I drive a Ford Explorer affectionately nicknamed “The Behemoth” due to her tank-like maneuverability and gasoline addiction. She’s older and has a lot of miles on her, but she’s generally pretty dependable.
That’s why I didn’t give a second thought Thursday to grabbing my camera bag and keys and heading out in The Behemoth for an afternoon of working hooky.
It had been a long, difficult week by that point, made even more so by a headline snafu and a couple of typos in Wednesday’s edition. The typos we have to take the blame for locally, but the headline was the work of a designer in our pagination hub. She accidentally typed “killed” instead of “injured,” and the mistake wasn’t spotted before the pages went to the printer.
News articles are written by human beings, and human beings are fallible. That means errors will happen, and they’ll sometimes slip by all the safeguards and be printed. That’s something you have to learn if you’re going to have a career in journalism, because otherwise the shame, disappointment and even rage sparked by an error in something bearing your name will eat you alive. People may think we don’t care, but in the end all we have is the reliability of our names and readers’ understanding that we’re staking our personal reputations on the line with each and every sentence.
Now, I don’t mind taking my lumps when I make a mistake. And I don’t mind people who call in genuinely questioning something they’ve read. What I do mind – what I think anyone would — are the people who want to rub it in your face. Like, for example, the lovely letter I received Thursday suggesting that we need to hire a proofreader – a letter that contained no less than 12 misspellings and punctuation errors. Pot, meet kettle.
Anyway, by midday Thursday I was in a foul mood. A change of scenery, and perspective, was imperative. So I jumped in Behemoth, loaded her CD player with the loudest metal music in my arsenal, and headed out to “get away from it all.”
I really had a work assignment – I needed a photo to accompany an article that appears on another page. But what I didn’t do was hurry. I dropped the windows, blasted the stereo and headed up to North Fork for some shots, then headed over to Rough River State Resort Park for virtually the same thing.
After a few hours, I knew I had to head back to Leitchfield. As I cruised down Highway 79 into Short Creek, I suddenly had a hankering for ice cream. Robbie’s Quick Stop has wicked good soft serve, so I wheeled in for a cone.
And within 10 minutes my week went from difficult to cursed, because Behemoth decided she wasn’t going to start. Yep, there I was a good 11 miles from my office, and 15-plus miles from home, and no amount of begging, pleading, praying or cussing could get her engine to fire up.
My first “white knight” teasingly yelled across the parking lot, asking if there was gas in Behemoth’s tank. When I answered yes, this gentleman took the time to help. He had me pop the hood and started checking for obvious problems, such as broken belts or no oil. He was soon joined by a couple of others, who pitched in to check fuses and other possibilities. After having me try to turn the engine over again, they issued an ominous diagnosis – fuel pump problems.
After thanking them for their efforts, I called AAA. Yep, a tow truck would head my way, the dispatcher confirmed – in a couple of hours.
As I waited, perfect strangers stopped to ask if I needed help. They offered phones, and well wishes. Heck, even county industrial development coordinator Dudley Cooper, heading west, spotted me and offered a ride back to Leitchfield if I needed one.
My final white knight strolled over from a nearby house to check on me. He asked what Behemoth had been acting like before she pitched her hissy fit, then surmised that a faulty oil gauge or pump might be the problem. The computers in newer cars, he explained, can lock up fuel pumps if they believe no oil is present, to help avoid damaging the engine.
After a search for wrenches, he returned and popped off one of the battery cables. The computer reset, and Behemoth fired right up.
“Don’t turn it off before you get home,” my rescuer warned, eschewing all offers of pay as he strode away.
A quick “thanks, but no thanks” call to AAA, and Behemoth and I were on the road again, headed straight for home this time. She’ll remain there a few days, until I can get her an appointment at the “car doctor” and determine the reason for her betrayal.
The moral to my tale? Get away from it all if you must, but don’t head so far away that friendly faces aren’t visible.
Oh yea – and don’t forget to use spell check.