Transmission


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I have been away for a bit. My trip to Massachusetts was a mix of ups and downs. On the way there–with a van and attached trailer full of stock–the transmission went out. Outstanding. My partner and I were in the middle of nowhere in the lower tier of NY state. We crested a hill with that Ford pulling for all she is worth. Then as we rolled over the apex, the engine sounded really strange. I coasted down the hill, and when I pressed that little skinny pedal to ascend the next incline–nothing,

We pulled over with semis speeding past us. And, of course, it was raining. My partner called his insurance company’s roadside assistance to schedule a tow. The rep’s advice: “Since I am in Ohio and you are in New York, I really can’t help you. I would suggest you hitchhike to the next exit and try to get help there.”

Really? Hitchhike?

Next, I called AAA. Here’s the help I received:

“Your policy only covers your vehicle–not the trailer.”

“So, we are just supposed to leave it on the side of the interstate with all our stuff in it?”

“Your policy does not cover the trailer.”

“You’re really not helping me at all. I’m really in a tough spot: I have a deadline I’m trying to meet, my van is busted, and I do not want to leave a trailer full of expensive items randomly perched on an incline on the side of the interstate.”

“When the towtruck arrives, you can ask them for a quote to tow the trailer.”

“How far away is the towing company?”

“Twenty miles.”

Thanks. That’s a lot of help. Wait for them to travel across the wilderness, and when the guy finally makes it here, I’ll ask him about towing the van back the full twenty miles, and then, while I’m trying to locate a transmission shop, go back and pick up the trailer for another hour (at least) roundtrip.

So how did it turn out? We ditched all the amazing advice and helpfulness, and forced the van along at 30 mph in the shoulder for six miles to the next exit. I quess we could have hitchhiked instead–an Amish horse and buggy passed us in town, afterall. ‘Town’ may be the wrong term. Perhaps ‘village’ would be more accurate. The fellow at the only garage added some transmission fluid. Ummm, no help, but thanks for the thought. He suggested we drive to the next town over. “It’s bigger–only twenty miles away. Just take it slow.”

Like we had a choice.

We made it to Jamestown, rented a U-Haul, swapped out the goods, located a transmission shop, and snuck the van in at 4:55pm. No rush at all–we still had five minutes to spare before he closed for the day. The mechanic estimated that he would have the van ready for us five days later on Friday. That was perfect since we were planning to continue on to our destination to set-up at the antique show and would be returning the following Monday.

During the show, the call came. “It looks like I won’t be able to even start working on the transmission until Monday.” Excellent. We would love to stretch the nightmare out even further. I mean, you only had a full week to take care of it. Why should a transmission shop owner in Podunk, NY rush to get a pair of stranded, weary travellers back on the road? It’s not like we are now paying a daily rate for both a U-Haul truck and trailer. It’s not like we are being charge seventy-nine cents per mile. We would love to add the cost of a new transmission and lodging in Nowhere, USA to the expenses.

Then, another call. “Well, it looks like I mightget it done by Tuesday close-of-business.”

[Insert more sarcasm here].

 The show was a success. Normally, we would be home Sunday night. That plan was thwarted so we had two options. Cry and moan and whine about it, or squeeze some juice out of the situation and make some lemonade. We chose the latter. We took our time loading up and stayed an extra night in Massachusetts. On the way back, we hit some sweet antique shops we would never stop at if we didn’t have days to spare. Oh, and–maybe–we stopped at a casino and hit the blackjack tables. Maybe… We intentionally paid more than we normally would for a hotel so we could score one with an indoor pool. Lemonade.

During dinner Monday night, the mechanic called to tell us that the van was repaired and ready to go. Sweet. Finally. We enjoyed some swimming and a good night’s rest in a comfortable bed as opposed to the slowly deflating air mattress we spent the prvious week sleeping on. On Tuesday morning, everything went uber-smoothly as we picked up the van, moved the contents from the U-Haul into it, hooked up the trailer and headed home with a sparkling new transmission.

So, what does this story have to do with ‘Writing”? Nothing really. It’s just one of those things I needed to put down in black-and-white so I can look back on it in a year. In the meantime, I’m hoping to incorporate hitchhiking into my work-in-progress. Plus, I found a new go-to plotline when I need some added tension in a scene: Worthless advice from those who should have the answers. In my this little autobiographical excerpt of mine, this led to taking charge and figuring things out without the help of the great and powerful Oz. And the MC made it out all the better for the experience.

I am a mechanical idiot. I’m not into hot rods, or motorcycles, or guns, or any of that butch, manly stuff. I like thinking and poetry. I like weird movies and dying my hair. I’m good at creating things. I can cut stuff up, reassemble it, and make something new and beautiful from the parts. I once tried to change the oil in my old Jeep Comanche. Took me like 6 hours of sweating, cussing, and ruining a pair of cooking tongs from the kitchen…Forget that shade-tree-mechanic crap. I gladly pay the $20 to keep my non-butch self out from under a vehicle.

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