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  • Writer's pictureCarol Wiebe

The Day Before My First Day at Quilting By the Lake

If that title is confusing, let me explain that I am talking about my travelling day. One does not travel on the day that a workshop commences.

I live only five hours from Onondaga College, where Quilting By the Lake is held. I considered that fact a sign that the art goddess wanted me to start attending this esteemed gathering. I set off around 7:30 am, as revved up as the motor in my car,  for all that I would learn, observe, and experience.

About an hour and a half from Syracuse, New York, I pulled into a rest stop to stretch my legs. When I returned to the car, it suddenly turned adversarial and refused to start. Like our own bodies, we often take technology for granted, and when they don’t perform for us as usual we may become incredulous and angry.

Incredulous and angry, I phoned my husband. “The car won’t start,” I blurted, with no preamble, not even a “Hello, hon.”

“There’s no power. Just a waaaaaa, waaaaaa, waaaaaa accompanied by small clicks.” I performed the clicking noises as well.

“You are going to have to open the hood and try wiggling on the cables connected to the battery,” he informed me, soberly, anticipating my panic due to a dismal lack of automotive know how.

I will cut this preamble short by bragging that I did manage to open the hood (special levers and locks notwithstanding) and jiggle on the aforementioned cables, but to no avail.

Calls to my Canadian Tire Auto Club were just as fruitless. They could not provide service on the Interstate 90, due to certain State regulations, but a very personable State Trooper did notice my raised hood, ascertained my plight, and called in a tow truck for me.

Needless to say, my plans to sail into Onondaga College by 1:00 and relax before dinner festivities were not to be. When a tow truck driver finally did arrive, late because he had to deal with an accident before attending to my relatively minor need, he informed me that he also needed to quickly replace a tire on the other side of the Interstate. Again, I will spare you every little detail, except to point out that the tire on the trailer in question had blown off, except for a fairly large piece that had wrapped around the axle and fused to it. Normally, such work would require a grinder to loosen its grip (try pulling on a wound piece of steel belted radial if you doubt that assertion). Unfortunately, the grinder was not in its ordained place in the truck.

The tow truck driver in question was not your ordinary Joe, however. He was GI Joe, literally. We all stood in amazement by the side of the road, Jeanette (a quilter, by the way), her husband Larry, and I, as “Joe” ripped that piece of tire from the axle with his bare hands. He was, after all, a purple heart bearing survivor of Desert Storm, and once he decided to do something~and put his full weight into it~it was going to happen.  Besides, a grinder was 20 minutes away, and he was cognizant, by this time, that I was growing increasingly nervous about signing in at Onondaga College and receiving my suite keys.

Larry & Jeanette

By the time we hit the road, despite the fact that “Joe’s” arms “felt like mashed potatoes,” we made great time and the hour and a half passed quickly. “Joe” related a fair bit of his life story to me, punctuated by police sirens in the distance that puzzled us both. This mystery was solved when a cell call informed him that his girlfriend’s 13 year old son was trying to locate his own cell phone by calling it (you guessed it, a police siren ring tone). I finally retrieved it,  tucked in above the visor on “my side” of the windshield.

We arrived about 5:00, with an hour to go before welcome desk closed. I was able to register, unpack my 20 boxes of supplies (I exaggerate, but only slightly), and make it for the supper and speaker that were scheduled.

I have to add that my husband Ted, and our friend Murray, hopped in a car about an hour after I called, and arrived on the parking lot in time to replace the battery (the alternator did not need repair). They considered the ten hour round trip an adventure as much as an act of mercy. I was able to relax and thoroughly enjoy the evening. Am I spoiled? No, I am loved. Believe me, I am aware how fortunate I am in the choices I have made for my life partner and friends.

Those of you who have actually followed this post to the end may wonder why I didn’t just wait at the rest stop for my knight with shining battery to arrive. There were several reasons: if they were delayed I’d miss getting my key. If the battery was not an adequate fix, there would be garage and waiting time involved. Also, the nice young state trooper was very amiable, but absolutely firm that he wanted me off the side of the Interstate. In any case, I was not going to miss a course I had paid a thousand dollars to attend. (The towing bill, by the way, was half of that.)

Art quilt maker Judy Warren Blaydon, the speaker at the evening banquet, was as hilarious as she is talented. As all of us contemplated the art we would produce this week, she assured us that we did not have to worry if we did not achieve masterpiece status.  “If you can’t be a good example, you can always be a horrible warning.” My laughter was double-edged. I was already “a horrible example” in this gathering of two hundred and some artists. What piece of art that I created this week could compete with a my “entrance” in a huge, flatbed tow truck?

Never, I can state without a trace of hyperbole, would I have imagined the nickname that I now answer to at Quilting By the Lake.

Tow Truck Carol.

#towtruck #OnondagaCollege #purpleheart #QuiltingByTheLake #JudyWarrenBlaydon #DesertStorm

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