Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Under the wire

It's almost midnight, and I'd really rather be asleep, but I'm a bit wired from travel and from the crazy few days we've had. So here's a quick update, and then to bed.

The backstory:
A week or two before Christmas, we notice that the heat isn't really working in the car, and the defroster just fogs things up. We take the car in for service. When we get it back, it's a warm day; the defroster works fine and we figure that's that.

The story:
December 22: We drive to CT. With no heat. Yes, the fan and the defroster work, but the air that comes out is, um, not warm. Actually, it's cold, except for the sunny part of the trip.

December 23: We are in CT. We take the car to my parents' mechanic, who replaces the thermostat and tells us we need new brakes soon. We know.

Other good things happen in here, like a big family party, Christmas, a tree, roast beef, yarn, a guitar, a loom, new shoes, books, music, happiness all around. We don't really go anywhere for a few days.

December 27: We decide to go look for a yarn store. A light flashes on the dashboard, indicating something wrong with the coolant level. Indeed, there is no coolant in the car. We drive to my uncle's house--he has the same car, and extra coolant. Score! is apparent as we stand talking in the driveway that the coolant is in fact ending up on the ground after only a brief stay in the car. This is not good news. We drive our car home carefully, carrying an extra gallon of coolant.

December 28: Mariah turns 19! We borrow my mother's car and celebrate with a friend and her daughter. Afterwards, we drop the car off at the mechanic, leaving the key and a detailed note. (It says, why didn't you fix our car? Or something like that...) Later, we all pile into my mother's car and go out to dinner.

December 29: We are scheduled to leave CT, but there is still no coolant in the car. We call the mechanic. He will contact us. Soon. By late morning, he calls, and we go pick it up. Loose clamp, their fault, no charge. We are on our way, only three hours later than planned. We decide to take the "western" route--it's longer, but avoids all tolls, most of major cities, and much of the traffic. We are driving into the sun, but we are headed home.

Until another light flashes on the dashboard. A new one, indicating a problem with the electrical system. Sure enough, the power steering goes out. We drive to a service station, and then to another. The second one takes a look: a belt has fallen off its pulley. It's too late in the day for him to do the job, but if we leave the car overnight he'll check it out in the morning. We are offered a ride, directions to a motel, and the hope of a working car in the morning. We take it. Checking my email (grateful for free wifi in the room), I receive shocking, saddening news of a friend's sudden loss. Everything feels surreal.

December 30: The helpful mechanic thinks it's too big a job for him and sends us to a VW dealer 10 miles away. We get a rental car and a promise that he'll "try to work us in." We drive off to explore Old Town Bethlehem. We are alert to the irony of being homeless in Bethlehem during the Christmas season.

After lunch, we drive back to the dealer, not knowing where else to go. We settle around a TV with our books and magazines. Eventually the service manager calls my cellphone, not knowing we are there. Mark goes to talk to him.

And returns with the news that the alternator must be replaced. Tomorrow. Can't do it now--it's too big a job, he doesn't have the part, other people want their cars too. It will cost lots of money and take lots of time. I might possibly cry a little bit but he is unmoved. We grab a few more things out of our disabled car and go shopping. (Yes, we are Americans, aren't we? I actually got some fabulous boots on sale, but I don't feel good about it yet.) Eventually, we check back in to our previous night's motel (same room!) and go out to dinner.

December 31: The free breakfast tastes better today. It is snowing. Hard. We check out and head back to the dealer after picking up lunch for the road (hope springs eternal). The snow lets up. Eventually the car is fixed, we give them all our money and leave the rental car, and we drive home--uneventfully, finally. We unpack the car in record time--no one fusses about carrying too much or being too cold. Our house is warm and quiet. Noisy revelers outside cannot disturb us. We are at home.


Caroline said...

Oh, Libby.... all I can say is welcome home. Wishing you all a very happy, healthy, and peaceful 2009 (with no car troubles!)

Becca said...

Oh my gosh, Libby. Welcome home!!! And Happy New Year. (By the way, we may need some knitting phone consult in near future, as I assay slippers!)

Kelly said...

egads and welcome home...what a harrowing time. Happy New Year!

outside voice said...

Whew! My goodness! Glad you're home safely.

Best wishes for a peaceful New Year.

Kathleen Marie said...

Car troubles and the holidays... Thankfully you made it all right. Enjoyed your blog... My youngest is 17 - Hard age.

280 Main said...

Oh, I hate cars, too.

I'm exhausted just reading this. What a wild trip.

I wanted you to get to that yarn store on Dec. 27 rather than going around leaking coolant! Thank you for the tip on our own local yarn store. Now that my glorious, hideous First Scarf is done, I'm ready to talk shop with real knitters about trying something that is not a scarf...