Our favorite wake up device is a radio set to classical music from KUSC FM. The host at that time in the morning is Dennis Bartel. He does not attempt being a stand up comic, but he has a pleasant sense of humor. He evidently keeps in touch with the Highway Patrol because he reports commuter accidents with some details. The other morning he reported that there was a man with a flat tire on the freeway who was out in the traffic lane, changing the tire. Well, that provoked my memory banks, and I came up with another ancient story to tell you.
I was a young pastor, taking a carload of young people to French Creek Bible Conference near Morgantown, PA. Our Chevy station wagon was packed with kids and luggage. In fact we had tied several bags to the rack on the top. From Wilmington,DE (home church) to French Creek involved several miles along the Pennsylvania Turnpike. The mood was jovial with anticipation of old friends and new experiences at the familiar, if rustic, confines of our group campground. Just as with camping in general, there are some fanatic loyalists who wouldn't miss the annual week at French Creek, and there are some who avoided it like the plague. I had the camping type in the car so the mood was light.
I had questioned myself about the strength of the cord I had used to tie the luggage on the rooftop carrier, and decided it was quite strong enough. After all, it was clothesline. What I hadn't sufficiently calculated was just how old and deteriorated the fibers were in this cord. We heard only a slight rumble above our heads, but one of the girls was yelling: "We lost our luggage!" I saw our bags tumbling on the highway and pulled to the shoulder immediately.
I am the adult, and my first calling is the safety of these kids. So I ordered them all to stay in the car and went out to see if I could rescue the bags. Now remember this is the Pennsylvania Turnpike. The speed limit in those days was 65, and there were 18 wheelers barreling along the roadway. I saw one truck deliberately straddle one of our suitcases, and breathed a sigh of relief. Then I looked back at the car only to see one of the kids running out onto the pike to grab one of the cases. Of course it had to be Violet, who was easily the dizziest impulsive kid in the group. I yelled at her to get back to the car, but I think she ignored me. Now I'm envisioning how this tough break may easily become a life changing tragedy. "That dumb broad! I would like to beat her severely about the head and shoulders, but I'd better just get this luggage off the roadway quickly and it will all be over."
So I timed my several trips out to the center of the turnpike so as to space myself between the arrival of the next truck or car. We retrieved all the bags. One of them, belonging to another girl in the car, was fabric and suffered enough damage that I placed it in the car. I bound up the rest as best I could, and off we went. After I ragged on Violet for her abject stupidity, we all began to smell the sweet pungent vapors of a broken bottle in the damaged luggage. The mood was now a bit more sober, but teenagers sense the excitement of the strangest events, and they were struck with the drama of this episode. There were some complaints about the stink, and, of course, the girl whose clothing was soaked with the aromatic bottle had to find a wash machine as soon as we arrived at camp.
I love Violet, but I'll never forget this foible.