The summer of my 19th year of existence, I worked at Disneyland (the one in California). It was a total blast and the perfect summer job. I lived in an apartment building across from Cal State Fullerton, a building that was usually filled with college kids (CSF didn’t have dorms at that time) but during the summer, it was full of Disneyland summer employees (and the LA Rams during summer camp…but that is another story).
My job at Disney was nothing glamorous. I was a fry cook. I worked in Tomorrowland Terrace, the busiest eatery in the Land – if it was estimated that there would be 80,000 people in the park that day, then we would get 80,000 customers. Tomorrowland Terrace was located across from the Monorail stop, near Space Mountain, Captain Eo, and the Matterhorn. I loved working in the kitchen – and I was the only girl, so I had all the guys there to myself. 🙂 I had the privilege of working with Harrison Ford (Alan Harrison and Ralph Ford – not sure why I remember their first names) and my first and only “summer love”, Curtis. We had a blast. We would work the 4:30 PM – 1 AM shift, go out for breakfast (nearly every morning), get home around 5 AM, sleep for 5 hours, get up and go do something like wind sailing. Oh were did all that energy go?
But one morning I had myself a little adventure. (Mom and Dad, you know about those, don’t you? I’m sure you’ll remember this one.) My shift was supposed to start at 8 AM (this was towards the beginning of the summer before I took on all the late shifts) and I didn’t have anything to eat for breakfast. So I decided to stop at McDonald’s. Now, I am not a drive thru person, I prefer to go inside except (a) when in an extreme hurry and (b) I already know exactly what I want. So I went inside, got my food and went back to my car. No keys. They were in the car. Keep in mind that this was my first time living on my own and my parents are a 10-hour drive away. So I do the first thing that came to mind. “Mom, I locked my keys in the car…what do I do?” (This day was also a Sunday, so there were not a whole lot of things open). Her response – “Well, sorry, Dear, but what do you want me to do about it?” Gee, thanks Mom. Not knowing how to find someone to break into my car for me, I decided to walk to Disney. 5 Miles. I got to the first gas station, about a mile down the road and gave up, went inside and asked if anyone know how to break into a car. Nope. But they did have a Slim Jim that they were willing to let me borrow. Great. 1 mile back. I made a great attempt to break into my car, but just couldn’t figure it out.
So I walked back to the gas station – 1 more mile. (Now if you are counting, I’m up to about 3 miles, and 2 more and I would have been at Disney….but then there wouldn’t be a story.) So I asked if they knew of anyone that knew how to use a Slim Jim andcould come and open my car for me. Nope. But they did point me in the direction of an auto parts store. Great. 3/4 of a mile back towards McDonalds. Gee, thanks. When I got to the store and inquired about the breaking into a car with a Slim Jim thingie, the clerk pointed me to a customer. “If anyone knows how to use one of those it would be that guy.” Now imagine a short, skinny man with very long grey hair and a very long, full beard, dressed in overalls that were very, very dirty and greasy. Think “skanky” and you’ve got it right. (You don’t even have to know the definition of skanky for this one.) Not the kind of guy that you initially think good thoughts about. Trust me. If my Dad had been with me he would have said “Run, Tonja, turn and run!”. But my Dad wasn’t with me and I needed to get to work, so I approached the guy and asked him the question. Sure enough, he was willing to help.
As it turned out, that guy was one of the most helpful, kind men that I’ve ever met. He had his 5-year old son with him, and I thought, “he surely wouldn’tkill me and chop me up and stuff me in the walls of his house with his little 5-year old son watching, would he?”, and in 1988, I don’t think he would have. I ended up getting my car open, retrieving my keys, and only being about 3 hours late for work. Truly an angel watched out for me that day.
So it was with a chill and a feeling of deja vu that I set out for the gas station this morning, wondering if I would be able to find someone to help me. My car battery died and Dawn had already left for work. Steve, my hopefully-soon-to-be-neighbor, didn’t answer his phone. Ben, the tow truck driver that goes to my church, didn’t answer his phone. Lee Ann didn’t have time to swing by and jump start my car (nor could she, really, because she didn’t have any cables). I tried to call Jill, one of my co-workers, but someone speaking Spanish was on the answering machine and I’m fairly certain that Jill doesn’t speak Spanish. So I walked. About a mile there. No one could help me. (Sound familiar?) I took a cab back to Dawn’s house. (I have learned my lesson there, I tell you!) Then I called Jim. Not a Slim Jim thingie, but a Jim none-the-less. He was half of the couple that I house sat for last week, and to whom I refused any sort of payment, so he decided to bail me out. He was wonderful. Took me to Sears and treated me to lunch. And now my car has a new battery.
Not the way I had imagined spending my half birthday, but the car is happy (and I am too).