This is a story that must be told.

It was Wednesday, November-something.  I don’t remember the date…I just know it was the day before Thanksgiving, and it was 2006.  I was teaching at Head Start and had a Jersey Shore boyfriend.  It was an even-numbered year, so we’d be spending Thanksgiving with his family in New Jersey.

I loved my job and I could count on one hand the amount of times I was dyyyyying to get out of work and head home.  But on this particular day, the day before Thanksgiving,I had cramps.  Big time.  The only thing that would give me relief from cramps-so-bad-it-felt-like-early-stages-of-labor was Vicodin.

So on this particular day, I was in a bit of a pickle.  I was either in severe pain, or high as a kite.  I had to drive 2.5 hours to my boyfriend’s parents’ house after working all day, and to top it off–my l’il Volkswagen Cabrio seemed to run a little funny when it rained–and the weather reports all seemed to be contradictory.

I left work a bit early, came home, and started to pack my overnight bag.  Actually–I gathered everything I needed in a nice little collection at the foot of the bed, and then called my boyfriend and said I would be late, because I was exhausted and needed to take a power nap before I hit the road (and inevitably, all the traffic).

I woke up feeling refreshed (or so I thought), threw my collection of “things I’ve got to pack” into my overnight bag, and hit the road.

Thanksgiving Eve was uneventful…I think my boyfriend took me to 7-11 to get a Slurpee.  Laugh if you will, but we don’t have 7-11s in Lancaster!  So a Slurpee is kind of a big deal for me.

The next morning, I woke up in my boyfriend’s bed, and….OMG.  The absolute worst thing in the entire world that could have happened, HAPPENED.  My feminine protection FAILED ME.  A little, not a lot–THANK GOD.  But….DAMMIT!

Then, the second worst thing in the entire world that could have happened, HAPPENED.  I forgot to pack underwear.

In my stupid narcotic high….I FORGOT TO PACK UNDERWEAR.  And let me tell you, I am NOT a free-baller.  That is just not my thing.

Oh, and by the way–it’s Thanksgiving Day.  So while everyone else is basting their turkeys or watching the parade on TV–I’m at my boyfriend’s parents house with my period and no underwear.

So I did what any desperate, high-on-narcotics dumbass would do.  I put on his underwear and we went to Walmart so I could get myself some skivvies.  Except–it was Thanksgiving Day and WALMART WAS CLOSED.  OH MY GOD.  NO.

We drove around and by the grace of God, we discovered Kmart was open.  Beloved Kmart was OPEN on Thanksgiving Day.  I did what at high-on-narcotics woman would do…I marched right in there and bought the first package of Joe Boxer underwear I got my hands on.

They were granny-pantyish, but I didn’t care.  They FIT.  They fit and they were MINE.  Because–seriously–who wants to wear someone else’s underwear?  I know…I know.  It’s kind of no different than kissing someone but not wanting to lick the spoon after them.  It’s just one of those “things.”  Like, I’ll grind my nether-regions against your nether-regions without a second thought, but I’m totally skeeved out about wearing your boxer briefs.  But anyway.

I was the proud owner of a five-pack of Joe Boxer lady briefs.  Never in my life have I been so excited to buy underwear.  We went back to my boyfriend’s parents’ house and the rest of Thanksgiving Day went off without a hitch, until…

Sometime during the afternoon, the sky seemed to turn grayish, and it looked like rain was rolling in…  I was worried because I wanted to get back home that night, catch a few hours of sleep, and head out to do some Black Friday shopping.  If it rained, there was a good chance my car wouldn’t start, and I would be stuck in New Jersey.

Fortunately, my car started and I was able to hit the road while it was still drizzling, right around dusk.  I was on my way home, driving along I-95 as dusk turned into dark.  It started raining harder and harder as I drove further away from the Jersey shore, but my little Cabrio was doing just fine since I had it running before the rain started.  I took the NJ Turnpike exit, and…

OMG.  It was too dark to see it until I was practically on top of it.  It was a puddle.  A massive rain puddle in the middle of the free-for-all slab of road before the NJ Turnpike toll booths.  I had no choice but to drive over it–there was no time to swerve without potentially causing an accident.

What I know NOW is that my car was having some electrical issues and that’s why I couldn’t get it started after it rained.  What I also know now is that when I drove over that puddle, a bunch of rain water splashed up under the car and irritated the electrical problem and my car died.  It rolled closer and closer to a toll booth and then stopped…close enough to completely block all cars from using that toll booth but far enough away that I wasn’t protected by the overhang, and…

Well, my Cabrio ragtop just wasn’t in tip top shape, and since I was completely stopped, the pelting rain began to leak in through the driver’s side window, roll down the inside of the car door, and drip onto my pants.

