Tuesday, March 16, 2010

A little trouble and a lot of fun

This summer, my partner and I are moving back to the town where I went to college. He's going back to school to study culinary arts -- YUM!

Yesterday was the application deadline for the summer term at this college. Said college is two and a half hours away from our house, so you would think he could just mail in his application.

But. There is an application fee. And we didn't have the money till Saturday.

I had a doctor's appointment anyway, so I took a day off work yesterday and we planned on heading out of town early in the morning to get everything done.

We slid into the car at five and turned the key in the ignition.

Nothing but crickets.

Okay, so we knew this day was coming. For weeks, the car has been refusing to start at random moments, then roaring to life minutes later as if nothing ever happened. You'd think we would have taken the car to the garage at that point to find out what was wrong.

But garages have never been kind to Dooley-Lilly cars. We take our cars to the garage and the mechanic humanely euthanizes them. Our cars do not get clean bills of health. They get the kiss of death. Garages are where Dooley-Lilly cars go to die.

So we tend to procrastinate about seeing a mechanic. Just a little. And if the car was willing to pretend that nothing ever happened, well, then, so were we.

Then last week, the car shut off while Jake was doing 50 on the twisted back roads of our county. Thank goodness there were no speeding coal trucks on his tail. But by then, we were broke and waiting on payday -- no money to take the car to the garage and find out whether or not it would live.

Saturday, there was high water all around us. The creeks and rivers in our county were on the verge of bursting their banks. All over the state, reports came in of floods, of closed roadways and wet basements and flood shelters in churches and fire stations. Facebook was nothing but a constant stream of photos from various corners of the state: "High water in Charleston." "The Greenbrier is up." "Check out my wet basement." "This used to be a trailer park."

We, being us, decided to make a quick run out to see the creek at its highest point. Because we're stupid like that. We also decided to take the dogs, just in case we couldn't get back. We made it just a few miles out of town and realized that more rainclouds had blown in and that if it started raining, the creek that was lying next to the road, touching the bridge and sending small waves across the yellow line, was going to flood the road completely and block our path home.

The first few drops of rain fell just as the car died.

Screeching, laughing, scaring the dogs, we wrestled the car to its senses and zipped home before it could shut off again. We made it just as the storm came.

So we were pretty sure we needed to see a mechanic, and we planned on stopping by the garage on our way out of town early, early, early Monday morning. Which we would have done, had the car started. But it was no longer willing to pretend.

No big deal, we said. We'll call a tow truck, ride with it to the garage, get this handled. We can still get Jake applied to school. We can still make it out of town.

Town. Ah, our little town. There's only one tow guy listed, and apparently, he sleeps late. It all came down to Joe the Tow Guy, who apparently was having a bit of a lie-in Monday morning. He Would. Not. Answer. His. Phone.

At eleven, six hours after we planned on leaving and in utter desperation, we called a tow truck from several towns away and he came as quickly as he could, which was none too quick. While we stood outside waiting for him, something large and red caught my eye for the very first time:


Apparently this billboard has been at the gas station across from my house, facing my front window, for weeks. I swear on all that is holy, this is the first time I ever laid eyes on it -- twenty minutes too late for it to help us!

We rode in the cab with the tow guy while he stopped to run a few errands, finally dropped us by the garage, and charged us sixty bucks for his trouble. The garage guys doubled over in laughter when they found the problem. A loose battery cable. Nothing. They didn't charge us, figuring we'd paid enough for the tow bill.

So, sixty dollars poorer and quite relieved that the car survived its garage trip, we finally dashed across the state to get Jake's paperwork done. The rest of the day went off smoothly. He got his paperwork completed. I got to listen in on a lecture from one of my favorite professors. We had food that did not originate in our remote and limited county. And we got to see old friends we'd missed. Plus, we went to a bookstore and a Starbucks, neither of which we'd seen in months.

The power was off in town while we were there, which was odd, but not unpleasant. It was nice to walk along in our old favorite spot, a riverside park with water so high only the tops of the trees stuck out. It was dusk and there were no streetlights, no store lights, no traffic lights reflecting on the water. The only lights shone from the bridge, way down the river. We stood together and thought about how in a few short months, we will live close enough to visit the park every day if we want.

It can't come soon enough.

Just after nine, we finally headed home. Or, what I mean to say is, we headed back here. Home is where we'll be heading in a few months' time.

I just hope the car keeps working till then. But if not, I know the number of a tow place.



Oh, Sarah. You wonderfully clever witty writer you. You turned an absolutely dire situation into a humor story that I hooted through. AND honey home is not where you've been or where you're going. Home is wherever you and Jake are as long as you are together. It took me years to realize that with my own husband. When we curl up together every night in bed I realize that we are HOME. In the best possible way. Some people never come to that "knowing." You keep writing girlfriend. You will soon make a living at this craft/career and you won't have to worry about waiting for your next payday. Just believe in yourself. I am so utterly proud of you....(right now I feel like I'm your mother - I have three girls!)

Lily Robinson said...

I'm so glad you found me, because that caused me to find you. I think your book sounds fabulous! I enjoy the style of your writing and story-telling. I will not only be a follower, but I look forward to buying your book.

Good luck with the car and the move.


Marcia said...

Very nicely written! So glad the paperwork made it. My husband would have taken the drive to turn it in just to take the drive. :)

Heather Kelly said...

Sarah--We had a loose battery connection, and I would always forget about it. And it always disconnected the battery when it was raining. And only then, would I remember, oh, yes. I should get the car fixed so I'm not standing by the side of the road in the rain, trying to reconnect the darn thing. Last time it happened, I finally took it up to the local auto store, and was telling my sob story to the guy behind the counter, when my young neighbor walked up. He worked there too, and he stood out in the driving rain for ten minutes fixing my battery connection so it would never come off again. And didn't charge me. I so baked him brownies!

I feel your pain!

Mary Witzl said...

That is a great story, well told, and so much like the sort of thing we always end up doing -- spending too much and going to a lot of trouble when there is an easy, obvious, cheap alternative staring us in the face. Nice to know we're not the only ones who do this.

Hope all goes well with the move!