Monday, February 1, 2016

A Modern Day Fable

This past summer we were in Philly for a weekend trip to attend a wedding and to look at houses to buy when my sister offered to give us my mom's old car which she had previously inherited and subsequently used up the majority of its functioning life.

But, hey, it is a free car.  She might have a couple solid years left in her.  And we are car-less... And after we sign up for this mortgage, we will be money-less too.  We could use the charity... My sister's boyfriend's mother could use the driveway space....So we will take it!!

We picked up my sister's car at her future mother-in-law's house on what was easily the hottest day of the year. My sister and future brother-in-law then head back to Philly and we follow them in our new car which we soon find out does not have functioning air conditioning.  We roll down the windows which is arguably hotter having the scorching air blown right onto your sizzling skin.  We rotate rolling down the windows and attempting a breeze, to closing them back up until we at so hot and stuffy we want to barf.  The steering wheel is too hot to touch.  The hot plastic seats are searing through our bottoms; it is so hot we have goosebumps.  

Then my phone dies from over heat. Then Trevor's phone overheats and also dies.  All is not lost though.  Although we do not know where we are going, my sister and her boyfriend do.  We just have to follow their luxurious subaru whose AC works and is not threatening to shut off their iphone lifeline. We continue to follow my sister and her boyfriend back to Philly.  Just in case Trevor is holding his phone out the window to attempt to cool it off in the breeze and see if he can turn it back on.  It's on for a second then dies again. I try not to lose my sister.  We cannot call them to tell him to slow down... We cannot call them to tell them we do not have GPS anymore. We cannot call them to tell them not to go through the ez pass lane because we do not have ez pass and will surely lose them at the bridge ... And that's exactly what we do.  We are so hot. So angry. So lost.  But at least we have a car!!

We eventually get off the highway in the general direction of the neighborhood bar.  Soaked in sweat. Hungry, thirsty. We cool off our phones long enough to get a signal, find their bar, only have time to order one drink, chug it down and grab some food to go before we have to get  home, showerm, ans spiffy-up for a wedding.

The day after the wedding we have a grueling day lined up to see eight or so houses.  I am terrified by the AC situation.  We stock up on waters. Keep our phones out of the sun.  I cannot even remember any of the houses we saw. I was too miserable for my brain to function

Our last task before we drive back up to our tiny apartment in Cambridge is to get the car inspected.

We sit through the long hot line at the DMV inspection center.  Choosing between suffering in the stifle of windows up or choking in the car exhaust with windows down.  Those are our options.  Finally it is our turn.  We hand the man my mom's registration card since my sister never registered it in her name. The garage man keeps it and says he will return it after the inspection.

We get out of the car and wait in a dirty hallway. Thirty minutes later we are waved out to our car.  The inspection fails.  But we have a document saying we have 30 days to fix it, so we are slightly better off than at the start of the day.

Let's just head to a coffee shop so I can get a couple hours of work in and fully charge the laptop before we hit the road.  But first let's put that registration card away.  What registration card?  The registration card I have to the man when we got here... He said he would give it back when they gave us back the car. Did he give it to you?  No.  Did he give it to you? No!   Excuse me Mr. DMV man can we please have our registration card back?  I left it on the driver seat in the car!  Oh let me check.  No, it is not there.  Proceed for the next 20 min to rip apart the car, the floor mats, the beach chairs in the trunk, the empty water bottles in the back seat.  Where is this damn registration card?!

Meanwhile I now have to take a work call from the curb of a classy NJ DMV inspection center curb on highway 202 in Flemington and it is not even one I can stay on mute for...

Trevor goes back to argue with the man about the location of this registration card.  The garage man gives Trevor some new paper work and tells him to go into the main office and they can get him a new card.  He is in the office for the full hour while I'm on the curb trying to stifle the auto garage noises from my coworker.

I get off the phone an hour later and Trevor eventually returns.

You got the new registration card?

The registration card is in your mom's name. They would not give me one. They need your mom to be here.

