Wednesday, August 4, 2010

The road home: Part II (the Betty Ford saga)

Some days are full of adventure. Some days are full of drama. Sometimes when you get to the other side, you discover that the drama was all part of the adventure. I am still working toward that discovery phase, but I think that I'm making good progress.

The last couple of days have been spent in an extended visit with my friend, Amy, in Baton Rouge. The original visit was part of the plan. Its extension was not. Here's how it happened:

During one of the hottest days of the year (this past Monday), Amy indulged me in a frolic through LSU, although the frolic turned into more of a sweat-soaked trudge through the campus due to the 115 degree heat index. Because I wore a dress, Amy kept my ID and debit card in her pocket for me, so that I wouldn't have to tote my handbag with me in the sticky, blazing heat.

At the end of our journey through LSU, we drove back to the church where my car was parked and said our goodbyes. After Amy left, I turned on my car and discovered (eek!) that it wouldn't start. No big deal, I have a jump-start kit. It worked beautifully in getting my car started. As I drove away, I noticed that my battery light kept coming on, but figured that it wouldn't be a big deal because it turned off whenever I pressed the gas pedal.

At this point, I received a call from Amy. Whoops, I had left my ID and debit card with her, so I needed to pick them up posthaste. I turned my car around and started back, all the while with my battery light coming on and going off when the gas pedal was depressed. Then, while I was stuck at a light during 5pm traffic, it happened. The car DIED. DEAD. Wouldn't start for anything, not even with the gentle coaxings of my jump-starter.

I attempted to turn on my emergency flashers, but wouldn't you guess it: they wouldn't work, either. At this point, a couple of gentlemen pulled over and asked if they could help me push my car out of traffic. Of course, I accepted, but not without making an idiot of myself by trying to put the car in neutral without depressing the brake pedal.

Once the car was out of traffic, more men appeared out of nowhere, and they seemed to all take great pleasure in tinkering under the hood of my car, trying to coerce poor Betty into telling them why she had, in fact, died. It was at the point that one of them started banging on things with a wrench that I really began to be overwhelmed. I mean, try to imagine: your car is dead and there are four or five sweaty Southern men, all in overalls, all with tools of some sort, hitting things intermittently and muttering an strange accents that you cannot understand. It was all quite trying.

Thankfully, at this point, a police officer and Amy showed up (I had called both when my car was blocking traffic and I was unable to move it). The police officer observed the men and seemed satisfied that at least one of them was a knowledgeable mechanic. Eventually, we got Betty started and carefully drove her to the rear parking lot of the church, still loaded down with all of my belongings. In the morning we intended to take her to Netterville's Auto Shop, which was only a few miles away, and came highly recommended by a fellow church member.

Betty made it to the mechanic the next morning without incident, and the employees at Netterville's were very friendly. They seemed convinced that the problem was both the alternator and a faulty battery cable, and said that replacing both shouldn't take more than a few hours. "It'll be done by the end of the day, ma'am," they said.

While waiting for my car to be repaired, I spent the day with Amy's mom at the church administration office. It was probably the longest day of my trip to date. Everyone was busy (everyone but me, of course), and the internet connection kept going in and out. I was able to intermittently facebook , but watching a movie or anything actually entertaining was impossible. Boooooo.

As 5pm and the end of the day came closer, I began to get antsy. I wanted my poor car to be finished already, for Betty to make the transition back to the land of the living and get me the heck home. I called Netterville's to verify the cost of the repair and inform them that I would be there shortly. "Oooooh," Miguel (the mechanic) said. "That truck, it brought the wrong alternator and we gotta wait for another one to come in. We'll have it done tomorrow."

Tomorrow!? I wanted to get on the road, and fast! I had a long, long drive ahead of me that needed to be done and over with! Was he serious? "Yes ma'am, don't you worry, everything happens for a reason." Oooh, this made me mad. In my head I was thinking, "that was the wrong response, buddy, and my boot would like to show your behind some reason!" But I didn't. I verified what time tomorrow the repairs would be finished, as calmly and composedly as I could, and informed Amy's mom that they would be stuck with me for another night.

The night passed, and Wednesday morning rolled around. I called Netterville's to see what time my car would be ready (keep in mind that he told me it would be ready before lunch when I spoke with him the night before). "Yes, ma'am, we're still waiting on that part. It'll be ready around 12 or 1. In my head (again), I'm thinking, "You've got to be joking! 1pm!? He told me before lunch!" I'm sure my irritation was beginning to show as I ended the call and told Amy the news.

12:15 comes. I call the shop to see if Betty is ready. "No, ma'am, we haven't started on her yet. She'll be done around 2." Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhh!!!!!!! SCREEEEEAAAAMS went off in my head. I am now 2 full days behind schedule and no closer to leaving than when I took the car to them Tuesday morning. I was most definitely not calm through the rest of that call, but I can't remember what exactly transpired because I was so completely peeved.

Poor Amy, she was such a trooper. Even though it was blazing hot, she amused me as long as she could before she went to work by taking me to an arboretum and getting a mocha frappe (more on this later). But because she had to work, she took me to Netterville's around 1:15 to drop me off and get my stuff out of her car. I see Betty, just as she looked when I last saw her: hood up, so that the whole world could see her engine, and not a lick of work done.

Miguel saunters up, gives me a sweet smile and says, "I was jus' about to roll her in to get that work done." I was not amused. "Well," I said, "since you're not working on it, I figured I'd get my stuff packed in." I put what I can in the car and proceed to the lobby with the remainder of my belongings.

An hour passes. An hour and a half. At 2:45, Betty is FINALLY done. I drive away, relieved that I am finished dealing with Netterville's and relieved that my car is going to work brilliantly from here on out. I drive for about 4 hours and stop at a rural intersection for a nice little picnic, complete with my dinky Styrofoam ice chest and the Judds on the CD player.

I enjoy my pita and a peach, and pack up my car. I put the key in the ignition and turn. Betty is once again dead, and I am in the middle of nowhere. Thankfully, my jump-start kit is fully charged, and it's no problem getting Betty started with its help. As I'm about to close the hood, something catches my eye. Something that is icky, corroded, and attached to the battery. Then I realize: they didn't replace the battery cable.

I'm certain that there's adventure and humor in this somewhere, but I can't quite see it for the red cloud of frustration clouding my judgment at the moment. At present, I'm in Shreveport enjoying an iced coffee and praying that Betty will start without assistance. But at least I'm in an actual city now.

The moral of the story: Stay far, far away from Netterville's Auto Body in Baker, Louisiana. And try to find perspective in the rough bits of life. There's humor there, I promise.


Atty said...

Bakingsoda and water should help with the corosion. Take out a pocket knife and scrape the posts (one at a time please) till you see the pretty shine. Do the same to the inside of the conective side of the cable then re-attach. Give it a try. Grampa used to do that to the stupid old tractor when it wouldn't start and it made it work for awhile.
XOXOX Get home safely!

Katie said...

:( Love you.