Thursday, February 12, 2009

I'll gouge you later

Since I work at home and everything I need is within walking distance, I don't usually drive my car. That means I save lots of money on gas (haven't filled the tank since October and I'm still at half a tank), wear and tear on the car, tires and machinery, and the battery tends to run down when it's cold. It was cold today and the battery was low.

I gave it some time to recharge but I still couldn't get the engine to turn over, so I called an auto repair shop that's about two blocks away and asked how much he would charge me to jump my battery. "Five thousand dollars," he said.

"Sorry, I'll have to call AAA. They're cheaper."

"Where are you?"

I gave him my address and he said he'd be right over and we could discuss it then. I knew he wouldn't really charge me $5,000, but he didn't give me enough time to ask if he took credit cards. I went to the bathroom and when I got outside he was getting out of his car with a portable battery charger, a sort of charged battery with cables. Since I've been eyeing a solar battery charger about the size and thinness of a mouse pad, I didn't let my eyes linger too long on the nifty tool. In less than five minutes, my car was running like a champ. I asked him what I owed him. "Nothing. I'll gouge you later on something else."

I appreciate his candor. I also told him I have some things that need to be done (flush & fill, A/C recharge, and tune-up), and he just smiled as he rolled up the cables and reminded me to leave the car run for a while to recharge the battery.

I've dealt with his company before and they are reliable and reasonably priced, so I don't take his gouging comment seriously. Then again, you never know quite what someone will do when you need their help, like my dad.

Adventures in driving

It was bitterly cold the night Dad drove his truck up to Worthington from Hilliard to see if he could get my car started. It wasn't the battery. He jumped the car and the engine sounded sick and run down. It just clicked. Alternator or starter -- or both. Dad had a heavy chain in the back of the truck and he affixed the heavy hook to the bumper of my 1978 Gran Torino to tow me back to Hilliard down I-270, one of the busiest freeways in the city. Even at night, cars whizzed by us, rocking the heavy Torino.

I had no brakes and the power steering was out since the engine wasn't running and there was no charge in the battery. Dad seemed to forget I was back there or that I was freezing. No engine means no heat and I was wearing a skirt. Even in pantyhose, my legs quickly turned to blocks of ice and I lost all feeling below the waist as I instinctively braked every time the chain went slack and the rear end of Dad's truck loomed in front of me. Just before I hit the back end of the truck, the chain would snap taut and we'd be off again, Dad driving at top allowed speed.

Hands on the wheel, sweat freezing on the palms of my hand and sticking to the plastic steering wheel, I rode behind my demented father's truck, jerking and slowing, slowing and jerking, trying to maintain a straight line with the power steering no longer working. It was like trying to turn a Mack truck with a kiddie car steering wheel and it didn't work very well. Teeth clenched, nearly frozen solid, I fought the wheel and prayed continuously until suddenly Dad's truck pulled away and my car slowed. I managed to get to the side of the road before the truck disappeared over the hill and I waited and waited and waited.

After what seemed like hours, someone tapped on the wheel just before hypothermia set in and my eyes had slid completely shut as I gave myself up to a long -- very long, terminal -- winter's nap. I jerked awake and rolled down the window. Dad laughed at me. "I got all the way to Roberts Road before I realized you weren't back there any more. I'll hook you back up and we'll be on our way."

I don't know what was worse, sitting there as the winter night wrapped subzero arms around me or being jerked at high speed down the freeway behind Dad's truck, but I survived, obviously. It was a night of terror for me and a big joke for Dad. Roberts Road is the turnoff about one mile from Dad's house where he was towing my car and me. He had nearly made it home before he figured out I wasn't back there and I nearly frozen to death. Getting warm again was a new experience in pain that sears those harrowing moments in my mind as I fought to stay in my lane, almost getting hit several times, and futilely hitting brakes that didn't work to keep from smashing into the back end of the truck. Sometimes power brakes and steering are more of a hazard than a help. But I made it through, although even after all these years (nearly 30 years), I still don't think the experience is funny. I don't think I ever will. Near death experiences seldom are, at least not to the one who nearly died.

It seems dramatic to say it that way -- I nearly died -- and it is in way, but it's also true. Some stubborn core inside me refuses to give up no matter what and that stubborn core has kept me alive more times than I care to count, which means I will probably end up in hell after all and will spend eternity in a world ruled by cockroaches, moths and Mom.

No comments: