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This must be the place: Sweating out my worries, just another day

Garret’s truck was recently broken into in Raleigh. Garret K. Woodward photo Garret’s truck was recently broken into in Raleigh. Garret K. Woodward photo

Covered in sweat, I was about three miles into a Friday afternoon run around Lake Johnson on the outskirts of Raleigh.

Under a hot August sun, I emerged from the depths of the urban forest and slowly walked over to my truck in the small parking lot. 

I noticed the front passenger’s side window of the vehicle was down. I figured my girlfriend, Sarah, had returned from her respective jog before I did. Thus, she was lounging out in the truck waiting for me.

But, as quickly as that thought entered my mind, I noticed a wide swath of broken glass around the open window. A sense of disbelief and dread spilled over me. I peered into the truck and witnessed more broken glass across the passenger’s seat and the center console.

Unlocking the driver’s side, I was able to locate my wallet and smart phone, both hidden very carefully in the truck amid personal protocol I’ve adopted over many years as a runner/hiker leaving valuables behind while taking off down the trail for a glorious jaunt.

I was also able to make sure my laptop was safe and secure in the backseat. Also hidden, it was untouched. It seemed whoever smashed the window simply reached in and took whatever they could grab in a moment’s notice, which just so happened to be Sarah’s purse stashed underneath her seat.

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Grabbing the phone, I called Sarah. She was still out on the trail. I told her what happened and she came trotting back. The purse was long gone. A notification popped up from her bank and dinged on her phone. A $500 purchase at a Walmart nearby was flagged and the credit card declined. She immediately blocked her cards to avoid any other financial setbacks. 

Calling the police, I knew a stolen purse and broken truck window was pretty low on the priority list, let alone a waste of societal resources to come out and inspect the scene of the crime. But, nonetheless, I wanted to timestamp the incident, if anything for insurance purposes. 

The Raleigh officer was polite and courteous on the other end of the line. He even showed some solidarity to my situation by noting his “truck got broken into the other week, they smashed the driver’s side window” and that it was parked right next to his police cruiser. “It’s pretty crazy out there,” he added.

So, with the interior of the truck covered in broken glass — you’d be surprised how much glass one small window consists of when shattered — Sarah jumped into the back seat of the truck and we tracked down a car wash nearby in hopes of vacuuming up the mess.

An hour later, we’d cleaned up the interior. But, now what about the open window? It was at least a four-hour drive back to our humble abode in Waynesville via Interstate 40 at about 75 miles-per-hour. Not to mention, what if it rains? 

After a couple attempts with a small tarp (bought shortly after at Walmart) and a garbage bag (procured from Panacea amid a hasty late afternoon meal before leaving Raleigh), the only solution that actually worked was duct-taping a towel from the backseat to the open window. No drag in the highway wind. No flapping noise, either.

Cruising along I-40 West, the hot August sun was now falling behind the Blue Ridge Mountains as the truck shot past Statesville, onward through Morganton, Marion, Black Mountain, Asheville and Canton. The sky transitioned from bright blue to rich tones of orange and purple, an intrinsic sense of gratitude washing over us.

Even in the midst of our jarring experience, that odd sense of feeling violated, all Sarah and I could do was laugh at the whole thing, to be appreciative that it wasn’t any worse. The laptop was safe. We had our phones and could head-off any more problems associated with the smash-n-grab. But, most importantly, we had each other during this ordeal. We shared this story together and through that, we could move forward.

During the weekend, with my truck covered in a protective tarp in front of our apartment, I was able to schedule an appointment with Safelite to replace the window. Total bill came to $384. Payment straight out of my pocket seeing as my insurance deductible was too high to cover the damage. Figures, eh?

The other kicker with Safelite was that I had to motor over an hour away to Morristown, Tennessee, for an early Monday morning appointment, seeing as if I waited for an opening at the closer shop in Asheville, the truck wouldn’t be seen until later in the week.

Skip to 8 a.m. Monday. Sarah and I caravanned to Morristown. Thankfully, the truck was brought into the garage mere minutes before a torrential downpour entered East Tennessee. Holing up in a local coffee shop, I got to work on assignments for last week’s newspaper — the news never stops, as they say, especially not for broken windows.

An hour later, the truck was ready. Pay the bill. Thank the kind man behind the counter. Walk back out into the world of knowns and unknowns. It was then decided to make our way to the Big Creek entrance of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, right off I-40 on the Tennessee/North Carolina state line.

Grabbing for our running shoes, Sarah and I aimed to meander up the Midnight Hole trail. As I reached for mine in the backseat of the truck, I found another piece of broken glass that the vacuum didn’t suck up. I decided to keep it as a memento and put it in the glovebox for safe keeping.

A mile-and-a-half up the trail, I stopped at Midnight Hole and admired its natural beauty for the thousandth time, a setting that’ll never be lost on me. Bounding back down the trail to the truck, the vicious storm from earlier in Morristown reached the national park. Cue the torrential rain, thunder and lightning.

Not long into the rain, I was soaked to the bone. Drenched. But, I didn’t care, neither did Sarah. Embrace whatever comes at you, for good or ill, and be appreciative of being aware and immersed in the moment, no matter what comes your way in this wild, undulating universe. 

The entire way back to the parking lot, I purposely splashed through every single muddy puddle. I felt like a kid again, that childlike wonder that never leaves those who never forgot what it feels like to explore and ponder. Joyous curiosity of pure heart and soul. I was also thankful that I’d remembered to put up the truck window before I hit the trail, too. 

Life is beautiful, grasp for it, y’all.

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