This could have ended so differently

by | Nov 28, 2020 | Life Lessons & Leadership | 0 comments

Fault vs Responsibility Shawn Trautman Lessons in Leadership
This was the exact moment we got home yesterday and, while taking a deep breath, I realized just how fortunate we’d been.
 
I shared a small part of the story yesterday, but it really didn’t capture the whole story and what made it a good one.
 
And, it’s a worthwhile story. And fairly lengthy.
If it’s worth the read, please comment and let me know and/or share it with others.
 
Here goes…
 
Yesterday started out as a normal stress-filled ‘everyone get out the door on time’ morning that happens when 6 of us are up early and planning for a 12 hour day.
 
Is all the food packed? Do you have your clubs? Are the pull carts in the car? Do we have waters? Do we have a change of footwear if our shoes get wet? Does everyone have layers (tee time was in the 40’s)? Do we have extra coffee? Are the watches charged? Do we have portable chargers?
 
Stress level 2 out of 10.
 
Did we make it out on time? No. We were 10 minutes behind, but we were off. Luckily, I had built in an extra 15 minutes for any delays (bathroom stops plus it was wicked foggy out so I didn’t want to be rushed).
 
Two minutes into the trip. Literally. Someone says do we have the charging cable for the watch? “Why?”, I said, as we’d just established that they’d all been charged. “It was plugged in but it’s only at 25% and it’ll never make it through the round”. Crapballs. Knowing we’d just left I quickly made a u-turn and rushed back home.
 
Stress level 2.5.
 
5 minutes of slack, gone. No time built in for bathrooms unless I take it out of their 1 hour of allotted practice time prior to their tee-time. More than likely, they’d end up with a little less and it is what it is.
 
Now, back on the road with no slack time whatsoever and we’re 10 minutes in when I notice my temperature gauge is running warmer than normal. I go another 5 minutes and it’s still above normal even though I’d turned the AC off completely.
 
Stress level 3.
 
I chose to stop and check the coolant and the oil levels while I was still in town. The oil was a bit low so I added some and the coolant was a bit low but still acceptable. I checked for any leaks and saw nothing so I closed the hood and got back on the road.
 
Still puzzled, I asked Joanna to look up the most common reasons for an engine running warm or hot. Turns out there are many, but the two most common are what I checked.
 
15 minutes later I’m out in the middle of nowhere and I see the temperature creeping up and I’m growing a bit concerned. We still have a good 50 miles to go and much of that drive we get poor cell service and there are often long stretches without gas stations.
 
I asked Joanna to call their coach to see where their bus was so I’d have a backup plan if something happened. No cell service. Erghh.
 
Stress level 4.
 
We keep going and no change to the temp as it’s now fluctuating between normal and warm, but not hot.
 
And this is where it gets interesting.
 
We climb one of the taller hills we have to go through and just as we get past the top and start our descent at 60mph I see the temperature gauge shoot to the hot level and I get a warning that pops up and says “Engine hot. A/C off.”
 
Stress level 6, encroaching 7.
 
I’m somewhere between driving, monitoring my dashboard, thinking through possible scenarios & wondering how this is going to end when I see a clearing with a gas station up ahead.
 
Fantastic! And what luck as we hadn’t seen anything for quite some time.
 
I alerted the 5 other passengers that an emergency stop is in order and I start to hear the grumbles about how we don’t have time to stop. Believe me, I was aware.
 
I pull into this little gas station and quickly turn the vehicle off so I can start letting it cool in order to get in and start figuring out what was going on.
 
Within 2 seconds of me turning the vehicle off I see smoke billowing out of my hood (see pic from yesterday for a visual) and surrounding the car (if it had been there before, I didn’t see it due to the fog).
 
Stress level 7.5.
 
It was at that precise moment that it occurs to me that I’m glad to be in a well-lit area and somewhere safe while we try to figure this out.
 
Yay! Right? Wrong.
 
The amount of smoke still coming out tells me that something could actually be on fire.
 
I then look next to me and realize that I’m sitting right next to a gas pump. Like, right next to it!!!
 
Stress level 11 on a scale of 10.
 
Do I take the chance and start the car back up to see if I can move it?
 
Nope.
 
“Everybody out and push, right now!” I said. “What?” I hear. “NOW!!!!” I throw the vehicle into neutral and within 5 seconds everyone is out and the car is moving.
 
Sweeeet!!!
 
We’re now about 100 feet away from the pump. Not ideal, but WAY better.
 
I tell my son to run in and ask for a fire extinguisher.
 
I realized that this could cause a bit of a panic so I ran in behind him to explain.
 
The older lady working inside was quick to hand over the large fire extinguisher and rattled off instructions while I was en route back out the door. Smoke is still billowing out.
 
As I was running out I noticed 2 older gentlemen sitting at a small diner-style table peeking out the window at our vehicle while holding their coffee.
 
Stress level 9.
 
I get to the vehicle in what seemed like 3 leaps (was probably like 50 little half-steps while running with a large canister).
 
I popped the hood, opened it up and waited for the smoke to clear for a second before looking to see if there were any actual flames.
 
Smoke was coming from every direction so we’re all there looking to see if there was a single source or what.
 
