Equipped With Jesus and On-Star by Diane Marquette

Our Thanksgiving visit had been most enjoyable.  Their new house was fabulous and the kids and the chocolate Lab seemed to be adjusting well.  On the drive to the airport we discussed plans for our next family gathering.  My mother-in-law and I sat in the back, my husband in front, and my stepson was behind the wheel of his dark green SUV.

The sky was clear and traffic light.  Our flight was on schedule and we had allowed sufficient time for baggage check-in, security clearance, and leisurely boarding.  Life was good.  But within ten miles of the Atlanta airport, the wheels came off – almost literally.  

We had been driving in the fast lane.  (Actually all the lanes of Interstate Route 75 are fast lanes – we were in the fastest.)  I was aware that our vehicle was slowing down.  J.B. steered the truck onto the shoulder of the road – the left shoulder.  As we coasted to a halt, my heart rate began to pick up speed.  The engine had stalled.  We were dead in the water. This is not good.

J.B. turned the key in the ignition, but the engine wouldn’t start.  (There are technical terms and automotive phrases one might expect to hear me address at this point, but they don’t matter.  All you need to know is that the truck wouldn’t start.)  

As he studied the dashboard, J.B. spoke in short sentences.  “It just lost power.” “No lights came on.”  “I know it’s got gas.”  “Just checked it.”  “Maybe due for an oil change.”   “No ‘check engine’ light came on”.  His mind was racing through a litany of possibilities.

The speed limit on I 75 is 70 mph.  One can only imagine the speed at which some of those vehicles were shooting past us.  Our truck was buffeted by passing cars and vans, but the tractor-trailers rocked us with a ferocity that made us exchange worried glances.

I looked at my watch and tried to relax. Yeah, right. We still had plenty of time to make our plane if this didn’t take more than, oh, say, ten minutes.  I carefully analyzed the situation.  The truck was dead.  Dead on the left shoulder of an incredibly scary road.  The doors on the left side of the truck faced a concrete barrier, which hopefully protected us from the opposing traffic.  But only about three feet of open pavement separated us from the speeding vehicles roaring up from behind.  I suddenly fully understood the meaning of the term “sitting duck”.  

With four sets of eyes riveted on his right hand, J.B. again twisted the key in the ignition.  Nothing. “Come on.”   He pumped the gas pedal and tried again.  “Come on.” And again.  And again.  Nothing.  He sat back heavily in his seat.

He opened his door, the rude traffic sounds invading our personal space.  He got out, shut the door, and walked to the front of the truck.  He raised the hood, then touched and wiggled a few suspect parts.  He got back in the truck and tried the engine again.  No such luck. Does wiggling ever really help? “The last time I got an oil change, somebody said something about my fuel injectors needing cleaning.” Okaaay.

Each of us looked out our window.  I could see not-too-distant planes climbing into the clear blue sky. But we’re so close! I heard J.B. and my husband discussing what the trouble could be.  No matter what they might come up with, reality was setting in.  We were not going to be able to fix the problem ourselves and we would probably miss our plane.  I watched another plane rising into the sky.

“We’ve got On-Star.”  My head snapped around. I’d heard those commercials!  They perform miracles!  We’re saved! J.B. pressed a button on the dashboard.  Immediately, a disembodied voice identifying herself as Jane responded.  We all stared at the radio where Jane’s voice came from.  J.B. calmly and thoroughly described the symptoms of the truck as well as our location.  Jane wanted to know if we were in any immediate danger.  J.B. said no.

Had Jane asked me, my answer would have been different. Danger?  Definitely. Immediate?  Well, possibly any second.  Does that count? I turned in my seat and looked out the rear window.  Four lanes of traffic rocketed toward and then past us.  There was more speeding traffic on the other side of the concrete barrier.  I could hear it, but thankfully, I couldn’t see it.  We could be rear-ended by someone trying to dial his girlfriend on his cell phone.  Or sideswiped by a car that had drifted too far over the line.
Lord, help us!

I heard Jane asking J.B. what his choice would be – send a tow truck or send a person with a can of gas.  He couldn’t have both.  Excruciating silence.  We stared at J.B. “Send the gas,” he said.

