Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Breakdown

My daughter spent the night at my house this weekend. She parked behind Frankie’s black 1994 Grand Am. When he got ready to leave for golfing this morning, he was blocked in. Rather than wake my daughter for the keys to her car, Frankie and I decided to swap cars with one another for the day. Later My Daughter asked me to go with her to check out some apartments about an hour’s drive from my house near one of the colleges she is prospecting to attend once she graduates high school. There was no need to take two cars and since her Blazer wasn’t running well we decided to take Frankie’s car.

We got almost to the little town when she remembered that she had left the Apartment Blue Book in her car. We stopped by Amoco to pick up another one. That’s when I noticed the heat gauge on Frankie’s car was indicating 280 degrees. That’s past the red zone! Even tea kettles boil over at that temperature. It was obvious that we weren’t going to be traveling anywhere anytime soon so we ate a bag of chips while we waited for the engine to cool enough to add coolant. After about 30 minutes and a half-gallon of water, the needle was still at 280 and the radiator was dripping green water. I needed expert help so I called Frankie. He wasn’t home. I called my son, the mechanic. He wasn’t at work or home. The attendant at the Amoco was very helpful. She recommended that we call a towing service that would tow us for $40 and give a free estimate. It was an offer too good to refuse. “Send them on.” I told her.

My Daughter and I were hungry, but I couldn’t leave the station to walk up the street to the Waffle House, which was the only eating establishment in sight. Surely there would be a McDonald’s within walking distance once we got the car to the garage. Gray’s Wrecker Service came for us about 45 minutes after phoning them. Frankie’s car was pulled onto the bed of a big red tow-truck. The driver took us down several winding roads into the countryside. With every turn I was getting more lost, more worried, and farther away from town. When we turned into a you-pull-it salvage yard, my heart sank. There would be no McDonalds near here, and I wasn’t sure the junkyard dog heading toward us was going to be friendly. Never mind the dog, take note of the five toothless mechanics who were now peering into the hood of the Grand Am as if it were fresh meat! Does the movie “Breakdown” mean anything to you? Oh, my God! What have I gotten myself into? I broke Frankie’s car, and now I’m in the junkyard on the backside of nowhere with my teenage daughter. We were the only females there. I was not too sure what kind of “payment” would be expected before we could leave here. I was trying not to panic or let My Daughter know that I was afraid, so we took a walk around the wrecked cars. We were told the story about one demolished car we saw: a lady hit a cow head on. The cow came through the windshield. The impact of the cow’s weight killed the driver. Death by cow!! What a sad story. I'll wait while you get a mental picture of that.

We both had to pee, so we headed toward the lean-to that served as the office. We climbed the concrete block steps onto the creaky old wooden porch. There were two antique drink machines under the shelter. There was a woman in the office, much to my relief. She directed us down the hall to the restroom. While I was washing my hands in the dilapidated restroom, I noticed a sign that read: IF YOU HAVE GREASE ON YOUR HANDS, DON’T EVEN TOUCH THIS SINK. IF YOU PEE IN THE FLOOR, MOP IT UP! I kid you not. I checked for dribbles and hurried out. I noticed an old snack machine in the hall and thought we were in luck with some animal crackers. When I tried to put a coin in, the coin slot had been drilled out. I tried turning the handle, but nothing happened. No telling how long since the stock had been rotated.

The tiny office trailer had five different types of carpet and linoleum. There were two very old chairs so we took a seat to wait. Surely it wouldn’t be long. My Daughter chose the orange plaid chair with the stuffing falling out the arm. I took the swivel desk chair, which nearly turned over backwards when I sat down. My Daughter started laughing so hard she went back outside to keep from embarrassing herself. I called Frankie to let him know the progress of our dilemma.

After about an hour we walked to the garage to check on the car. Diagnosis: the clip that was holding the radiator to the frame had broken and allowed the radiator to fall onto the fan. The fan had put 12 holes in the core. The mechanic was pounding the hell out of the radiator with a screwdriver. He then informed us that he did not know how to do radiator repairs. Fine time to tell us! He called the radiator man but couldn’t get him at home. He set out to find him.

