My better half is good at working on cars. But it’s a double-edged sword, because we never buy new – we always buy used vehicles – ones he knows he can breathe life into long after their best before date. Which means that on occasion we’ve been left stranded. Like on a Monday morning a few weeks ago.
When my city dwelling daughter comes home now for the weekend, it’s like the Amazing Race come Monday morning when I have to get her into the train station an hour away to get her to work on time. We sped out of the laneway in the pitch black, just before 6 am. Not far from the house we both heard a noise – a clunk.
“What was that?”
We made up female type explanations for it:
“Sounded like we ran over something … but we didn’t. Something must have fallen over in the trunk.”
A few more feet down the road, then CLUNK.
“What was THAT?” my daughter shrieked.
“I don’t know. Call your dad.”
I came to a stop and threw it into park.
“He wants to talk to you.”
Him: “What happened?”
I gave him a clear and concise assessment of the situation:
“I don’t know, we heard something clunk. She’s going to miss her train. Come right away.”
“What did it sound like? I need to know what tools to bring.”
“I thought I had a flat tire but I don’t think I do. But I might. Hurry up.”
“But what did it sound like?”
“It sounded like I shouldn’t be driving it. Why are you still home?”
Cue the rain. We sat on the side of the road in the now hurricane force rains, awaiting his arrival. It felt like an eternity, but it was really only about five minutes. When he arrived, we wasted no time. We leapt out of our car, flinging luggage, purses and lunch bags into his truck with all the care of Air Canada baggage handlers. There was no time to waste. We jumped into the truck and zoomed off, leaving him to either find a way to drive the crippled car, or walk home in the rain.
But, that comes with the territory of being head mechanic. We’ve been stranded so many times it’s hard to count. Like many years ago when we were on our way to the babysitters to drop off our youngest while we went to my uncle’s funeral. Once again it’s torrentially raining. We’re on a country road … suddenly the rear wheel falls off. It seems that when hubby was changing tires on the weekend, he forgot to tighten that one up. Did I mention he was supposed to be a pall bearer at this funeral? He tried to put the tire back on but couldn’t … this was pre-cell phone days, when you had to walk to the closest (usually creepy) house to use the phone. We ended up taking our babysitter’s van to the funeral, where my bedraggled, sweaty and soggy husband joined the other five impeccably groomed pall bearers, reminding me of the Sesame Street song “One of these things is not like the others”. (In the 90s I always thought in terms of Sesame Street songs.)
Wheel falls off? I see your wheel and I raise you one axle. That was the year when the kids were little and they were going on their annual Christmas shopping trip with dad down to the mall, on December 20th. They were in our 1990 Suburban, which we bought in 1996. As they cruised along my husband heard a little bang and then suddenly the kids in the back seat kind of “dropped”, like they were in a low rider. He looked out his side window to see his left rear wheel zooming up past him, picking up speed, veered in front and then jumped into the ditch and about 100 feet out into a farmer’s field. He managed to get the Suburban stopped on the roadside. A pick-up truck pulled up behind him, presumably to offer assistance. The guy ambled up to the window and casually asked, “Are you going to put out that fire?” It seems that when the rear axle broke, the friction caused a small fire under the vehicle. One of his biggest regrets is putting that fire out. The thing was insured, we would have been much better off than the $2,000+ repair bill. Side note – I think that’s the year my Christmas gift was a ShamWow.
You may think it’s always raining when we’re stranded. Not always. Sometimes it’s a blizzard. This brings me to our 1994 Astro Van, which we bought in – you guessed it – 2000. This was a “luxury touring van”, which had its upside because it had cool things like drink holders and reclining seats for everyone –critical when you have teenagers who are constantly thirsty and exhausted from being sullen. The truck had its down side though – a sliding side door that required secret handshake treatment to close. You had to lift up and a hold the handle just so – or you were screwed – it would fly open when you turned corners. Whenever we were transporting other people’s kids – which was constantly because teenagers also have to bring a friend everywhere in order to make family functions tolerable … there was always a chorus of “DON’T CLOSE THE DOOR”. Only family members knew how … and if you did it wrong, then tools had to come out, sometimes accompanied by colourful language that we would rather our children’s friends not know that we know.
Anywhoo – It’s the blizzard of all blizzards, and hubby and I making our way home from work. The Astro Van decides it’s only going partway, and strands us a good 18 kilometres from home. Try as he might couldn’t get it going. Along came a police man who we happened to know through hockey, and he loaded us into the back of the cruiser and gave us a ride home. I thought the kids would be worried sick. Interesting to note that teenagers are way more okay with it when parents come home in a police car than vice versa. Their main concern was whether we thought the school buses would be running tomorrow.
Those are really just the tip of the iceberg. There were many more incidents. But in spite of all the breakdowns, I’ve come around to his way of thinking. Who needs new cars? Warranty Shwarranty. All these adventures on the side of the road keep things interesting, and I figured out how to spend some of the money we save by him doing our car repairs. It’s called CAA.