(Originally Published 9/2/2014)
One day years ago we received a phone call from a friend who was stranded with his wife on the freeway. His car had just sputtered and died. We weren’t very far away so we went to assist him. We’ll call him Larry. (That’s not his real name) We hopped in the car and found them stopped in the emergency lane with the hood up. I jumped out to go “help” him. Bill Cosby once described a similar incident where he jumped out, lifted the hood, and that ended the extent of his knowledge about cars. I’m a little bit worse. I’m lucky if I can find the hood release latch.
Larry and I stared at the engine for a while. I asked him if he ran out of gas – he said no. I asked him when he had had the car serviced last. Larry said he had owned the car for years and it had never needed service. I asked about oil changes and he said “You’re supposed to change the oil?” We checked the oil, and it had some, but it obviously needed an oil change. Then we checked the only other think I can check on a car – the air filter. When we pulled it off it was like emptying a vacuum bag accompanied by a big grey cloud of dust. We banged the filter against a post, replaced it, and he was able to get the engine started. I was feeling like a real man and trying to hide my relief that I had luckily stumbled on the solution. Larry’s wife didn’t want to ride with him anymore so she rode with us back to our house. My wife Alana drove. Alana found the situation hilarious because she knew the only two things I was likely to be able to do under the hood of a car is get burned on something hot, or get cut on something sharp.
As we were driving back to our house Larry was following us and we lost him at a stop light. It wasn’t very far from our house so we kept driving. When Larry pulled into the driveway Larry was enraged. He was furious that his car might have died again and that we had left him stranded. He was having trouble speaking and mumbled something like “New family Rule! When you are following someone in the car and the car in the back is broken the person in the front is supposed to wait and watch to make sure the person in the back makes it safely to the destination.” That’s not word for word, but you get the idea. Unfortunately the only thing we heard was the declaration “New Family Rule!”
I had been married for a couple of years and was completely unaware that a husband could unilaterally declare a new family rule that would somehow magically bind everyone in the family to follow it. Apparently my wife Alana was well aware of it because when I tried to use it in the following weeks and months it didn’t work very well for me.
In the following few weeks I tried to issue new family rules.
“New Family Rule -When I get home I want my dinner waiting on the table!”
“New Family Rule - I don’t have to be nice to your mother!”
“New Family Rule - I should not have to pick up my dirty clothes off the floor!”
None of my declarations went over very well. Alright -- None of them worked at all. Usually I couldn’t get through the sentence without bursting out laughing.
The issue of the new family rule reared its ugly head again last weekend as we were returning from a wedding reception in Idaho for a neighbor where I set up my sound equipment and played music for the reception. My daughter and granddaughter came with and they rode in the Jeep with my wife, and I drove the hatchback alone since there wasn’t room for passengers because of all the sound equipment. When we left Idaho I told her I would follow her and even said “New Family Rule..” and we shared a chuckle and a smile.
A few hours later as we were driving past Hill Air Force Base in Ogden heading south Alana all of a sudden started driving erratically. Instead of going the speed limit she slowed down below 60 and was swerving and I did not understand why. I figured the baby was fussing and my daughter must be turned around helping the baby and that Alana was distracted in all of the confusion. She continued to drive erratically so I called and asked if everything was okay. My daughter answered and said everything was fine. I asked why they were going so slow and they said they were going the speed limit.
That was when the battery on my phone went dead.
What I had failed to realize, and what my wife immediately realized was that she had passed a black jeep a few miles back that looked exactly like hers and that I had pulled in behind it thinking it was her. They tried to call me back, but of course my phone was dead.
I followed that Jeep for 30 miles until it exited the freeway in Farmington. As it made a left turn at the top of the overpass realized my mistake when I saw someone I did not recognize in the driver’s seat.
When I finally got home my wife asked me how the New Family Rule's were working out for me. She even declared a new family rule that “When one person is following another person on the freeway the following person should keep his cell phone plugged into the charger so that it doesn’t go dead and cause him to follow the wrong person on the freeway for miles.”
So to anyone out there who has the courage I challenge you to declare your own New Family Rule. In fact I would like to hear about them if you have a minute.
I'm done declaring New Family Rules. I used to think they were funny, but today I hate them!
Bob Edwards is the Founder and CEO of Comm One LLC which develops and sells Call Accounting Software for tracking telephone calls for business. To share your own New Family Rule story, or to taunt Bob about his, you can contact Bob at 801-523-9797 or firstname.lastname@example.org