Spectacular Serendipity


Yesterday was really quite superb—even though my car broke, I was trapped into holding a phone conversation from a public toilet cubicle, and I got hailstone welts on the way home.

When I’d dropped the boys off at kindy I’d noted my car’s revs felt a little low. It shivered a bit while idling. It didn’t concern me much, but I made a mental note to keep an eye on it. If it persisted, I’d take it in to be re-calibrated, I told myself.

Before I got to the end of the street though, the shivering was strong enough that the engine threatened to cut out whenever I slowed, so as I’d approach intersections or get stuck behind slow drivers, I’d drop into Neutral and give the car more revs just to keep it awake.

Then the dashboard engine warning light clicked on.

This had happened to me before. Different car. Different country. Same issue. That other time I’d found myself stuck in the middle of an expressway after my engine spontaneously cut out.

My schedule was thus re-written. Mechanic now, town shopping chores later.

As I walked away from the car hospital, it occurred to me just how convenient this had all been.

The boys had only just started kindy, so I didn’t need the car back urgently.

I had my e-reader with me, so was well prepared for a long cafe visit.

I was wearing walking shoes.

My favourite cafe, and all the shops I needed to visit, were in walking distance of each other. (They perhaps wouldn’t have been, if I wasn’t in those shoes.)

The sun was shining. The skies were clear.

And if the mechanic company came back to me and said the car needed a repair that would cost hundreds of dollars, there was no need to panic, because since using YNAB4 our finances are well managed, and with a sensible safety net for such emergencies.

Yes, life was good. I bought the things I’d been meaning to, and at the cafe I even got gravy with my hot chips just because I asked for it. Even though they ‘don’t do gravy.’ (I never miss Australia as much as I do when I’m looking for chips and gravy.)

Being human, I then did what people sometimes do. I visited the loos.

I had no concerns I’d get a phone call in there. Most people I know prefer to text, and the mechanic company I use has never before—never—called at the completion of a job, despite any requests to do so. I expected I’d just turn up at the last minute of the available time, as usual, hoping it was ready, and discover it was actually finished hours ago.

So they wouldn’t call me at all, I was sure. And they certainly wouldn’t call me in the two minutes I was on the loo.

You can see where this is going, can’t you?

My phone didn’t ring. I had it set to Meeting, as I’d been having a text message exchange minutes prior and didn’t want it beeping conspicuously from my cubicle. Nobody wants to know what’s actually happening in loo cubicles. As far as polite society is concerned, the moment one steps inside they simply cease to exist.

The screen lit up in front of me, indicating a call coming in from the mechanics.

Should I answer it? No, I thought first. Holding a conversation on the toilet is creepy. And embarrassing if the caller finds out about it. And uncomfortable knowing that other stall occupants are listening to every word. No, I’ll call back when I’m out.

But wait, I countered myself. Call from where? It was too noisy outside. The cafe and plaza had too many chattering people. Further out, I’d contend with noise of traffic. At least in here it was quiet. And though I’d be embarrassed about what other cubicle occupants would be thinking of me, that wasn’t important. What was important was getting my car fixed.

I’ll take the call, I decided. They don’t have to know where I am. There were no tell-tale sounds. There was no sound at all. Until I spoke.


I desperately hoped a neighbouring cubicle didn’t think I was trying to start a conversation. They hadn’t heard my phone ring, after all.

For a while silence was broken only by my spartan replies regarding spark plugs, coils, and cylinders.


I looked in horror toward the cubicle on my right.


My cover was blown.

I didn’t breathe.

The caller didn’t speak.

“That wasn’t me!” I almost yelled at her.

She laughed, “Okay,” and resumed talking about ordering parts.


The same look of horror, now toward the cubicle on my left.

I squeezed my eyes shut tightly, but when I opened them again, I was still in the same situation.

I didn’t breathe.

The caller didn’t speak.

“…That wasn’t me either,” I said. Feebly. Pathetically.

She didn’t laugh this time, and when she resumed talking she sounded awkward, herself.

