finalize the deal, I could squeeze in some reading.

Pfft… The thing I did not factor in was that when I do things with this friend, Murphy is riding along with us, waving his Law around.

Getting there was okay. We found the bank for her to withdraw money and, after being momentarily lost, we finally found the meetup point. Things started to indicate they would be going sour when there was communication problems between my friend and her boyfriend, who the car was for. He wasn’t receiving any of the images we were sending, showing damage to the car. My friend was already uncomfortable with the transaction, but the sale was made and we decided to eat before getting back on the road.

By the time we were ready to go, night had fallen. So, of course, that’s when we started finding all the stuff that made the car not the greatest thing to drive for 90 minutes down a dark, dark freeway. Things like the driver side belt doesn’t buckle or there were no illumination on the dash. After 10 minutes of messing around with the car, we were on our way.

We found our way into the I-15, my friend in her new-used car and me in my car behind her. The thing with the 15, though, is there’s a lot of inclines. The dangerous kind that require runaway truck ramps. I think we drove for maybe 20 minutes before I see my friend suddenly swerve right, into the blocked-off-for-construction lanes. I managed to pull over, too, stopping behind her just in time to see her car jerk forward in a sudden stop of its own.

She climbed out of her car, visibly shaken, and came over to my window. She explained to me that her breaks froze up. She couldn’t get the car to stop and almost rear-ended the semi she was behind, which was when she yanked her car into the construction zone. After she explained to me what happened, a guy who was set to work on the road came by and she had to explain it all to him again. After that, she got into my car.

I suggested she call AAA. My idea was to get the car towed to the nearest rest stop or gas station and leave it there until her boyfriend, who I believed should have been there instead of me, could come get it. She instead decided to have it towed all the way home instead. When she called AAA, they told her it would be an hour before the truck would get there; it was already 9pm by this time.

So, we waited…and waited…and waited.

When to tow truck arrived, we both got out of the car to talk to him. I must look like I have some sort of authority because he came right to me, introduced himself, and tried to ask me what was going on. I steered him toward my friend, letting her talk while I listened and did something I had wished I thought of doing sooner.

One of my housemates is from Wyoming. He tried to explain to me once what it was like to look up at the stars when there is no light pollution. I didn’t understand what he was explaining. I still don’t understand now, but after Wednesday night, I have the knowledge of how much I don’t understand.

When I looked up at the sky, where there was no light pollution and it was late enough that there were barely any cars passing by, I saw so many stars! I’ve lived in LA county and Orange County my whole life and it’s nearly impossible to find a spot that doesn’t have so much light that you can only see the brightest constellations. So when I looked up and saw starlight for the first time, I was completely awestruck. I couldn’t tell you what the conversation was happening behind me because I was so focused on the sky.

However, I had a task to do, and the tow truck guy told me about it. It didn’t occur to me that with the two lanes of traffic blocked off, my car was still in danger of being hit. My focus was pulled from the sky by the tow truck guy telling me I should move my car to next to his truck so if there was an accident, it would hit his truck and not my little sedan.

The tow truck guy managed to load the car quicker than I expected and we were all on our way. I think my friend and I both expected the worst to have passed, and for the most part it did. However, that tow truck guy knew the highway better than I did, so he managed to lose me. I caught up to him, but didn’t realize it until after we ended up on separate freeways. Well, no worries, really. My friend and I decided to make it kinda fun by seeing who would make it back to her house first; me or the tow truck. That challenge was quickly cut short, though.

Just as we were getting back to the outskirts of Orange County, everything seeming free and clear, I see something bouncing my way on the freeway. While going at least 70 miles per hour, I noticed at the last minute there was a plastic bucket heading right for my car. I couldn’t swerve left because there was a car, so I hoped for the best and tried to swerve right, toward the bucket, with the hope that it would just pass under. Perhaps it’s better that it didn’t, because I realized as I was doing it how stupid an idea it was.

A moment later there was a clunk and a horrible scraping noise. Another moment and there was another crunching sound and the scraping was worse. I didn’t care where I was, I needed to stop now. So I pulled over as far as I could, which wasn’t much help since there was no shoulder lane. I was at the end of a wide on-ramp, my distress lights flashing and people passing me at California highway speeds.

I tried to climb out, but my friend jumped out before I did. She admitted later that she realized it might have been the dumbest decision she ever made. She checked my wheel, jumped back in the car, and told me to back up. I cringed as I heard the crunching again as I backed up, still on a freeway on-ramp, in the middle of the night, with other cars speeding past me. Twice more we did that until the bucket came free and my friend tossed it over the side of the freeway.

Once more we were on our way. At this point the whole trip was becoming a laugh-fest. While scary, we kept joking about how we should have kept the bucket and mounted it, proof of the kill. For sure the tow truck driver would beat us to her place. Hey, what could possibly happen next after all this?

We had agreed the best thing would be for me to pull off at the next brightly-lit exit to check my car, just in case. In case it’s not obvious, that didn’t go easy, either. There was a shopping center right off the freeway about five minutes from where we ditched the bucket. I pulled off and made a right, expecting there to be a driveway to the brightly lit McDonald’s right there.

Nope.

So, I made another right. And another. And another. I had managed to circle all the way around and under the freeway! I ended up pulling into a gas station I saw two turns before. My friend went and got us something to drink while I looked over my car. That checked out and we were on our way again.

Things went fairly flawless from there. We managed to meet up with the tow truck driver and reach my friend’s house. However, the universe needed to get one more jab in at me. My friend’s boyfriend, the person all this happened for, comes out of the house when he saw us drive up. The tow truck driver is waiting for instructions to unload the car, I’m trying to get my car out of the way, so what my friend’s boyfriend decides to do is, while right in front of my car, start making out with my friend.

It was the one thing I didn’t take in stride because it was the one thing that there was control to be had. Somewhat joking, mostly serious, I start flailing at my windshield and screaming at them to get the hell out of the way. To make out later or in their driveway, people were trying to not block the street. I probably looked ridiculous.

I didn’t care. The adventure was over. What was supposed to be a three to six hour trip took almost 12 hours. I had to be up to drive myself to class and even though I was closer by crashing out at their place, I didn’t think to bring all my school stuff.

It was only supposed to be a “three hour tour.”

[image: William Warby]