Tuesday, April 27, 2010

It All Happened Last Week

Last week, I attended the annual meeting of the Baptist Missionary Association of America (BMA) in Fort Smith, Arkansas. If you don’t know anything about the BMA, it is an association of churches that sends missionaries to many different nations around the world, broadcasts the gospel through radio broadcasts, publishes Sunday school material, facilitates conferences and a number of other things, but this post is about none of that. This post is about what happened outside of the meeting.

My parents are members of another BMA church and have attended the annual meeting for as long as I can remember. We usually end up running around together during the week of the meeting. This time, as they were crossing southern Missouri on the way to the meeting, a turkey flew up in front of them and struck their windshield while they were traveling at 65 or 70 miles per hour. Now a wild turkey isn’t as big as the kind of turkey you might eat for Thanksgiving dinner, but he’s still a big bird. This particular bird broke their windshield and left a ten inch circular dent in it up near the left top corner. They were able to see well enough to drive, but it would need to be fixed before they headed home. This didn’t seem like a particularly bad problem, since I would be there with my truck and they could leave their vehicle at the glass shop and ride with me to the meeting.

Neither my parents nor I had eaten when we arrived in Fort Smith, so we left their vehicle at the hotel and drove a few blocks over to IHOP. We had finished eating and the waitress had just brought me another glass of tea. We had plenty of time and we had already registered for the meeting, so I figured I could sit there sipping my tea for some time.

But then a woman approached our table. “Are you guys driving that black pickup out there?”

I was hoping I could say no, even before I knew why she wanted to know, but Mom indicated that we were.

“I backed into it.” Her words were clear, but I still wanted it not to be true. This was not the relaxing time I had hoped for. I was going to have to get up and see what she had done to my new truck with less than three thousand miles on it. “Yours doesn’t look as bad as mine.”

At first, I didn’t think it was that bad. The front bumper was damaged, but it looked like I could drive it. We traded insurance information and she went on her way. We got in the truck to drive back to the hotel. I turned the wheel and hear the wheel rubbing. So, I parked it and spent the next part of the afternoon messing with the insurance company. We discussed whether we should call for a rental car and eventually Dad walked the mile back to the hotel to pick up their own damaged vehicle.

That evening, following the first session of the meeting, we went out and got in their vehicle. As we watched, a church van parked in the space in front of us (we being backed into our space) began to back up. As we watched, the driver backed up until he bumped into us. Not being able to go farther, he kept trying to push on the accelerator. When that didn’t work, he pulled forward and back out again, until he hit their vehicle again. Dad honking the horn didn’t seem to make him aware that we were back there. The driver pulled away, I suppose without being aware that he had done anything wrong.

The next morning things looked better. We went to the airport and I rented a car. After that, we dropped of my parent’s vehicle at the glass shop. I called a tow truck and got him to drop off my truck at a body shop so they could pull the bumper out enough that I could drive it. We went to eat lunch and before we finished eating I received a call saying my truck was ready. So, Dad and I went back to the body shop, after which we dropped the rental car off at the airport, and then we went back to the meeting. I had to be there are 1:30 for the Baptist Music Fellowship meeting and then there was a session of the main meeting after that. During that session, Dad received a call saying their vehicle was ready, so we went back to the glass shop and picked it up.

Things went well for the rest of the meeting, other than me being a little more worried than I should have been about how I was going to get the truck fixed. Then on Thursday morning we headed for Tulsa to see my grandparents and my aunt. I hadn’t bought gas as I had intended, so my parents went ahead and I stopped at the gas station. Sometime between the time they went through and went I did, someone dumped a load of sheet metal on I540. I hit one sheet. It made an awful racket on the way under the truck. It’s a wonder that I didn’t hit more. It was all over the road. But I made it out of town, glad to say goodbye to the beautiful city of Fort Smith, Arkansas.

But our troubles weren’t quite over. When I arrived at my aunt’s house, I found that my parents were still sitting in their vehicle. I assumed they had just arrived and I wasn’t the four minutes behind them that I thought, but when I approached them I discovered that Dad was unable to unfasten his seatbelt. They had gone through an exact change only toll booth in Oklahoma and while they were searching for exact change they had dropped a dime in the seatbelt buckle. Dad managed to loosen the belt enough that he could crawl out of it, but we had to unbolt the belt and fish around with a pocket knife for some time before we could free the dime from the buckle.

In our years of traveling to the national BMA meeting, I don’t think we’ve ever had so much trouble. Although, in Biloxi—a place we enjoyed before the gambling establishment ruined it—our hotel room caught on fire one year and our friends had trouble with their steering wheel or ignition or something and there was a guy who was peeking in hotel room windows. Picture three young preachers chasing a guy around the beach outside the hotel on that one.

There’s no real point to any of this. My truck goes in the shop today and I hope it won’t take them long to put it all back in proper order, as good as new. It’s more of a hassle than anything else. I suppose you can try to draw a connection to writing, if you like, but I figure it’s just normal adventures in life.