31 March 2009

In Consistency

So, obviously my March NaBloPoMo was a total fail. I was hoping to pull it off. I'm one for discipline. I don't usually sign myself up for something and not follow through, no matter how painful it is to finish. I've done the Master Cleanse three times. However, life just took over here. C'est ma vie. But, I think this post will be the equivalent of what I failed to write.

It's been a while since I've taken a road trip. Fuel had been so expensive for so long that it made one question a superfluous drive across town let alone upstate. But, now that it floats around two-bucks a gallon (and when did we ever think that would be a deal?), it was time to hit the road. Two and a half weeks ago, I did just that.

I'd been planning a trip up North to visit a friend and meet her husband and son before moving in for a week to help out during one of her chemo treatments. I thought it might be a good idea to find out if her kid would totally hate me, or her hubby for that matter, before showing up to give care. I'm kind of courteous that way. Besides, I couldn't wait another month to see her.

I should probably note that I haven't seen this friend in two decades, although we have been in touch for the last year. She found me on Facebook. Since then, we have emailed and pinged and had phone dates with wine. We spent election night together (telephonically speaking), and the Inauguration, too. We have known each other since the seventh grade, growing up surrounded by the same beige stucco. We sort of picked up like it had only been a week since we talked. There are just friends that are like that. And she's one.

As I do with all long drives, I took my car to a full-serve station and had my tires, oil and fluid checked before I rolled. I am also one who is extremely diligent in taking my beloved Ghetta in for scheduled maintenance. While she may not look it, I love my car. She is awesomely reliable. So, imagine my surprise when I saw a huge plume of white smoke trailing behind her.

"That can't be from me," I told myself. It just couldn't be, so I just carried along playing the new Lily Allen on my new iPod Touch. Ah, life was good...until I saw another plume of smoke definitely trailing from my car. I had just passed the point where the 5 and the 14 split, which is uphill. Not only was my car smoking, she was losing power.

"No, effing way am I pulling over here," I said to myself as I eyed the shoulder. I was mere miles away from our hometown. It would only be poetic for me to crap out there.

I threw on my hazard lights, made my way over to the far right lane and said little prayers in between cursing the fates. I had a frozen, homemade (by my chef friend, Cookie) chicken pot pie and two packs of Guinness in a cooler in my backseat. The pot pie was for my friend, whom I'll call Joy here; it's all she's been craving. The Guinness was for me and the hubster, whom I'll call Dude, because he is a super cool dude as it turns out, and that's all I've been craving.

You know, it's shocking the amount of people who seem oblivious to what flashing hazard lights imply. Tailgating isn't going to help. Zipping around me, like I'm in the way, isn't proving a point. I'm in the slow lane with my flipping hazard lights on. SHIT'S GOING WRONG! DEAL WITH IT!!!

I made it to Lyons Avenue, the portal to my personal hell, and opted to turn right because it's downhill. My car was barely hanging on.

Now, if you are in a "planned community", like the whole of the Santa Clarita Valley is, you might expect them to plan enough to have a service station offering repairs available off the freeway, don't you think? Oh, sure, you can get gas, you can even get a boatload of Doritos from any one of the attached Food Mart/Circle K/Seven-Elevens, but good effing luck finding a grease monkey.

I continued further in to town to a gas station that had previously serviced my car (and by "previously", I mean more than fifteen years ago), only to find a 7/11 where the repair station used to be. Beyond frustrated, I parked, turned off my failing engine, Googled "Volkswagon Valencia" and dialed.

"Good afternoon, Valencia Nissan," she sang. I asked if they were also the VW dealership. "Oh, no. That closed. But I hear it might be coming back in April or May. But I think it's going to be at the Infiniti dealer. The closest VW dealership is in Palmdale." I politely told the sing-song lady voice that I was broken down in Valencia. Palmdale would not be an option. Would she know of any place in the area that might be able to look under my hood? "Oh, no." Were there any repair places on auto row. "Oh, gee, not that I know of." It was like being trapped in Fargo.

I'm not one to just sit and wait. I need to keep moving. I started my car and, miraculously, she was behaving better already. I figured it must be a hose or a belt. And doesn't white smoke mean oil? Maybe they just overfilled the oil? This was going to be an easy, quick, cheap fix. I was certain of it. Still on the phone with Nissan Fargo, I asked her again if she knew of any mechanic anywhere in Valencia. "For a Volkswagon, I think you'll have to go to Palmdale."

Do you see why I couldn't wait to move out of those beige, stucco walls?

I hung up with her and called my old pal, Nerf. I call him Nerf because he is made of Nerf. I've also known him since seventh grade (all the elementary schools poured into one middle school back then). Amazing that some people can put up with me for so long, no? Anyway, I got Nerf's voicemail, but, true to form, he called me right back and helped walk me through the possibilities. He still lives in my personal hell.

"There's a Shell station up at the top of Lyons that has a service station, and there's a Jiffy Lube near that," he told me, though, giving me the disclaimer that, since he lives in another part of town, he's not really up-to-date with that section of Stepford. I was in auto row by that point, so I turned around and headed back up the hill, catching up with Nerf as I drove. I pulled onto the side street that would take me to the Shell repair shop, and found it shuttered.

I won't list the litany of curse words Nerf had to hear.

