It's not about the house.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Drive, He Said

continued from the previous post

The Big Green Wrecker pulling up behind us wasn’t God, it was the Citizen’s Bank Samaritan Van. The driver got out and bellied up to my window, trying to keep his Samaritan bottom as far out of the line of traffic as possible.

“Got a flat tire?” he said.


“Car still run?”


Apparently, the trauma had turned me into a wordless moron.

“Okay,” he said, “we’re just gonna get you safely off the highway. Go ahead and drive it – 10, 15 miles an hour – I’m going to be right behind you. Just get off that exit right there,” he indicated the one in front of me that I could have hit with a rock, the one I’d been trying to get to when I realized Chuck was no longer drivable. “And when you get to the bottom of the ramp, stop.”

“Um. ’Kay.”

I forgot the car was actually still on, so the starter motor called me a few choice screaming names when I moronifically turned the key. But that was nothing compared to the whompada-whompada that came from underneath when I tried to turn the wheel. Ten or fifteen miles an hour, hell. Even one mph was not going to be in the cards.

I got out and, keeping my own ample bottom out of the passing traffic, bellied up to the Wrecker Man.

“I think something worse is broken,” I said. “I don’t think it’s just the flat. Thrown tie rod or busted axel maybe. I don’t think I can drive it. I’m afraid I’m just going to make it worse.”

As if I could. Make my life worse, I mean. As if I had that kind of power in me. But at least it appeared I’d found my words. So, you know, that’s something.

He got out, walked up with me, and got down on his hands and knees in front of Chuck (TFT) while I got back in. Stood up and announced “I’ll put it on the truck. I’m going to pull around in front of you. As soon as I do, I want you both to get out – on the curb side – and climb into my cab.”

Okay, Mister Take-Charge Wrecker Man. I’m kind of liking you. But, um, if you don’t mind my asking: What, exactly, did you see under there?

Johnny and I were oddly calm while waiting in the cab. When one thing goes bizarrely wrong, I tend to panic. Two or three or four, I sometimes cry. Five or six or seven start to be a little funny, but after eight or nine or ten I just go numb. That’s been our lives lately, eight or nine or ten to the eleventeenth, and so we found ourselves treating this latest setback more like a minor detour on the road. Should we go left or right? Did it really matter? All roads in our world just lead straight to ruin, anyway.

The verdict we came to was that we’d get Chuck towed to a service station and charge the repair, because we just couldn’t bother George again so soon and besides, we didn’t have the cash to pay him, anyway.

“How much is this going to cost us?” Johnny asked, just like he was saying “What time will you be home this afternoon?”

“I don’t know,” I answered, with the same nonchalance. “Depends on what exploded under there.”

“No,” he said. “I mean the tow.”

“Oh, the tow? The tow’s free! Or, if it’s not, AAA will reimburse us for it.” I delivered this news like I was Ed McMahon – the old Ed McMahon, I mean, before he decided to be more like me. “Mr. John Conroy, you have won a free half-mile tow! And all you had to do to collect was nearly die on the Expressway!”

Hooray! Huzzah! And hallelujah!

When Chuck was securely on the flatbed and the Wrecker Man was in the driver’s seat, I asked what he’d seen when he crawled around. “I don’t know,” he answered. “Maybe a little fluid leak or something, but…” and he trailed off, too kind to say what he was thinking, which was either that we were screwed or that I was obviously a maroon.

He literally got us off the highway. That was his job, and he did it well. There was a State Police Barracks right off the exit – “Special Operations,” the sign on the building said – and he put us down in the parking lot there. Told us to call AAA, gave us a customer satisfaction survey to fill out, refused to accept a tip, and was on his merry Wrecking way.

Before he left, though, he said he’d been two cars behind us on the Expressway and had been watching the whole thing. He said we were pretty lucky we had not been killed. Cars zooming by, us cutting through them trying to pull over. Yeesh.

From the highway at some point I had called My Lady and told her what was going on. Now I called her back again to report. Johnny, I said, would walk to the T station and be at her house within the hour. I would wait for AAA and, if it was just a flat tire – which I didn’t think it was, but I was trying for once to be optimistic – then I might actually beat him there.

“Oh no,” she said. “I don’t think we’ll be able to go at this point. I have to be back by one o’clock to have lunch with so-and-so.”

Oh. Um...?

See, so-and-so is very sick, and My Lady has been delivering lunches as a neighborly gesture a few times a week. This is very kind and Samaritany, very Mitzvahish of her, but um… Weren’t we supposed to have been having lunch? Shalom Hunan and the Old Testament and everything? I mean, I understand that rescheduling might be the wisest thing to do, considering, but, well…


Anyway, when AAA pulled up, it was the little truck. The baby pickup that they send for lockouts and jumpstarts and tire changes. I’d explained to them on the phone that I might need a tow, but they, apparently, had decided otherwise. Was this a good sign? Had they somehow diagnosed Chuck as fine and me as stupid right over the phone?

Chuck’s spare donut hangs beneath him, between his two back tires. I’d tried to take it down to get it ready for the AAA guy, but hadn’t even been able to unscrew the knob that holds the lug wrench in place behind the jack. (I know: I’m a big fat stupid girlie. So?). I explained all this and popped the trunk for him, but he dropped to his knees under the spare without so much as a pliers in his hands.

Was he magic? Bionic? Magnetized? How was he going to get this thing down without the proper tools?

Apparently, he wasn’t.

“Oh, yeah,” he said. “That thing’s no good. All rusted out. If you were my wife -- my mother, my sister -- I wouldn’t put that donut on your truck. It’s up to you, of course. I’ll drop it for you if you want, show it to you, let you make the call, but… What do you think? Want me to go ahead and get a tow?”

Um. Okay?

But wouldn’t it have been more convenient if you had been a tow in the first place, as per my original request?

He called in the tow, then told me to move Chuck to a different parking spot. Scolded me for being where I was. Where, ahem, the Wrecker Man had put me. Said he hadn’t been able to see me there, said he drove by the lot twice before pulling in. It seemed to me, since he’d been told I was in this parking lot -- with a flat tire and maybe something worse and everything -- he might have gone ahead and pulled on in the first time, but whatever.

Now you're asking me to drive the car?

To be continued.



Anonymous said...

dont you guys have a box of matches, sorry a card of matches or a ciggy lighter
i dont whant to set the world on fire,,,
step 1 fill the car with gas
step 2 park the car verry close to the bungalow ............
cant wait for that wine to mature. or in johnies case manure,haeither way he would notic the difrence.
love ya johnie

Anonymous said...

ps didnt weight for mine wine to get older eiother, its gone now .if anybody has matches dont come neare me till thursday,now i,m thursday again,think i got a spritzer in the fridge,
i,m just tired

theotherbear said...