Me: “Is it fixable?”
Mechanic: “How much do you like your car?”
Earlier Sunday, approx. 2:15 p.m.
As I pop in disc 5 of an audio book that I’m not crazy about, but is keeping me occupied on my drive from Illinois to Ohio, I hear rattling. I turn off the CD and hear louder rattling. I try to notice what is causing it – no engine lights are on, temperature is ok. Pressing the gas pedal makes it worse but even with my foot off the gas, the noise isn’t good.
I calm my rising panic by telling myself that sometimes really bad noises are more noise than trouble. Unfortunately my calm is short-lived when something goes POP!, the oil light and battery light go on, smoke pours out from under the car, and I’m forced to roll over to the shoulder. On the Interstate. Great.
I pull out my cell phone, get my CAA card and put my ‘in case of emergency’ plan to work. While I wait to get a signal and try to not think about how much ‘roaming’ is going to cost me, some guy turns up out of nowhere. He’s pointing to my engine. Does he think I don’t know my car has broken down or is he Ted Bundy junior? Where did he come from anyway? I don’t see a car anywhere nearby. From the rattle and smoke, I doubt that he can help. I motion to my cell phone and wave my CAA card. He mouths “It’s on fire,” and points to my engine.
I don’t think Bundy ever used the car on fire excuse so I take my chances and get out of my car. I say “It’s on fire?"
He tells me he saw fire under my car, but now it appears to be out.
I’m suspicious of this good Samaritan (too many after-school specials and that creepy Kurt Russel Breakdown movie) but I notice that I’ve got a good six inches and ten pound on this guy, so I try to look as surly as possible and hope he doesn’t see me as a victim. Just when I finally connect to AAA, two state troopers pull up.
Thank you, truck drivers.
The troopers send the ‘concerned citizen’ on his way, help me explain to AAA where exactly I am – Howe Indiana at the mile 115 marker - and then let me warm up in a cruiser, but not with my purse – that had to go in the trunk in case I had a gun.
Since my car will obviously not be fixed anytime soon, if ever, I need a plan b.
Plan b is to have my Dad pick me up somewhere recognizable, easy to find, where I can wait in comfort and safety.
There is ALWAYS a McDonalds nearby, and of course, there is one just off the Interstate where we can easily direct my dad and where I can sit safely to wait.
I admit to being all over the anti-McDonald’s bandwagon – I watched SuperSize me in horror and straightened up in my upright position on my sky-high horse.
“I don’t eat at McDonalds” I’d proudly state when the buzz from the movie first came out.
Right now I am overjoyed to be eating in McDonalds. Compared to sitting underdressed (didn’t expect it to SNOW on Easter!) in my non-functioning car on the side of the highway, a well-lit, warm, safe McDonalds is nirvana. The excellent coffee is a bonus.
I luck out at this particular McDonalds in LaGrange Indiana – the back room with a big flat screen TV makes me feel less lost, alone and stranded. The world news helps keep my looming carless state in perspective.
I move to the front to watch for my Dad, who is supposed to be there any minute to pick me up.
Grizzled psycho: “THEY say the world is billions of years old but I don't believe it. Evolution – pshaw. Who do they think created it all?”
Apparently the question is directed at me. I've never actually seen anyone who didn't believe in evolution in person before. He really fits the cliche of a nutcase, but I don't want to give up my Dad-watching vantage point or lug my 3 bags around again, so I stay put and decide to character-study a living, breathing creationist lunatic.
15 minutes later, his rants about gays, lesbians, sinners and non-believers is wearing thin. He's SUCH a cliche that he's completely useless to me character-wise – fraying collar on a flannel shirt, stooped shoulders, unshaven, wild-eyed, ranting nonsense. Totally useless – nothing unique or interesting about him, just a run-of the mill nutbar.
Dad finally shows up, looks at the religious wacko, looks at me, chuckes and says, “I have to go to the bathroom” and walks away LEAVING ME WITH THE NUTBAR!
Thanks a lot.
I spend another eternity learning about how I can get my own subscription to 'The Daily Bread' when Dad finally reappears and we go to the car.
What a day.
The broken-down car saga continues. It looks like I'll be here for the rest of the week at least trying to either get it fixed (engines aren't cheap) or scrapping it and getting a ride back.
I miss E.