Defeated.  Well let's get the hell out of here before things get worse.  We finally find a coffee shop which does not serve food and is closing in an hour.  But I have to get some work done and I need their wifi.  So I work for a bit while Trevor finds some granola bars at a convenient store.  

We finally pack up from the New Jersey coffee shop and are ready to hit the five hour road back to Cambridge, MA.  I start collecting my things and.. oh.... what this little piece of paper I have in my purse?! .......The damn registration card!!!!

I am fuming mad at how much of a moron I am that I start crying.  Rational Trevor points out that it is arguably better that we found the registration card now, then not find it at all.  It is ok.  You were stressed.  You were overheated.  And the guys we were harassing back at the garage do not need to know about his.

We get back in the car and I am back on a work meeting.  This one is the kind I can stay on mute for.  We start our drive back to Massachusetts.  On our way home.  The sun is setting and it is starting to cool down.  We are starting to cool down.  We will get home very late and, although that is not ideal, we are looking forward to driving with the windows down at night and avoiding the high heat of the summer's day.

Finally starting to relax.  Cannot wait to get home to air conditioning and take a cold shower!  Listening in on my business meeting I see Trevor starts to tighten up.  He is looking concerned and keeps looking down at the dashboard.  What is it?  Are we out of gas?  Still on the phone I give him the palm up hand, furrowed brow look (universal sign language for "what the hell is wrong")?  He points at the speedometer and waves at his neck, universal sign language for "that is too hot."  (Even though I am on mute I still don't like talking). He whispers that he has to put on the heat full blast in this 90 degree weather to get the heat off the engine.  He does that for a few miles, but it is not helping (me or the car).  I look up out the windshield and the car hood is now smoking.  I elbow him and yank my thumb to the right (universal sign for "Holy shit!!! Pull over!!!!!") 

As luck would have it, (and the only luck we would have this day) we were close to an exit and my work meeting had come to an end.  We pull off the highway and into a hotel parking lot (coincidentally the same hotel where our good friends Matt and Renata were married a few years before).

We grab a beer at the familiar hotel bar and debate if we should stay the night at the hotel or tow the car tonight.  Since we will have to tow the car either way, we decide to save on the hotel fee and get a move on things tonight.  So we call AAA to sign up for a membership and subsequently use the membership instantly to tow the smoking car an hour and a half drive back to my mom's house.

It is after midnight when we arrive. I borrow cash from my mom to tip the driver. First thing the next day we slowly drive the car a couple miles to the auto shop.  It's a $500 fix.  We slowly drive the car back to my mom's house.  Then take an Uber to the closest car rental place. Back at my mom's after she has left to visit my sister in DC, we pack up the rental car with all our belongings. We leave my sister's car keys and the 30-day inspection failure notice for her at my mom's house.  We scour the house for anything we may have left behind.  I do not have a key to my mom's house so if we leave and lock it, we will be locked out.  I think we have everything.  

Lock the house.  Get to car.  Realize ez pass, which we had forgot while driving through Philly, but remembered to put back in the car on the way up to Cambridge, is now locked in my sister's car.  The sister's car keys are now locked in the house.  And we are now locked out.  Start crying again.

We stop for food and unload some cash from the atm.  We drive the toll lanes all the way home. 
As Trevor falls asleep in the car I shed some more tears out of appreciation for how desperately crappy the last couple days have been.  You win life, you broke me...multiple times today, in fact... Then I almost hit a baby raccoon.  Dry my eyes.  Things may still continue to get worse...

We make it home by 2am.  As we try to unlock the apartment door Trevor realizes he must have left his keys at my sister's house in Philly...of course. 

Let's go to bed.

The morale of the story is, as my economist husband likes to say, "there's no such thing as a free lunch (or car)."

My morale of the story is, "do not cry when the first crappy thing goes wrong... cause you never know when sh*t is really about to hit the fan..."

or take Trevor's advice... "there is no need to cry about it."


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