The plan was simple. Spend an evening on a vehicle-accessible beach at the Outer Banks roasting marshmallows and surf casting. With our old SUV and three children in tow, we headed out to a narrow stretch of sand that extends into the Atlantic.

We started a small fire and enjoyed marshmallows while my husband immersed himself in surf casting. As the tide started to come in, we paid little attention to our surroundings. Glancing up from my duties of s’more construction, I saw something that horrified me: The incoming tide had created a growing river that was quickly separating us, our SUV and our tiny piece of sand from the mainland. I yelled in panic to my husband; we quickly loaded the car and started the engine. My oldest son, sensing our panic, nervously asked, “What are we going to do about that really big river, Dad?” My husband calmly replied, “We’re going to hydroplane. Don’t worry, it’ll be fun.”

In my mind I started to mentally construct my conversation with the insurance agent. Is an “accidentally” marooned vehicle covered under our policy? With the skill of Evel Knievel (in his mind), my husband backed up our truck as far as it would go on that shrinking spit of sand. He turned to me and grinned, leaned into the pedal and plowed clear across a three-foot-deep river of foam and froth. The children screamed as water sprayed everywhere. My daughter remarked, “Let’s remember to put the windows up the next time we hydroplane.”

What had started out as a simple plan for an evening at the beach turned awry and ended as an unforgettable moment in the annals of our family history.

Anne Sullivan


My plan was to remove from her scrapbook, an artifact from the very day I met my wife, Cara, and have it framed to surprise her for our 25th anniversary.

A week or so before our anniversary, I had taken the french-fry bag from her scrapbook and had it framed and matted. This important relic was from a fast-food restaurant that my wife had scribbled her name and phone number on for me the day we met. I was going to surprise her with what I thought would be a romantic gift for our milestone. After picking up the perfectly framed item, I returned home and stashed it away to wait out the few days before our upcoming anniversary.

The night before the big day, we were watching television, and out of nowhere my wife decided to do some scrapbooking while we watched TV. I was sitting behind her on the couch shaking my head and frowning, knowing what was about to happen, when she opened the very book that once held the bag that I had framed and hidden away.

She quickly panicked and turned to me, saying, “Where’s the french fry bag?”

I retrieved the now-framed item, handed it to her and said, “Happy anniversary, honey.” My plan had gone completely awry!

Mike Lambert,

Seaford, Del.

Query: Tell us about a time when a simple plan went awry.

The Washington Post is partnering with the Public Insight Network (PIN) to hear more of your 100 percent true stories from your own experience. Submit your answer to the query above online at By sharing, you become part of PIN, 130,000 people who contribute to high-quality journalism. Editors will choose an entry to run in the Magazine, but we will also share more of your stories online. You can also submit to The Washington Post Magazine, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071 to recount your story in 250 words or fewer. Include your daytime phone number.