It was easier after that, surprisingly. Once all my pretences of dignity were stripped I had nothing left to protect or fear. I could then finish the conversation in reassured relaxation, leaning back against the cistern, enjoying the peace, as if it was the most normal thing in the world to be discussing automobile health from a public loo cubicle.

My car had to stay there overnight awaiting a part, so with feeling of rejuvenation I began the walk home, glad that on this serendipitous day I’d left the double pram at home instead of in the back of the car. I’d just walk it to kindy to pick up the boys.

When my neighbour saw me trundling it down the drive and learned I was without a car, she offered to lend me hers. Hers even had two child seats in it, too. I declined because there seemed no reason for it, except for laziness. The kindy was walking distance, and although it was very hot, I was well stocked with lots of water for both me and the boys. Anyway, I’d psyched myself up for the walk, now.

As I arrived only 20 minutes later, cloud had taken bites out of the sky.

It started to spit just as the boys and I were leaving.


Okay, spit and thunder. Still, it wasn’t much. We could handle it.

I took my sunglasses off so I wouldn’t look like an idiot who thought they were at the beach. (Apparently my pretences of dignity were back.)

“Walking in the rain will be an adventure,” I said to the boys. “What fun!”

It soon wasn’t.

Taking off the sunglasses had been a mistake. The rain fell faster and harder. It splashed off my nose. Into my eyes. It hurt. It felt like hundreds of rubber bands hitting my skin.

I’d protected as much of the boys as I could with the pram’s hoods, but it wasn’t very effective, and both of them were crying as they were pelted.

This wasn’t fun at all. This was painful. And cold.

No nearby trees had sufficient shelter. There were no bus shelters. I couldn’t call Husband to pick us up, because we had no car. I couldn’t call Neighbour to pick us up, because she was currently unable to drive. I couldn’t call them both to arrange for Husband to borrow Neighbour’s car to pick us up, because he’s not fully licensed and would probably avoid driving someone else’s car on a normal day — let alone one where each car became a surfboard and you couldn’t see three feet in front of you.

Besides, I wouldn’t have wanted to take out my phone anyway. For the same reason I wouldn’t want to operate it from the bottom of a swimming pool.

My jeans were sodden and heavy, so each step felt like wading through wet cement as I kicked through water that was already ankle-deep in places, and making the double pram even harder to move. The kids were screaming under the painful onslaught. Of course. I didn’t blame them.

And home was probably half an hour away, at this rate.

A vehicle pulled up hard and veered to stop across the footpath in front of us, and an unfamiliar woman opened the window and yelled something at me.


She yelled it again, competing with the volume of the downpour. “I’m Neighbour’s friend!”


She correctly interpreted my relieved smile as, ‘You’re a genie to me,’ and we started bundling pram bulk and children into the car as fast as we could. Moving the boys was easy.

But the pram wouldn’t collapse.

Then the hail started.

They weren’t little ice peas. They were rocks. The ones I saw on the ground that weren’t immediately washed away were the size of large dice. With teeth. And striking us after travelling such a distance felt like the bites of tiny angry dragons.

Some of the hail that fell in the storm.

Still the pram wouldn’t fold down, and still the hostile dragons were biting my arms, my back, my face.

I think I did scream then, once or twice.

The pram didn’t collapse, but I got it sufficiently small enough to fit in the boot of the vehicle. And in this case, near enough was good enough.

Driving was still a slow process with visibility as hindered as it was, but it certainly beat walking! Timmy was miserable, though no longer crying, but Daniel was distraught, howling and shaking.

A hot bath later, we were all happy. I still had welts on my back and one arm from hail impact, but they didn’t hurt now.

Then it occurred to me how serendipitous the day had continued to be.

How wonderful that Neighbour’s friend had just happened to drop by Neighbour’s house for a coffee when she did, as was willing to be sent out to retrieve a sopping stranger and her kids.

How fortunate that the boys escaped the hail by only seconds.

How delicious it was to jump into a hot bath (the boys being too young to be disturbed by my joining them — they even seemed excited to be able to share their bath frog toys with me), and how lovely to afterwards come into a living room now nicely warmed by the heat pump.

A wonderful Wednesday, really.


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