I looked up and saw that one of the guys who was at the window was now reaching into my engine and looking with us.
 
It’s still fairly dark out and we’ve moved away from the lights so now everyone’s using phones as flash lights and we all have them in the engine looking like a rock concert when a slow song comes on.
 
Stress level 8.
 
We can now see that the entire inside is wet (everything under the hood) and the smoke is merely from it touching anything remotely warm (the temp outside is exasperating the problem as we can almost see our breath).
 
Stress level 7.
 
We start looking for the leak and follow all possible routes so see if maybe a hose came off, or a noticeable split or something.
 
Nothing.
 
Meanwhile, Joanna’s able to reach the coach, who’s on a bus about 20 minutes ahead of us.
 
And my mind drifts back to me, signing a transportation waiver not 14 hours earlier saying how I was responsible for getting them there and that they would not be riding the bus.
 
Um.
 
Well, what’s at stake here? My 2 girls are part of a 4 person team. The other 2 are on the bus. To qualify for the State tournament, all 4 scores are required at Regionals (which is where we were going). The other 2 girls have tee-times before our 2 so they’re even more on a time crunch.
 
They literally turned that bus around.
 
Stress level 6.
 
Now, I’m calculating times and telling the girls there’s no way. At best, I’m projecting the first one to be about 10 minutes late and, historically, they’d disqualify them.
 
Worth a shot though and maybe, just maybe, they’d make an exception.
 
Back to the vehicle. We feel the engine and it’s not hot. At all. Peculiar. I then open the coolant cap and no pressure releases (a tell, for sure).
 
I pour a water bottle in and we all watch it just drain out the bottom of the water pump.
 
So that’s good, but now what?
 
We don’t have any tools with us nor a spare water pump (I mean really, shouldn’t I have thought about that?).
 
It also occurs to me that I really should have a fire extinguisher in my vehicle for times like this. *Must add to Amazon wish list*
 
Okay, so now what? The girls will soon be picked up but the rest of us are here without a vehicle that runs. Turns out, the coach’s husband has decided to come to the tournament and is about 20 or so minutes away but heading in our direction. AND, he has room for 4 more and will gladly pick us up. Sweeeeeet!
 
Stress level 5.
 
Now, to get our car towed. We have AAA so this should be a snap, right? Wrong.
 
We’re told it’ll be some 2 to 3 hours before a driver can get there and that we have to be with the vehicle. Crap!!!
 
Stress level 7.
 
I ask if there’s any other way this can work and explain the situation. They said “you have to show that the vehicle is registered to you and have your ID?”
 
We went round and round for a few minutes until I said “nevermind, I have my registration… can I have someone else wait with the car?”
 
The agent said yes but I’ll need to know their name and they’ll have to have ID with them. “Perfect”, I said… “hang tight…”
 
I ran inside the gas station and found the little old lady that helped me before. I said “how long will you be here today?” She said, “until 3.”
 
Yeah, baby! “Do you have your ID with you?” I said. “It’s in my car, why?”
 
Mind you, I’m on the phone still and haven’t told her my plan.
 
“Could I leave my keys with you and have you give them to the tow truck driver when he gets here? It may be a couple of hours.”
 
“Sure, honey.” Not sure how she knew my name, but I just smiled and asked her hers as the agent needed the name of the person who’d hand off the keys.
 
Stress level 6.
 
She was happy to help. I was happy that we had a solution and the AAA agent was happy that he could check his boxes.
 
I go back outside and help gather all the equipment and belongings we’d need to get through the rest of the day and within minutes the bus arrive, picks the girls up & quickly heads out into the fog.
 
2 minutes later our ride arrives and we load up, still hopeful that they’ll all get to play.
 
Stress level 5.
 
5 minutes later we get a phone call letting us know there was a fog delay and that all tee times were delayed.
 
Stress level 3.
 
Things are looking up.
 
Less than an hour later we arrive at the tournament just in time to see the first of the girl’s teeing off, on time, and without being disqualified!
 
Stress level 1.
 
Though they didn’t get much of a warm up, they were ALL there and in the game.
 
Certainly not how we envisioned the morning going, but we were all there, safely, and thankful that all the variables lined up the way they did.
 
I literally took a deep breath and said to Joanna, “Whoa!!! That could have ended so differently for us today!”
 
The number of people who stepped up to help, changed plans on a whim, bent rules to accommodate, and selflessly pitched in when they didn’t have to makes me believe this was meant to happen and that we should all learn something from it.
 
1. Life happens whether you like it or not.
2. Sometimes things don’t go as planned and we have to adjust, quickly.
3. If given the chance, most people will help you if you’re truly in a bind.
4. Being real with people is the quickest way to get past differences.
5. Interesting stories happen all around us and sometimes, we’re a part of them.
6. Vulnerability is powerful and humbling.
7. Gratitude is a real emotion.
8. Sometimes you just have to take a deep breath and say “whoa!” as you reflect on situations that pass.
 
Though the day didn’t turn out to be a fairytale ending for all involved, it was certainly one for the books.
 
Again, the picture, here, was the moment we arrived back home and I’m so glad I captured it. A storm had just passed and a rainbow was shining through. Just like our day.
 
Stress level 0.

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