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The good, the bad and the inconvenient

Remember vehicle inspection stickers?

When I was a student at the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, my car’s sticker expired, which meant I had to go to Mississippi — since that’s where my permanent address was and where the car was registered — to get another one.

The closest place I found to get the updated inspection was in Waveland, so off I went. The 50-mile trip took over an hour (New Orleans and Slidell traffic) but was uneventful. Getting the inspection was quick and easy.

The day was going smoothly. It was about noon and I was looking forward to getting back home on this Monday, my only day off during the week.

I was almost back to I-10 to head west when the car just shut off. I was in the left lane of the highway and just coasted into the turn around.

I was looking under the hood when a Mississippi Highway Patrol trooper pulled up and asked if I was OK. He helped me for a few minutes try to figure things out. We determined it was either the battery or the alternator or both. An attempted jumpstart from him didn’t work.

The trooper said he could only give me a ride to the nearest “safe” place, which was a gas station about 100 yards further north. So he dropped me there to get me in the A/C and I started making phone calls.

I got nowhere.

I called a cab company and asked how much a ride to the nearest Walmart would be. Twenty bucks? That was outrageous.

So I asked the cashier how far we were from Walmart.

“It’s two or three miles down this highway,” was his answer.

So I began walking south on Hwy. 603.

Three and half hours and 10 miles later — yes, 10 — I stumbled into the Walmart parking lot, legs shaking, skin bright red from sunburn, mouth so dry I couldn’t swallow and black dots dancing in my vision.

I later found out it had been one of the hottest days of the year.

I stopped as I crossed the lava-hot pavement and glanced back-and-forth from left to right, right to left. On my right was Walmart, my intended destination, but on the left was a Taco Bell.  It was closer.

I must have been a sight stumbling through the Bell’s door because people certainly stared. I went straight to the bathroom and splashed my face and head with water, drinking the tap water from the palm of my hand until I could swallow without difficulty.

Then I went back out into the lobby and ordered something to eat and drink. When I had sufficiently cooled off, I went into Walmart and purchased a battery for my car, praying it was all I’d need to make it home.

I walked outside with the battery in a cart and stared at Hwy. 603. Was I really ready and able to do this again?

Nope.

The cab ride turned out to be only about $12 and I was happy to pay it. I couldn’t believe it took less than 15 minutes from the time I made the call until I was back at my car.

I was sure I’d have time to take a nap. After all, I’d walked across the asphalt Serengeti to purchase the battery.

In just a few more minutes, the new battery was installed and the car cranked right up.

I drove home, arriving about dinner time. My wife had picked up the boys from their preschool — my daily job — and sat there shaking her head in wonderment as I told her of my adventure.

I was not in bad shape at that time in my life. I played basketball regularly and walked a lot every day. But I was not prepared to walk 10 miles in sweltering heat.

The sunburn lasted a while, too. It’s one of the few times that pretty much my entire head was burned. It didn’t help that I’d just gotten a haircut and so had a lot less protection up top. I also didn’t have sunglasses that day — my eyes looked and felt burned, too.

But it all worked out in the end. It was not a fun day, not at all what I’d planned, and the pain of the day stuck with me for awhile. I don’t remember what else needed to be fixed on the car, but I do recall one very important thing — God brought me through it.

Looking back, it really wasn’t that bad a day in the grand scheme of things. I’m grateful for a God who’s with us during the good, the bad and the inconvenient.

Brett Campbell can be reached at brett.campbell@dailyleader.com.