It was raining by then so we went back into the dingy office to wait. I was sitting very gingerly in the swivel chair behind the desk when a customer walked in. He asked me about a part for a Chevy Impala. I explained to him that I did not work there, nor did I want to be there. Just then the owner walked in wearing an old Indiana Jones hat. I don’t know how people found this place in the middle of nowhere, but more customers kept coming in to ask me questions, and I decided it was time to move to another seat.

We went back outside when it stopped raining. There was a black man staring at us. He was holding a braided whip. He would occasionally strike the ground with it, look at us, and grin widely. Several times during the day a child would appear from nowhere. I don’t know where they were keeping the kids - perhaps they were ghosts, but they would appear at random. I was beginning to wonder what kind of place this was. I felt uncomfortable, but there was nowhere to go. I felt like I was in a bad dream. I was hoping I would wake up soon.

Still hungry, I pulled out a leftover bag of pork rinds. Talk about appearing out of nowhere, now there were two dogs and they both wanted my food! My Daughter was ready to bail on me. She had missed her 2:00 shift at work by now. She called a friend who agreed to come and pick her up. Only problem was that we didn’t know how to give her directions to get to us. We were so far in the boonies that I was sure I couldn’t get back to civilization without a map. We had to ask Indiana Jones to take the phone and tell Michele how to get there. I listened carefully in case we got a chance to escape. It appeared that the car was not going to be fixed today so I planned to leave it overnight. Michele was on her way to get My Daughter and I was going with her. I called Frankie to have him meet me at My Daughter’s work to pick me up. After about 30 minutes, Michele called and said she was not going to be able to make it. My Daughter and I nearly cried. Frankie was already on his way, and I had no way to tell him that I wasn’t going to be able to leave Alcatraz today. My Daughter begged, whined, threatened and reminded Michele of every favor she had ever done for her. Michele called back in ten minutes to tell us that she was indeed coming to rescue us.

It took an hour to find the radiator man but he was sobering up by the time he got there. It took him 15 minutes to do his magic and 30 minutes to get the radiator back in the car. Since the car was nearly ready, I let My Daughter leave me there and go to the city with her friend. I was alone in the garage with Whip Man, Radiator Man, the mechanic, and a cat that had recently appeared on the hood of a nearby car. I got in the Grand Am and locked my doors! Frankie called my cell phone to find out where I was since I had not met him. I told him I had been abducted by aliens and was having too much fun to leave yet.

I left Weirdsville about 5:45 having only to pay $105 for the experience of a lifetime. I was never so glad to see home, Frankie, and pizza, as I was when I walked into the house.

I felt like I was in the Twilight Zone all day. I may need therapy to get over this.


TO: Expressy@coffeehouse.com
FROM: Angelgirl@heavensent.com
SENT: September 4, 2000 8:39 AM
SUBJECT: RE: Breakdown

I just have to ask. Are these real stories?

TO: Angelgirl@heavensent.com
FROM: Expressy@coffeehouse.com
SENT: September 4, 2000 8:39 AM
SUBJECT: RE: Breakdown

No, I’m living vicariously through someone else.

TO: Expressy@coffeehouse.com
FROM: Kurlikew@Bcuz.net
SENT: September 7, 2000 7:48 PM
SUBJECT: RE: Breakdown

I have three letters for you ........... A A A

TO: Kurlikew@Bcuz.net
FROM: Expressy@coffeehouse.com
SENT: September 8, 2000 8:30 PM
SUBJECT: RE: Breakdown
AAA? Is that an Associate’s in Automotive Antics? Perhaps it’s a 3-year degree at the local U-PULL-IT.

TO: Expressy@coffeehouse.com
FROM: Alva@stateofmind.com
SENT: September 8, 2000 9:09 PM
SUBJECT: RE: Breakdown

This would be a great movie “Lost in Weirdsville.” Thank goodness I don't have any Weirdsville stories to share!

TO: Expressy@coffeehouse.com
FROM: Suzysunflower@kansasgarden.com
SENT: September 8, 2000 9:27 AM
SUBJECT: RE: Breakdown

Well, here is the latest adventure of a senile old granny. I told some of you that I have been having major car problems with the Taurus Wagon, well, my little Escort sprung a leak in the gas tank. No big deal, huh. Well, I found out the cost for a new Escort gas tank is $462! I could not believe that. I thought there has to been a cheaper one somewhere! My landlord has a friend in Texarkana who owns a “you pull it auto parts” place. James and I headed out to Texarkana with toolbox in hand. We got to the car graveyard and they had five Escorts to choose from. We picked out a 1995 model that wasn't crunched in the rear, crawled under and sure enough, the gas tank wasn't hurt. We got all our tools out, crawled under and started undoing nuts and bolts trying to get the “guard” off the tank. Now one thing you need to know is that they keep this place really clear of grass by having loads of rock dumped where the junked cars are parked on the dirt. So, we were lying on these rocks while twisting and turning to reach up over our head to get the tank off. I was holding the tank up while James worked to get the seven-year-old rusty bolts off. It was about 95 degrees and at least 195 under that car. After an hour and forty-five minutes, we finally got the tank free, but it had to drop down and slide out from under the car. The only problem was they had the car sitting on tires and the tires were in the way for the tank to slide out. James said he thought we could “squeeze” the tank past the tire. We were half under the car, kicking the tank to get it free and past the rubber tire. Suddenly, a Mexican kid was bending down looking under the car staring right in my face. (I guess we were a sight to see, and really making a heck of a lot of noise). He suddenly started hollering “Grand Mamacita! You get seeek! Get up, Get up! you get seeek!” and he started dragging me from under the car. James crawled out to see what was going on. This kid (a teenager) made me sit down and took off his shirt and starting fanning me! I do get really red in the face when out in the sun and heat plus we were soaking wet from sweat and dirty from the rocky ground. He kept saying “Grand Mamacita get seeek! Grand Mamacita get seeek!” (I realized he meant sick!) His parents could not speak English but after they jabbered awhile, the boy told James his dad would help. So the dad got under the car with James and while they pulled and kicked, the boy and his mom kept fanning me and jabbering in Mexican! With the man's help, James finally got the tank free from the car. Only then did this kid get out of my face. I tried to give them some money for helping but they would not take it. He told James, “Get Grand Mamacita some water so she not get seeek.” Poor James, he was the one who needed water after two hours of hard work! We dragged our “prize tank” to the truck, paid for it and started the 48-mile drive back home. We did take some water with us and as we drank it, we rolled down the windows, let the air blow us away and laughed and laughed. I guess that kid had never seen an old gray hair granny under a car kicking and sweating bullets. All in all, the tank cost less than $50 so it was worth all the effort. I did pay someone to have it put on. I would not put James through getting the leaking tank off my Escort. We were both so sore the next day we could hardly walk. I don't know if it was from the rocks or the kicking! You really haven't “bonded” with family members until you have been under a car robbing parts! Expressy, here's another true chapter for your “red neck family” book!

Love to all!
Aunt, The Sunflower Suzy


FROM: Sunflower@kansasgarden.com
DATE: September 8, 2000 12:56 PM
TO: Expressy@coffeehouse.com
SUBJECT: RE: Breakdown

Dang, Aunt Suzy. That sounds like something I’d do. I wonder if this is an untreated family condition!?

1 comment:

Yvonne Perry said...

I drove to a friend's cabin in Hohenwald last week (this is 2013). I passed right by the exact store where My Daughter and I broke down in this story written in 2000. I had to stop and reminisce by peeing in their toilet and buying a bottle of water. As I pulled out of the parking lot to get back on the highway, a black Pontiac Grand Am (identical to the one Frankie had in 2000) drove right past me. I thought I heard the music for The Twilight Zone. Cracked me up!