18 October 2004 - 10:16 AM
Once upon a time, one summer when I was but a sprout, my family drove from Maryland to Chicago to visit my father's family. We loaded up the 1976 Plymouth Limone ... er, Volare station wagon (in itself the subject of much story), packed books and other amusements for the long drive, and set off with the best of anticipation.
More fools we. We hadn't even gotten out of Maryland when the automotive troubles began. We pulled off the road in Hancock, Maryland, where there was a Chrysler dealer, where the mechanic examined the vehicle and commented, with shrugging of shoulders and upward wafting of palms, that 'it looked like transmission trouble.' We poured more transmission fluid into the vehicle and carried on.
We made it through Pennsylvania and Ohio, stopping every so often to refresh the transmission fluid, and had hopes of making it to Chicago before having to stop for serious repairs. Unfortunately, such was not to be. The car gave out on the second day of the journey, in the middle of the Indiana Toll Road, in the middle of July.
This was in the days before cellular phones existed, much less were widespread, so we were fortunate that a trucker took pity on us and pulled over to help. He gave my father a ride to the nearest gas station/towing facility, and my father returned some time later with a tow truck. Distances being what they were, my mother, sister, and I sat with the car for something like and hour and a half or two hours in the July heat before my father and the tow truck returned.
It was at this point that we were informed that Triple-A didn't exist in Indiana. I am still somewhat suspicious of this claim, as it sounds too much like a way to bilk them furriners from out East out of the cost of towing the car. But the driver was firm on the point, and the vehicle was eventually towed with the presentation of a credit card.
Somehow, we made it to Chicago, where the car was turned over to the local Aamco franchise and the transmission replaced to the tune of some $700. The mechanic there told us that sometimes, when a transmission was starting to go, he'd find metal shavings in the drip pan. When he'd taken apart our car, he'd found halves of nuts and bolts.
It was with this joyous background that I stood with my husband beside Buttercup on east-bound I-70 yesterday evening and watched the radiator fluid gush out upon the pavement.
The situation was not quite as bad as the one on the Indiana Toll Road. For one thing, we weren't in Indiana; we were a bit east of Frederick. Triple-A does exist in Maryland, as do cell phones. Maman was caravaning with us, and provided fast food and comfort as well as a ride home. Radiators are cheaper to replace than transmissions, and it is not July. Nevertheless we did sit disabled for the better part of the 90-minute service window waiting for a tow truck, even though we were assured that since we were stranded on the interstate we would get priority.
So, how was everyone else's weekend?