22 November 2006

kill the headlights and put it in neutral

this past weekend xx and i ventured up to camp guillaume for a weekend of chilly weather, dvds and books. and green bean casserole.

as we were booming along the highway in guillaume's 1986 Honda, the battery light was coming on and going off occasionally. of course, i paid no mind to this because it's an old car and old cars have circuit problems and fuses that blow and lights just go on for no reason. also, guillaume had just had the oil changed, and when i used to have my oil changed, they'd check shit like your battery, and further, every time i went up to 4th gear, the light would go off. so i'd just punch it when the light had been on too long.

we stopped off for some absolute shite chinese food, rented "kiss kiss bang bang", bought four bottles of beaujolais nouveau, and went up to the house.

the next day i hooked up the bomb wifi (with a router on sale for $35, which is now on sale for fucking $10), and did some work whilst xx graded papers and the like. every time the car started, we'd joke about how haha that was lucky. as we came back from grocery shopping saturday evening, though, it seemed our luck had run out. the headlights looked like shitty flashlight beams, the radio died and there was no clock or interior lighting... just as i put the car in park, it gave up.

we spent the rest of the evening panicking (me), drinking (both of us) and watching movies (both of us). here's a line up that makes no sense: American History X and Mean Girls. yes. both of our cell phones were dead so i spent a bit of time imming moms and dads and coach dball about what maybe to do. everyone agreed it was probably the alternator. although dads went on and on about checking the battery cells for sulphuric acid and if they were low, filling them up with water. i still have no plans to ever do something like that.

the next morning we went out to look at the car and see what we could see. (actually, i was gonna do the sulphuric acid thing then, if necessary.) so i got in and tried to start it, just in case. it worked! joy! we drove around a little while and hemmed and hawed about what to do. should we take it to a mechanic? where? is anyone gonna be open on sunday? does anyone even have parts to this car? should we just drive to a train station and leave it there? should we turn the car off whilst we're closing up the house or just leave it running?

in the end, even though we'd planned not to, i shut off the car. it was force of habit!! anyway, we got all our shit together and were on our way.

my hands were adhered to 10 and 2 on the steering wheel, and i rarely dropped below 80mph, afraid that if i went any slower, the engine would just give up. this was especially funny when, at one point, i found myself going 95 and slowed down, only to have an suv shove itself up our butt, so i moved into the right lane. turns out the tailgater was a state trooper apparently not interested in making any money on a sunday. we were sure that if we got pulled over, we'd never get the car going again.

we re-routed ourselves in order to stay mostly on highways, as i feared stop-and-go traffic would be the end of us. then, just outside the toll plaza for the tappan zee (damn you, lack of EZ pass!) bridge, something happened. or, something stopped happening. namely, the car stopped working properly. luckily we were just at an exit. once we stopped at the light, though, that was it. our little honda was over and out.

i threw her in neutral and we pushed the fucker across the street. i was not very helpful in this endeavor because i was laughing so hard...pushing a car is a funny event. of course, the steering wheel locked up, so we couldn't go any direction but straight, which was not the most helpful. anyway, eventually this older, four-toothed black man came by and told me to pop the hood. then he suggested pouring coke on the battery terminals. most people would tell this guy to fuck off, but when you grow up in atlanta, using coke to fix everything ain't that much of a stretch. obviously, though, it didn't work. he also had a smoke in his mouth whilst leaning over the car, which just makes me nervous, but is apparently the sign of someone who knows what they're doing.

the tow truck pulled in a few minutes later and he took us to his shop. Joe Corbett is a nice man. we sat around and waited for him to look for an alternator...they found one! at another shop! we'd be on our way in an hour! 40 minutes later, the guy still hadn't shown up with the part. then someone called... "the neighbor kid saw him wandering around at the other shop. i'm going over there to get it from him". it was at this moment that xx and i decided we needed to get the hell out of there. we left Joe and Mark, his Hungarian counterpart, chainsmoking over the engine of the car and had a stroll around Nyack. it's a cute town. we got some overpriced chocolate.

when we got back, i said to xx, "why is the car in the exact same position as we left it?"...hood still up, still on the jack but not really raised. it did not look fixed. nor did it appear to be in the process of being fixed.

of course the alternator that showed up was the wrong one, it was for a 96, not an 86. very fortunately, there was a bus back to PABT just around the corner. we said "fuck it" and hopped on.

so, when guilaume returns from three weeks of eastern european gallivanting, he will have to go to nyack to pick up his car. ... sorry!

for those of you who like total closure to a story, i just got off the phone with old joe, who said they got the new one on monday and it's all fixed, but not before the first new alternator they got was defective and they had to order another one.

so there you have it. why i prefer to rely on public transportation, which sucks all the time too, rather than sit in mechanic shops on cold sundays and then have to take the bus home anyway.

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