I called my boyfriend in a panic, and then remembered I had AAA+.  The PLUS part was that I got free towing, up to 100 miles.  I paid a little extra for that, since I drove back and forth to New Jersey sometimes…and was I ever grateful that I had the PLUS membership?!?!

Next, I called AAA and tried to explain exactly where I was.  They asked, “Are you on the New Jersey Turnpike?”  I said, “No, my car is stopped about 15 feet in front of the pull-a-ticket toll booth.”

They told me they didn’t do “rescues” on the New Jersey Turnpike.  Um, what…?

Yeah.  AAA will not save you if you’re on the New Jersey Turnpike.  “You have to call the New Jersey Turnpike Authority,” they said.

Let me just take a second to recap here: I have cramps, I’m on pain meds, my feminine protection failed me at my boyfriend’s parents’ house, I forgot my underwear, my car–no, my convertible–died a few feet away from the safety of a toll booth overhang, my clothes are getting soaked, AAA won’t save me, and now I have to call the New Jersey Turnpike Authority?  Because–sure, I have a pen and a piece of paper handy to jot that number down.

Oh–I did have a pen and a piece of paper…in my trunk.  In the seconds it took me to get out, get the stuff, and get back in the car–I got even more soaked.  And freezing, OMG.  Wet and freezing.

I got through to the New Jersey Turnpike Authority, who sent someone out to rescue me.  They towed me to some garage in some New Jersey city–I had no idea where I was.  And, let me tell you…as a 26 year old woman, I did NOT feel comfortable being in the tow truck passenger seat, especially not knowing where I was.

When I arrived at the garage, I was able to call AAA to come and save me.  While I was waiting for the AAA tow truck, I called my boyfriend and the garage owner told him how to find me.  When the Turnpike Authority guy released my car from his tow truck, I grabbed my overnight bag to get dry clothes, and OMG, once again–THANKS TO KMART being open on Thanksgiving Day, my multi-pack of granny panty-ish Joe Boxer underwear saved me again!  I changed into dry clothes and waited for my boyfriend and the AAA tow truck driver.

My boyfriend found me, and I felt TERRIBLE asking him this, but…I really did not want to drive with a strange tow truck guy for 2ish hours!!  My boyfriend had to work the next day, but he agreed to drive me home and have the tow truck guy follow him.

So that’s what he did, and I was so grateful for that…because then he had to turn around and drive all the way back to New Jersey that night.  Oh, and he tipped the tow truck driver $50 since it was Thanksgiving and he had so much driving to do.

Because of The Great Thanksgiving Debacle Of 2006….a few things happened:

1.  I missed out on Black Friday shopping that year.  I’m still bitter about it.

2.  I figured I traumatized my boyfriend because of my period problems and underwear fiasco, plus I totally burdened him with a ton of driving on a holiday.  My problems took away from his family time and cost him some sleep which was a shame since he had to get up early the next day for work.  I expected him to break up with me…instead, he asked me to marry him–a week later.  I said yes.

3.  I will forever be indebted to Kmart for saving my ass (like, literally) on Thanksgiving Day.  My day would have been 100 times worse than it was if Kmart was closed for the holiday.  TO THIS DAY–I have made it a point to go to Kmart every year on Thanksgiving Day and spend money there.

Tomorrow will be no different.  I will likely spend less than I have in previous years, thanks to Ron and I both being funemployed.  But I support Kmart and any other retailer that chooses to be open on Thanksgiving.  I am eternally grateful that I could get my hands on some underwear on that no-good day.

If you don’t think a retailer should be open on Thanksgiving–then stay home and don’t shop.  I bet you’d change your mind if you were in another state, soaking wet, stranded in a strange garage in an unknown location.

And for what it’s worth–Ron has been laid off for 9.5 months now.  Times are tough.  He would be grateful to have a job to go to, even on a holiday.  I’m not saying family isn’t important…but shit got real a long time ago, and at this point in our lives, we would be thrilled with employment, income, and some release of the financial burden we’ve been under for so many months.  This is so much more important to us right now than passing a plate of turkey around the table.

You may argue it isn’t fair for retail stores to be open and “force” their employees to work on Thanksgiving, but you have no idea how many of those people volunteered to work that day.  Maybe for the holiday pay.  Maybe because they won’t be having Thanksgiving dinner until Sunday.  Maybe because they’re a paycheck away from being homeless.  Maybe because they prefer to avoid their dysfunctional family.  Maybe because they don’t have any family, and it’s better for their mental health if they’re distracted from sad memories by busying themselves with work.  Maybe a lot of things.

All I know is–Kmart, I’m comin’ for ya tomorrow.  (But I won’t be buying Joe Boxer underwear.  No offense.  Underwear fit and style is a very personal thing.  I know you understand.  I’m totally buying other stuff, though).

Thanks for being open, Kmart.  xoxo