UPDATE Summer 2014 it happened again, this time in the United Arab Emirates. luckily it wasn’t my fault (i was just along for the ride)!
Does this look familiar? At least this time it wasn't my fault 😉 pic.twitter.com/hmtCgtl244
— Jonathan Khoo (@jonk) August 14, 2014
We have immediate assistance this time though! Didn't have to do any digging or waiting or despairing! pic.twitter.com/AdSXbbQESS
— Jonathan Khoo (@jonk) August 14, 2014
(they ended up having to pull us out using the hitch on the front of the truck, not sure why they didn’t start with that)
—- original post follows
i tried to think of a good title for this post. some other ones i considered were:
- Look Familiar? When That Thing That Happened In Mongolia Happens To You.
- I Can Now Say I’ve Used a Tow Ring
- Stuck in the Sand, I Had To Dig My Way Out
- I’m Like Poor Michelle Williams, A Survivor!
- Damn, I’m Butch-er Than I Thought
or, the one suggested by @thatjohn:
— John Walton (@thatjohn) May 25, 2014
but i figure staying cool and collected during this ordeal is what i’m most proud of, so that’s why i called it what i did.
wait, so what happened?
so. i wanted to visit the Kaunas Lodgement, an abandoned Soviet Airborne HQ as part of my “abandoned Soviet ops in Lithuania” weekend (part 1, part 2). i followed the directions and found myself on a dirt road. nothing new, given what i had to do the day before.
soon, i found myself like this:
i was stuck on a sand road, the car body resting on the sandbar that formed between the two well-worn tire tracks. i spent the next four hours trying to dig myself out. i was hot, dirty, constantly attacked by swarms of biting flies from above and red ants from below, and above all, exhausted. i started out pretty well, making pretty good progress, but a couple hours in, i was so tired. nothing i did was working, from digging out the area behind the front tires and shoving in branches and floor mats to give the car some traction, to trying to dig out the sandbar from underneath. the problem was that the car was barely resting on its tires so any sort of traction i got was minimal.
mind you, i’m out in what’s basically a forest that doesn’t get a lot of visitors. i relegated myself to spending the entire day digging.
finally, though, after about four hours, i was rescued. thank goodness some workers in a truck driving the opposite direction (on a better road, which i stupidly opted not to take) passed by. even luckier, they understood German because i think they worked for a German company (given what was printed on the side of their truck). they hitched me up to their truck and gave me a couple good yanks, and i was out. PHEW. i was so lucky.
i was also so dirty. i was covered in sand and grime — imagine people on Survivor after a challenge. i was on my hands and knees just moving sand with found branches and the car’s hazard triangle holder. even almost 24 hours and three showers later i feel dirty (and there’s still some schmutz stuck under a fingernail, i think). my hands are a bit tore up, i have loads of itchy insect bites on my legs. the workers told me to try another road to get into the good part of the site, but i was so done, even though i was so close (see the map above). i just couldn’t.
i had one wet wipe in my bag that i was saving for i dunno, a messy glazed donut. i used it to scrub my arms and my face (which i discovered had a whole patch of sand just stuck to my cheek) and it was all brown, and i was still 99% dirty. i gave up. i started to drive back to Kaunas and on the way stopped by a random roadside motel and asked to take a shower — i don’t even think they were open for business, but they let me (for $10 — i would have paid anything!). one of the best showers ever. i must have looked like a hot mess — because i was. (p.s. don’t bother asking Siri for the nearest hotels; she’s unable to help in Lithuania.)
what i was thinking and what i learned
several thoughts were going through my head:
- you have a goal: “get something underneath the tires to get some traction.” i kept that singular goal in mind and kept working towards it. i think that helped a lot, staying focused. i’m not sure how much longer i would have been able to keep it up, but i knew i had to.
- worse comes to worst, you just keep digging. sooner or later, you will dig out enough so the car is resting on its wheels again. this was hard going, though, since you have to move a lot of sand. and i didn’t have a shovel. you have to clear out enough sand by the sides of the car to get to the bottom, then start clearing that sand out — and keep moving all that sand further and further out or else it just blocks you even more.
- you’re going to lose your rental deposit. lol that was probably a given. (though, i got it all back, thanks to a thunderstorm that cleaned the outside and me buying baby wipes at a grocery store and getting rid of all the sand inside. yay!) if i had to call the rental company, what would i tell them? how much trouble would i be in? how much money would i have to pay them?
- i only had maybe 1.5 liters of Coke Zero and a box of cookies for hydration and sustenance, and that Coke Zero was going fast.
- i wouldn’t know what number to call for help. 112? how would i even tell them where i am? would my phone tell them? could i even get someone who understood English? i was getting to the point where i was thinking of telling whoever, “JUST SEND A HELICOPTER. I’LL BE WAVING MY HANDS”.
- could i call up the Amex Concierge to get me out of this mess? can they send a helicopter? that can transport a car?
- even if you honked out SOS in Morse code (which i did), probably no one would hear you. but someone would have to come by at one point or another, right?
- and this song by Rick Astley:
the most important thing i learned, though, was that i could indeed keep my cool despite being in uncomfortable surroundings. i stayed focused on my one primary goal, to get out. i knew i had to, i mean, what other choice did i have? (yes yes i wasn’t in a backwoods labor camp somewhere, but still. it wasn’t a fun situation.)
i had to deal with the constant flies buzzing around me and trying to bite me (one of the reasons i couldn’t sleep last night because i kept seeing, hearing, and feeling them every time i closed my eyes), and if not them, then the ants crawling up my legs and biting me. i also had to deal with constant failure. no matter what i tried, every time i tried to reverse out, the car didn’t budge. there was this roller coaster ride of “ok, this HAS to work” and then “nope, just spinning wheels” — over and over again. i was hot and sore and tired. never before did i think i could get so dirty. at some point you lose your dignity and stop princessing around. you kneel, you lie down, you get covered in sand and dirt.
i’m certainly no saint, and the whole mess was all my fault, and that was weighing on me as well. i’m sure i would have cracked at some point had those workers not come by (i think i still need to have a good cathartic cry, to be honest), but i’m really surprised at how well i kept it together until then. ultimately, though, i knew that chances were low to none that i would die out there, so what’s the worst that could happen? someone would come by, i could call someone (and somehow communicate effectively), or i would just have finally dug myself out.
i’m glad, though, it was the first option that actually took place. i’ve never been so happy to see two random guys in a truck, i’ll tell ya that. i’m a lucky sumbitch.