Sunday, June 26, 2011

Kamikaze Tire of Doom

Imagine driving down the highway, minding your own business, when suddenly the remnant of a truck tire looms ahead in the road. It appears only after the car in front of you swerves for seemingly no reason. Then BAM! The Kamikaze Tire of Doom attacks, rolling under your car, and making a fateful whacking noise as it makes contact.

The rest of the day is history.

It lies in wait, ready to attack. Photo courtesy Sun Sentinel.
I didn’t realize as I neared the Blairstown exit for Genesis Farms that there was anything wrong with my car. I naively drove the final two miles of my journey unaware that my Saturn was going down fast, streaming a trail of dark red liquid in its wake. When I finally parked next to the farm shed and got out, not only was that crimson line apparent, but fluid was now gushing out from under the front end. It was a terrible sight to see the life draining out of my vehicle like that. Someone at the farm ran and got a container to slip under my car to catch the mess. I knew that I would not be driving home that day.

I went into the shed with my mother and we gathered produce for myself and a friend. Next, I called AAA while Mom sat at a picnic table and calmly ate her lunch. By now, one of the farm hands had shoveled gravel in front of my car to cover and absorb the mess. The man at the other end of the phone promised someone would arrive within 45 minutes to tow my car. That seemed reasonable.

Several men who passed the car offered conflicting opinions on what had gone wrong. One said it was my oil hose, another insisted that oil was not red, so it was probably my transmission fluid. A third suggested a belt must have been knocked loose. Everyone agreed it was probably best not to drive the car anywhere.

Not much, though.
Unfortunately, I was a county away from my mechanic, who I would trust with my life. So the tow was going to be fairly expensive. I have basic AAA, which only pays for the first three miles of a tow. Everyone traversing to and from the barn, who passed my disabled vehicle, told me they had the more-than-basic AAA which allows for a free tow for 200 miles. How sad, they said, that I only had basic AAA. I thanked them for their helpful insights. The man I had spoken to at AAA had told me the tow would probably cost about $105. A hefty fee, but better than towing my car to an unknown and potentially slipshod mechanic.

It was now that my daughter, who lives in Astoria, Queens, called to let me know she was in the area because of a job interview. Would I like to join her for lunch? Why yes—yes, I would. Sadly, I was stranded 35 miles away, so that would not be possible. Too bad, she replied, she would probably be gone by the time I got back. Argh.

"It is a mistake to try to look too far ahead. The chain of destiny can only be grasped one link at a time."—Sir Winston Churchill

The flatbed tow truck had about a three-foot climb into the cab. My mother is 85. I looked at the cab and at her and began to worry. Fortunately, my mother is much taller than I am, and proved to be remarkably agile for her age. I followed her and shut the door behind me. The view from the cab was like a mountain overlook. We were way above the rooftops of cars and enjoying the unique vantage point. I thought about the fresh produce sitting in the car behind us and hoped it would not wilt in transit. While it was unfortunate to have a disabled car, I comforted myself with the fact that I had saved on gas on the way back—well perhaps not, considering the price of the tow.

When we got to my ace mechanic, Scotty, the tow driver informed me that I owed him $132, a bit more than the original quote. However, I am a five-foot-three woman and he was a six-foot-plus man and built like a football player with a weight problem, so I did not dispute the charge.

Scotty looked over the car and informed me that the tire had punctured a plate under the transmission, allowing all the transmission fluid to escape, but no serious damage appeared to have been done. He could get the part the next day and fix it. It would only cost about $319. I shuddered. One unexpected tire ambush had cost me about $450. This was not in my budget for the month.

I removed all the produce from my car and called my friend who was expecting me to drop her share off at her house. When she found out I was at my mechanic, she volunteered her boyfriend to pick us up and take us back to my house. He would be down in five minutes, she promised. Sadly, her timing was off. Instead, he showed up about a half hour later. He apologized, but considering it was a free ride, it was hard to complain.

The Big Three sat at my kitchen tablea truly historic moment.
He dropped us off at my house and I noticed, with glee, that my daughter’s car was still there. She had decided to stay a while so we could spend a little time together. So three generations of women met in my kitchen to discuss life. My daughter worked on her computer, my mom sat back and relaxed, and I stood at the sink washing vegetables so they could be put away. It was one of those historic moments, like the meeting of Stalin, Churchill and Roosevelt during the Big War.

"Be sincere; be brief; be seated."—Franklin D. Roosevelt

My daughter kindly agreed to take my mother back to her assisted living facility, since I would not have a car until the next day. Somehow everything worked out well and it turned into a good—albeit impoverishing—day. All due to the Kamikaze Tire of Doom. It was a formidable adversary, and a costly one. I hoped we would never cross paths again.

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