Sunday, October 25, 2009

Roadside Assistance

Between cleaning a jam-packed, spider-infested garage, sorting through boxes of old bank statements, correspondence, notes from Toastmaster Speeches, and junk mail, I have been trying to get my dad's 1967 Charger out of the garage. Yes, I said 1967. He bought it new when I was a little girl. Don't tell my mom, but I knew about the car before she did. Dad took me, not Mom, to Stanley Dodge on the National City Mile of Cars. He asked me to I choose the interior color. I remember it as if it was yesterday... but that's another story.

The Charger will be coming to Toledo. We arranged for transport. The only catch is that it must be able to drive onto the transport rig. It had no gas and the locking gas cap would not come off. I had a locksmith out and we got the gas cap off. One problem solved, so I call the auto club for assistance.

“I need gas, some air in the tires, and the battery checked,” I told the dispatcher. “It’s a ‘67 Charger.”

Silence. “Did you say 2007 Charger?”

“No, 1967 Charger.” Emphasis on the nineteen.

“Oh! Oh my!”

I love it when people react that way about the car.

Thirty minutes later a young man arrived driving a shiny white truck with AAA Towing & Roadside Assistance painted in big red letters on the sides. He put a couple of gallons of gas in the tank, added air to the tires, and checked the battery.

“It’s marginal.”

He installed the battery, and then asked me to crank the engine. The big engine rumbled and started after a few tries, but then it died.

“Could it be that the gas hasn’t gotten to the engine yet?” I asked, while still sitting behind the wheel.

He shrugged.

“Try it again,” he said.

I turned the key and pressed the gas pedal. The ignition revved and the engine rumbled for a few seconds. The young man took the air filter cover off. Before I realized what he was doing he poured gasoline directly on the carburetor. Red, orange, and blue flames erupted from the engine. I immediately released the gas pedal and turned of the ignition.

“FIRE!” I shouted, jumping from the driver’s seat. “Fire! Where’s your fire extinguisher?”

For an instant, he gaped at the flames in seeming disbelief.

“Fire extinguisher!” I shouted. “Look what you did to my dad’s car. FIRE!

He scuttled to his truck, running to and fro, to the back, behind the front seat, the side, tossing things and muttering as he went.

Call 911. I told myself.

I retreated from the garage and pulled my cell phone from my jeans pocket. As I was pressing the panic button on my cell phone, he rushed by, a bottle of drinking water in his hands. He tossed the water on the carburetor, dousing the fire.

Disaster averted. I have nothing good to say about that roadside assistance. Suffice to say the Charger is all right, the house wasn’t burned, and I came out unscathed, at least physically.

But that’s not the end of my experiences with this towing company. As it turned out, the Charger needed a new fuel pump and some work on the transmission. Bottom line, I needed it towed to a mechanic. I called AAA again. This time I said, “Don’t send that company.”

“In your area that’s the only towing company we have.” He said. “You don’t really have a choice. I’ll make a note for them to be very careful.”

With misgivings I reassured myself it would be a different driver and a flat bed truck.

When he came and started loading the Charger onto the truck, I never took my eyes off him.

Things seemed to be going well, I thought. We’re making progress. With a twist of the front wheels the truck lurched forward.


(To Be Continued)

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Exhausted and Discouraged in Chula Vista

It's been an age since I posted here. Now I find myself in California again. How many trips has it been? I've lost count.

After a sleepless night, I flew from Detroit. This morning I feel like an elephant sat on me. Last night I unlocked the door to Mom's old house at nine 0'clock San Diego time. Yet again, the state of the house assaulted me. I had forgotten how many boxes were left when we were here in August. Worse yet, on a cursory walk through, I discovered some more stuff we missed last trip. Some mementos from Mom and Dad's wedding and anniversaries and two big boxes that brim with what looks like correspondence. I scrubbed a scum ring from the unused toilet and cleaned the daddy long legs and cobwebs from the bathroom. And then there's the garage. I don't even want to ponder that. It's overwhelming.

One small miracle, the mercury started after one groan and sigh. I was too exhausted to go out and get food. I scrounged some ramen noodles, from our foray in March, and a small can of V8, from Mom's meals-on-wheels stash. The neighbor's dog barked and barked. I didn't remember that last trip.

I sighed.

After my snack, I dressed in my PJs. Bed and sleep was all I wanted. As I was brushing my teeth, I thought I heard the doorbell ring.

Naw, I thought. Who would be visiting at half past ten? I continued with my ablutions.

Knock.. knock, heavy and loud, unmistakable.

Could it be Frank? Not likely, he goes to bed early.

I turned on the porch light and peered through the peephole. Nothing was clear. I had locked the security door so I figured it would be safe to open the inner door a crack.

"Police!" A gruff voice said.

Two tall burly men dressed in dark police uniforms stood on the porch. I don't remember them showing me badges. In retrospect, I should have asked for them. What if they had been robbers impersonating police.

Duh! I was so tired that I didn't think to ask.

"We received a report that there was a robbery in progress," One of the men said. "A neighbor said they heard breaking glass. Something about a husband being away... "

This is all I need, I thought. A image of me being handcuffed and hauled off to the police station flashed through my mind.

"I'm the daughter." I said, from behind the inner door.

"May we come in? We need to check the report out."

I asked them to wait while I put something on. From the back bedroom I grabbed my U of M ECMO sweat shirt and put it on. It didn't occur to me until later that they might think I was getting a weapon.

Tired and flustered I unlocked the door. As the two six-plus, linebacker types walked into the living room an even taller man emerged from the night.

"Three of you! You sent out the army." I said. One of them could take me down with one arm tied behind his back, I thought. A soft nervous chuckle escaped my lips.

"We need to be prepared. The report was of a robbery in progress." Sitting here in Starbucks this morning, I can't stop wondering what possessed me to let them in now.

"What would you like to see?" I noted the guns and billy clubs on their belts. "The other time a policemen came out they didn't ask to come in. What's different this time?"

"They weren't doing their job then." One of the men said. "We need to check the report out."

His companions surveyed the room. The thought occurred to me that the boxes strewn around the room might look suspicious.

"If I show you the Power of Attorney papers would that be enough?"

"Yes, that will do."

I gave them my copies of the PoA and then my driver's license.

They seemed satisfied.

As they were leaving, I thanked them and wished them a good night.

"I hope that I'm the worst encounter you have tonight."

"Yeah. Me, too." One called as he walked away.

I had trouble falling asleep, despite my exhaustion. My back hurt. All the events of the day and all the things I need to do swirled in my mind. I'm glad the neighbors are keeping an eye on the house. Still, three policemen. Wow!

After some tossing and turning, I managed to twist the sheet into a knot. I gave up on straightening it out. As I drifted off to sleep amidst the remaining clutter, dust, and lurking spiders, the neighbors dog barked and barked.