Saturday, June 05, 2010

Alarms, 911, Fire Trucks, Towing... Part One

Will I ever get out of Florida?


I came to Florida in late March to escape the frigid cold of South Carolina, which was having record low temperatures.  I had lovely friends in Orlando, who invited me down to park in their garden. I was feeling pretty poorly, still recuperating from all that hospital mess and the after effects. 


I came to Florida for one week and 10 weeks later, I am still in Florida. In the interim, I saw about 5 doctors and had some medical procedures plus a local college took me on and did some work on me, with promises the benefits might drastically improve my energy and life.  Maybe. Time will tell!


Meanwhile, I found erratic employment for the future, that involves a lot of travel. I continue to work on writing more books, while my current book continues to sell on Amazon and in a few stores. 


To say my book "Hurricanes and Hangovers" needs publicity is a massive understatement!  


Anyhow, let's speed up to how I ended up in a jam.


Again.


I left Lake Placid, Florida, headed for Beverly Beach, Florida.  I drove about 80 miles or so without incident. My new baby slept the whole way while I was listening to tunes and chanting.  


Yes, chanting.


I do it in my head, to improve my health. Mind over matter. Focus the mind to will the body back to good health.


Speaking of the baby, here he is with those gorgeous blue eyes. Today makes exactly two weeks since the adoption!  Already he looks much healthier, though he doesn't much care for bath time at all, that is until the toweling and drying and playing. THAT he loves. 


I should have given him an Indian name, like "One Ear".  He seems to delight in pointing one ear up and one ear down. He also likes to fold one ear backwards sometimes when we are walking. I've no idea why. 


Only he knows. 


Oh hell, let's just drag out the baby brag book...


Now that he is on proper puppy chow and a healthy diet, his fur is starting to look much better.  His legs seem to be growing an inch a week!  He is up to about a robust 5 pounds now. You can see his little boots, hence the name Harley, he looked like he was saddled up with his leather boots and ready to ride the hawg.  



After the excitement of the day, he collapsed back into his car seat, with one ear up and one ear down. 


OK, enough of the baby brag book...


The exciting day!


So along about the time we were to join the interstate after 80 miles of country roads and numerous traffic lights, we hit a traffic snarl. The baby was sleeping and I was listening to Don and Tommy play and sing on this miniature mp3 player that miraculously routes itself through a cigarette lighter, broadcasts on a radio station and plays through the motorhome's speakers. 


I don't even understand HOW this works, but it does. My motorhome is so old it came with a cassette player and I am not about to start collecting old tapes.  In the Caribbean, I frantically tried to copy all my CD's to my computer, then I gave all the music CD's away to Ed Morgan.  Shipping stuff out of the Caribbean is prohibitively expensive, so my stuff was sold or gave away and only a few sentimental things with my clothes and cat were shipped with me. I couldn't afford the house rent, and storage prices were ridiculously high.  What's the use of storing stuff if you can't use it anyhow?  


Ed Morgan passed away last week, God rest his soul, it came as a shock to us all. I hope he enjoyed really good tunes to the very end. 


OK, back to the motorhome...


All my engine gages were normal but I got a whiff of either burning rubber or burning wire, I couldn't decide which. I was looking in my rear view mirror at the motorhome's interior, wandering what on earth was wrong.  Traffic had just untangled, and I was doing 60 and thinking of creeping on up to 65mph, on Interstate 4 to Orlando, with cars and trucks passing me left and right. 


Suddenly an ear piercing alarm went off. I had just bought a new carbon monoxide sniffer a week or so before.  My friend had expertly installed it in a hidden but accessible location. 


To my right, by the passenger's window, I saw a puff of black smoke!


I pulled over to the shoulder of the road, hopped out with my cell phone, ran around and grabbed my fire extinguisher and called 911 while frantically looking for the smoke and fire. Black smoke came from either under the motorhome or under the engine. I could smell it, but now the smoke had vanished!  The 90mph traffic, racing by, rocked my motorhome from side to side, like a ship at sea. 


In the cell phone I screamed above the roaring traffic that I needed fire trucks, my motorhome was on fire, I was east bound on I-4 near exit 58.  The operator was asking more questions, like the make and model of the motorhome and my name and address, date of birth and so on. The traffic was whizzing by me at an incredible roar and I really couldn't hear too well, and I wanted to open the engine compartment and fight the fire but I had run out of hands and my precious baby was STILL in  the motorhome!


I explained "I have to go fight the fire!  Send out a fire truck!  I'm a 28 foot motorhome on the side of east bound I-4 near exit 58, I have to go now, I can't talk to you and fight the fire!"


I tossed the cell phone onto the grassy shoulder, then ran back for the driver's door, unlocked the front engine hood, then fiddled with the other latch at the hood proper and opened the engine, while the fire extinguisher was tucked under my arm. 


No fire.


I ran around the side of the motorhome and looked at the locker where the propane tank was built-in, just behind the passenger seat. I was too scared to open it. But I knew I must. 


By now, Harley, was wide awake and at the window whining at me, he was still tied up and in his bed in the front seat. 


I ran inside the motorhome, the alarm was still screeching, grabbed the soft-sided pet carrier, ran back out, unlocked the passenger door, untied the dog's leash from the arm rest, then stuffed him into the pet carrier and zipped it up.


I ran down the embankment and parked the pet carrier, far away, where I prayed he would be safe if the motorhome exploded.


Back at the ominous propane tank, I opened the latches and cover. 


No fire. 


Then I saw something flash. Was it a spark?  Was the thing about to blow?  Where was the smoke?  It had strangely disappeared!  Was that spark just a sharp glare off a passing vehicle?


Still patrolling with my fire extinguisher, I looked under the motorhome and ran around it, looking for smoke, looking for fire.  The alarm screamed unabated.


Traffic continued to roll by at about 80 miles per hour. The motorhome was rocking from the wind generated by the rushing cars and trucks.


NOBODY stopped.


A mermaid running around a motorhome on the side of a busy highway, fire extinguisher in had, emergency blinkers on the RV flashing and nobody stopped.


In the islands, the Caribbean, where I had spent the past 22 years, I would have drawn a huge crowd by now of good Samaritans. Where were the good Samaritans in Florida?


All going 80 miles per hour. 


I heard the sirens and saw fire trucks going West bound on I-4. I was east bound. How did the operator misunderstand east for west?  Was she directionally challenge?  Were they going to the next exit to turn around?  The exit with the horrendous traffic jam?


I know since the last medical treatments, I've developed a funny way of talking lispy sometimes. Whether it's from the treatments or the previous  head injury, I've no idea. Maybe the operator didn't understand me after all.  Maybe she just heard garbled screaming.  I hope this lisp goes away, it's embarrassing at times. 


The traffic rushed by just inches from me. 


Yet, I felt VERY lonely. 


Is this how it ends?  KER-BOOM! And I'm just another faceless sensational news item, for 20 seconds on the evening news.


Now, I felt VERY sad. 


But I continued to LOOK for the fire. I KNOW I saw smoke, the alarm was still screaming. 


Oh the ALARM.


I went back in the motorhome and ran for the carbon monoxide alarm, snatching it off the wall. It was strangely silent but my ears still heard this squealing alarm.


I ran for the propane alarm and switched it off. 


Silence. 


Blessed silence. 


Back outside, I marched around the motorhome with my fire extinguisher looking for the smoke and fire. At some point, I grabbed the cell phone holder, clipped it to the neckline of my dress (no belt or pockets to hang it from) and retrieved my cell phone from where I had thrown it earlier. 


The Highway Patrol pulled up behind my motorhome. I didn't run over to him, because I only had this ONE tiny fire extinguisher, and I wanted to stay near my motorhome, ready to do battle. Fires spread in seconds, and a minute wasted can mean the difference between saving something and a total loss. 


EVERYTHING I owned was inside. Like a sailor, I thought about grabbing my passport and pirate's gold before the ship sank. But I wanted to battle the inevitable blaze and just save the day.


Now that the alarm was silenced, I could hear the puppy whimpering and fussing mightily from his cage. The soft-sided carrier was designed to look like stylish carry-on luggage. I had owned it 9 years. All my Caribbean cats had ridden in it often.  The three years we were commuting between apartment and the vacation beach house I managed, my 2 small brother cats had shared the carrier.  


I yelled "STAY!" at the puppy, a word he hears often and is hopefully learning that means to wait and be quiet about it too. Poor thing. He must have thought I had gone seriously mad, tossing him off in the grass like that and totally ignoring him while I marched around ready to do battle with an invisible blaze. 


Suddenly, the Highway Patrol Man threw his car into reverse and rapidly backed up 200 feet. 


Did he see the fire?  I bent over again, to look under the motorhome, ready to spray the fire extinguisher. 


About the time he got out of his car, fire trucks appeared from the rear and the front, I guess some came the wrong way up exit 58 to reach me. Somebody finally stopped the maddening traffic in the right lane by diverting it to the left lane. I was impressed they had sent so much fire extinguishing power out. I guess motorhomes are notorious for really bad blazes. 


The cars and trucks were forced to slow down from 80 to 60 as they fought with the new traffic snarl, I had unwittingly created. As the firemen ran over, I felt very foolish.


I said "Well, I thought where they was smoke, there was fire..." and I relayed the whole story back to them, while still keeping my fire extinguisher at the ready. 


My cell phone was tucked into a clip attached to the neck of my dress and  in the 110 degree heat with 90% humidity, I was soaking wet and much of my dress stuck to me. To their amusement, it was clear I had forgotten to wear a bra. But yes mama (God rest her soul) I was wearing clean undies!  I didn't forget to wear a bra, I just didn't bother.  I expected to be driving all day and who cared if I had perky breasts behind the wheel or not. Had I known I would be soaking wet, looking like I was ready for a wet T-shirt contest on the side of Interstate-4 in front of a dozen firemen, I might have reconsidered my choice.


Oddly, they asked permission to go inside my motorhome.  They pulled out pocket meters with gages and while one walked through the motorhome, another walked around it and they met up at the right front tire.


The gages read that area was over 400 degrees hotter than the surrounding areas. I had been on the side of the road for 21 minutes. I had looked at the time when all this madness started. 


"Ma'am?  Your luggage is rolling down the hill."


I looked where everyone else was staring now, and the puppy was doing cartwheels in the carrier, causing it to roll down the grassy shoulder. 


"Oh, that's a cat carrier with a dog in it!  I put him over there to be safe!"


A very thoughtful firemen went over and picked up the cartwheeling carrier and brought the puppy over to the shaded area.


"There's a dog in here!  We wandered why your luggage was thrown over there and nothing else. Oh it's a puppy!"


I apologized to the firemen, for causing all this ruckus, but I thought I had a fire what with the smoke and the alarms. Then one of the firemen began explaining about sticky brake calipers and how they can heat up a tire really fast and perhaps because it was close to the propane tank, it had sensed the heat getting rapidly hotter, and set off the alarm. 


TO BE CONTINUED  (See part 2)


Below, my book is on sale at Amazon:


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