I watched more planes taking off.  I closed my eyes so I would stop seeing the cars and trucks shooting past us. Please help us, Lord.  Please let it be that we just need gas.  That would be easy, wouldn’t it? J.B.’s voice broke into my prayer. “I’m sure the truck’s got gas.  That’s not going to be the problem.” Great.  But couldn’t we just pretend it might be?

A tiny white car, dented and dinged, pulled to a screeching halt in front of us.  One back-up light flashed on and the car quickly accelerated in reverse in our direction.  A scruffy young man wearing a halo got out of the car and opened the trunk.  He lifted out a small red container and, hugging the concrete barrier,  carried it to the back of our truck.  J.B. got out and joined him.  

The three of us twisted in our seats, hoping to witness a miracle.  One bit of luck was with us – the fill site for the truck’s gas tank was on the left side. Thank you, Jesus. After emptying the contents of the can, the angel replaced the cap as J.B. reached for his wallet.  $40.00 for two gallons of gas. That seemed pretty reasonable.

“I think a group Our Father might be in order,” I said to the others.  They nodded.  My husband lowered his head and closed his eyes.  His brow was furrowed in concentration.  My mother-in-law gazed out the window as her lips moved silently.  I quickly said my prayer and watched another plane rise into the sky.

J.B. got back into the vehicle and reached for the ignition key.  Fully expecting that we were now good to go, I checked to make sure my boarding pass was still in my pocket.  I was putting on fresh lip-gloss when the same sickening engine noise greeted our ears.  J.B. pressed Jane’s button again.  Jane had been replaced by Cindy.  Jane must have been fired because the gasoline didn’t work.  J.B. told Cindy that now we needed a tow truck.  

I felt that more prayers were in order.  Maybe we needed more than On-Star to save the day. It doesn’t matter if we miss our plane, Lord.  We’ll get home eventually.  Please help J.B.  I feel so bad for him.  He’s so worried about us catching our plane…

And that’s when God answered me.  He’s the original On-Star, you know.  “Listen,” He said.  “You’ve got two issues here.  One is to get the three of you to the airport on time and the other is to get J.B. and his truck on the way to being repaired.  Tell him to have On-Star call a taxi to pick you up here and take you to the airport.  After you’re gone, he can focus on his truck.”  I sat in stunned silence. Sounds like a plan to me! Thanks! I repeated the suggestion to the others, though not reveling its source.  They liked it.

“Cindy?”  J.B. said.  “Before you send the tow truck, can you get a taxi out here to pick up my family and get them to the airport?”  

“Certainly.  If you can hold, I’ll locate the closest one for you.”  

I checked my watch. It could still work.  If the cab got here very quickly and we got to the airport without any traffic delays, and there was no line at the ticket counter, and…

“Sir?  There’s a cab company not far from your location.  One will be there in five minutes.”  Ahhh.  A collective sigh of relief. Good plan.

Our next angel drove a maroon mini van.  We all got out of the truck on the left side, handed him our suitcases, and crowded between the minivan and the truck.  We stood just a few feet from the lanes of speeding traffic, each of us hugging J.B. “This isn’t how I wanted to say good-bye to you,” J.B. said, his voice breaking as he embraced his grandmother.  

Our sense of urgency seemed to stall.  We hesitated getting into the van.  As much as we wanted to be away from this upsetting situation, we didn’t want to leave J.B. to face it alone.  The cars and trucks whizzed by at a sickening pace. This must be how NASCAR pit crews feel! Casting sympathetic looks over our shoulders, we climbed into the van.

I’ll spare you the full details of the rest of our adventure.  I won’t describe how the cab driver, knowing we were in a hurry, shot across those four treacherous lanes of traffic, careened onto the exit ramp, and broke every speed limit getting us to the airport.  I won’t tell you how we hurried through the airport and that our suitcases just barely made it onto the plane.  I’ll refrain from saying that we made it to the gate just in time for boarding, and I definitely won’t tell you that we didn’t get any lunch.