Jan 30, 2006

How I spent my weekend

I had the car breakdown from Hell this weekend--actually not the worst breakdown from the annals of car breakdowns, but overall not the way you'd want to spend a sunny Saturday.

I was headed to my parents house in Delaware, generally a one-hour trip. I left my place at 11:15. The agenda for the day: Out to lunch, some shopping with my mother (tax-free shopping!) and perhaps a movie, followed by dinner and then home.

Everything was fine until I got off the highway, slowed to a light and my car stalled out. It started right up again and I proceeded on my way. At the next light, the car stalled again. Again I put the car in park and it started right up, but this time when I put the car in gear it stalled again. I started it again, gave it a little gas while in park, put the car in gear and proceeded along my way. Rinse and repeat about half a dozen times. The car would start right up, then I'd put it in gear, it would stall, one, two, three times then catch and go.

Now you might be thinking: "Rachel, why didn't you just pull off to the side of the road?" But I was so close. I figured if I could just get this baby to my parents' I'd be able to call for a tow and worry about it then.

Finally, I was about two blocks from my parents house on a busy intersection across the street from a shopping mall when it gave out altogether. I called for a tow. I was having a discussion with the T Mobile woman who was handling my call as to whether I should call the police to help get me moved off the road or just sit there gumming up traffic when a state trooper came by. The car had been running in park for about 20 minutes by this time and the trooper managed to pull it over to the lot of an apartment complex off the road.

My mother came by with a can of diet coke and some salted peanuts (I'd had no breakfast) and we sat in the car waiting for the tow truck. Now, my parents have only lived in Delaware for a couple of months, so they don't have a reliable mechanic. We were considering where we should take the car, when a woman came by. She'd seen me stalled at the light, and vowed to check back after she picked up her daughter. She gave me the name of her mechanic, who was across the state line in Pennsylvania, told us her horror story about being broken down on 495 for six hours and went on her way. After 45 minutes the tow truck guy came by and suggested Pep Boys. My mother and I followed, explained the problem to the boys and went to pick up my father for lunch at the Chinese/Korean/Thai/Malay place near their house.

It was now 3 pm, but some Beef Penang put an end to my headache and I suggested to my mother that we head to Ulta as I was in search of a new foundation. Before we got there, Pep Boys called and said my thermostat wiring was all burned out and I needed to flush and fill the radiator. Also the fuel system needed flushing and that wiring was also burned out. The conclusion: $450 and the car would be ready to go.


"I can take off 10 percent, that would make it $45 less."

"That sounds good. Do that. Will it be ready today?"

"Yeah, Kevin will stay late. Just make sure you're here by six o'clock."

By 5:30, we'd explored my foundation options, settled on a new makeup line and decided to head back to Pep Boys to see if Kevin and the boys had finished the car. Apparently, Kevin wasn't the only one staying late; the waiting room was full and we had to wait. By about 6:20, we'd settled the bill. Since our shopping time had been so abbreviated, we decided to finish off the evening at Barnes & Noble.

At B&N, we had coffee, browsed, bought a couple paperbacks each and wondered what else to do. I suggested we stop at the shopping center near my parents' house. We had both cars so we'd meet there. My mother took off and I began searching my capacious handbag for my keys. Not there. I looked on the floor of my car, my trunk. The seats. I emptied my bag. No keys. I called my mother. She said she'd come back and help me look. I went into B&N, checked the bathroom, the cafe and the customer service desk.
No keys.

My mother returned. With a flashlight from my trunk, we went over every inch of the car. Emptied my purse again. Went back to the B&N service desk. I called AAA and was advised that there would be a 75-minute wait for a locksmith. Because I was a much valued PLUS member, the first $100 was covered, after that I was on my own. We settled down for the wait.

A full 75 minutes later a locksmith couple, two of the fattest people on the planet, showed up. He was chatty. She was mute. They began working on the car. My mother and I repaired to her car to wait. At some point about an hour in, Mr. Locksmith started screaming at Mrs. Locksmith, calling her all sorts of foul names. Some drunken teenagers came by and started taking pictures of the locksmith couple. I have no idea why.

At 11 pm, Mr. and Mrs. Locksmith got in their van to drive over to my mother's car eight feet away from mine. I walked over. Mr. Locksmith had my new key in his mouth and was writing up the receipt: $75 since I'm an AAA-PLUS number. Mrs. Locksmith got chatty all of a sudden. I listened to her account of the many complications they encountered while completing the job. My ignition didn't have a code. He gave me a used one he had in his truck. No charge. No charge for putting my key in his mouth either. I'm a lucky gal.

I managed to get home in one piece, sometime between midnight and one. Yesterday, I really didn't have the heart to do much of anything. Instead, I stayed in bed reading chick lit, emerging only to watch Pillow Talk to the umpteenth time. I fell asleep and dreamed I was being attacked by cows. I have no idea what this means, but I woke myself up by screaming "Stop!!!"

So I'm kind of tired and cranky today. Oh, and the car still stalls out when I stop at a traffic light.

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