I turned around again and went to the Jiffy Lube. Before Nerf and I hung up he said, "You know, I just Googled repair shops for you and there's a place on 9th." Then, we said it together, "German Autohaus." Praise God.

The Jiffy Lubers were really nice. I popped the hood and they showed me that my oil funnel was broken. That had to be it! I called German Autohaus and asked if they has the part. "Yes," said the accented voice. I asked how much. "Eight dollars," he said. Always the skeptic, I asked if he was sure it was only eight dollars. "It's just plastic," he told me. I told him I'd be right there.

When I explained my Ghetta's symptoms, he told me, "A broken funnel would not cause you to lose power." Can't a girl have her fantasies? He, who I will call Hero, went into his office and came back with a little computer he plugged into my car. The Ghetta found a shoulder to cry on there and spilled her guts. Hero came out shaking his head. "You have two cylinders misfiring and two sensors that are bad," he said.

I won't list the litany of curse words that went through my head.

I told him I should probably head back to Santa Monica and deal with my dealership. "Why?" he asked me. He called to verify that nothing was under warranty (my Ghetta just turned nine), so I said, "How much?"

Three hundred and thirty-eight dollars.

You can imagine the litany of curse words I swallowed.

All I wanted to know was that he could fix it that day. "Sure," he said. "Once I get the parts, it will take about two hours."

I had been pinging Joy to let her know the situation. I had been so proud of myself for having left ten minutes ahead of schedule, and was so happy that I hadn't hit any traffic...and now this major delay. She was more concerned that I would have to drive in the dark. "I may not be awake," she said, "but Dude will wait up for you." I ate my lunch, drank my water, and peed eighy-three times. It felt like hours had passed, but I wasn't watching the clock. No. I was being Zen and reading a really bad book.

Hero finally came up to me and said, "Okay, Sandra," and I lit up. Then he finished with, "We just got the parts." Fuck. Another two hours. This was cutting into precious visit time. Bummer.

I read. I texted. I emailed. I Facebooked. I Twittered. I peed some more. Finally, Hero came back out and said, "We're all set." I handed him my debit card and stared at my new iPod. Ironically, it cost as much as my car repair. [Litany of curse words redacted.]

At 4:55 PM, I hit the highway at 80 MPH. I was fortunate to miss any traffic and got to Novato at 10:20 PM. The Guinness was still cool. The pot pie pretty much frozen. Dude and I settled onto the sofa with some pints, keeping our voices down while Joy and the boy slept, and had a good laugh about my wild ride.

Some people are just going to be beautiful no matter what. Joy is one of those people. She and Sinead O'Connor can rock the no-hair look. It was so good to see her. Of course, I would have felt better about it if I hadn't just rolled out of bed. But the pitter-patter of little feet was just too irresistible to sleep through.

"You have a present for me?" Laddy asked me (yeah, that's the name I'm giving their three year-old). "I do," I said. "But, would it be okay if I brushed my teeth first?" He looked at me for a moment, then nodded. After good oral hygiene (he joined me in the teeth brushing), we went back into mom and dad's room to hang out.

Joy and Dude had given me the "Chick" car from Cars to give him. I had also brought two Beenie Babies along that my chef friend passed on to me: a dragon and a bear. Joy had told me he was into dragons. I brought the bear, too, because it was so soft I just couldn't put it down. "I was wondering if you would like to take care of this dragon," I asked Laddy. "No," he said shaking his head. His parents were mortified. I thought it was the coolest thing. He wasn't copping a 'tude, he was being honest, something I totally adore. "How about this bear? Would you or mommy like to take care of that?" I asked. "No," he said. "Not even mommy?" I inquired. "No," he said. It was all I could do not to laugh. I told him I had one more thing I thought me might like and asked him to shut his eyes and hold out his hands. I reached into my pocket and pulled out the car, and placed it into his hands. Totally matter-of-fact-ly he said, "Chick," and crawled into bed with his parents. They weren't too happy about how he had accepted his gifts, but I told them I thought it was perfect. We were bonding in our own special way.

I won't bore you with our perfect weekend. I will just say that I couldn't love or be more proud of my friend. If any husband should be cloned, it's hers. And Laddy is just too much fun. I'm in love. The cutest thing was, after his nap on Saturday, he came stumbling out all red-faced and sweaty-headed from a three year-old's sleep, and had a Beanie Baby tucked under each arm. Yeah, I melted.

I came home, three-hundred-bucks overbudget, to find that the job I was told I had through May, would end mid-April. Perfect. I looked again at my iPod. It seems every time I treat myself there's a repercussion. But, I can't look at it that way. The way I have to see it is that everything happens for the best. Sure the bill for the car repair sucked, but Hero surprised me by fixing my front end. That's a bonus. There's no way my old iPod would have lasted that trip, or an hour into it. The new iPod was not just a treat but a necessity, because there are going to be many more long drives in my future. And, while these little setbacks keep happening, I'm still moving forward. It's consistent, even if it doesn't always feel that way.


SabineM said...

Great post! What a good friend and person you are!
Sorry about the car and the job....

Deidre said...

You handled car trouble far better than anyone else I know. I always end up in tears and feeling like a 4 year old as the mechanic talks down to me.

besides the car issues, it sounds like fab weekend!