Monday, August 22, 2005

Calamity Jane

In the latest installment of misadventure to befall my life, the muffler fell off my car as I was tooling along a remote stretch of I-70 at 80 mph. In a section which had very recently been under construction and for which the medians had not been recreated. The sudden onset of a terrible noise like the grating of the gates of Hell scared the crap out of me. My first thought was that I had blow a tire, just like that time 10 years ago, but the car was handling fine, so I knew that couldn't be the case. I coasted to the first spot I could find that seemed safe to pull over in and got out to see what on Earth could possibly be making a sound like that but seemingly not affect the handling of the car.

Now, I pay a lot of money to get the AAA-Plus instead of plain old AAA for precisely this reason. I don't drive a lot in the city itself, and most of the 60,000 miles on my car are highway miles on my way to see my parents or to see Finbar over the past seven years. So I wasn't too concerned with getting help from someone, though I wasn't sure exactly what I would do if it turned out that the car needed immediate and serious attention and could not be driven until that happened. I got out the Super Secret Emergency Cell Phone and pressed "On". No signal. Because, I suppose, it was too rural, too far from the nearest tower. Of course.

And so began my long wait. There was nowhere for me to sit down safely and the sun was shining unmercilessly. I considered walking to the next exit for help, but I really didn't know where the next exit might be and in this stretch of I-70, the distance could well be measured in double digits. I surveyed the field behind me, wondering if I could hike across it to a farmhouse. But I couldn't see a house anywhere in sight, so it seemed better not to set off across a strange field that might have any one of many dangerous features in this the day of modern agribusiness.

Eventually, the driver of a flatbed tow truck pulled over. We rummaged through my trunk for material, but unfortunately, I had cleaned it out to move my stuff in. The only thing I could come up with was a hoop made of some stout wire that I think may have come off of my hubcap several years back. You know, Hulio: the same wire hoop that you took out of my car on Saturday, thinking it was part of my luggage (because, I suppose, it would be entirely in-character for me to have brought a wire hoop as a souvenir of my travels?). I am really, really, really glad that you asked me about it before bringing it inside. There wasn't time to go through all those boxes and put it all away before I left. The truck driver got a big ol' toolbox from his cab and deftly broke the hoop into pieces, then used the pieces to reattach the muffler to the body of the car so that I could make it home. And he wouldn't accept my money or my AAA card, just told me to have a good day. In fact, I saw him pull over about 10 miles up the road and watch to make sure that I passed by, just checking to make sure I was okay. Amazing.

Now I just need a good mechanic.


At 10:11 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Glad to hear everything worked out ok! It's always the one time you actually NEED the cell phone to work and it's in a "no signal area." When I used to drive the PA Turnpike, that was always my biggest fear - I would breakdown in the mountains in the one dead spot. At least the turnpike has callboxes! They should do that for all major highways.

Thank goodness you met someone nice and decent who could help you out. In this day and age, it's not such a sure thing anymore.

~ Pei


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