Monday, May 24, 2010

Out of Transmission (Richmond, VA)

I'm doing 60-65 mph on the interstate, on my way to a meeting. There's no more construction along the highways I'm traveling and traffic is moving well. The meeting doesn't start until 10:00 a.m., but at the rate I'm going, I'll arrive early enough to enjoy 30 minutes of coffee and conversation before we launch into business.

I ease over to 8A and slow down to the posted exit speed. Uh-oh. I'm hitting the gas pedal, but I'm just hearing a really loud noise and the car doesn't respond. "Come on, come on," I urge.

The car doesn't listen.

I put on the flashers and try to move over to the right lane. Drivers are beeping but not allowing me to get there, despite the powerful waves of panic emanating from the person trapped inside my barely limping vehicle; the waves are so obvious, so strong,that surely they are powerful enough to penetrate the drivers' thick crania. I guess not. The thick skulls and their accompanying bodies zoom by in their cooperative vehicles. Mine has started to smoke and smell bad. I do not allow smoking anywhere near me, but my car won't listen.

So here I am, parked in the weedy triangle between exit and entrance ramps. There are no signs to tell me where exactly "here" is, but I call AAA and try to calmly describe my situation.

"MY CAR IS DEAD!" I say. Other vehicles whiz by, making it difficult to understand the person with whom I am speaking. "I got off of 395 North at Exit 8A, but I don't know how far I've gone and there are no signs and I'm not sure where I am."

The voice on the line is calm and reassuring. It promises help within half an hour.

When the tow truck finally finds me, its driver confirms my diagnosis. The transmission is shot. "It'll cost you prob'ly between $1500 and $2000 to fix it," he says. "Ya think it's worth it?"

I don't, but I figure he knows more about cars than I do. "It's got about 150,000 miles on it," I tell him. He shakes his head.

He tows my car to the closest station. They tell me that it'll cost about $3,000. I kiss the car goodbye.

Well, I don't actually kiss it because it's pretty dirty. But I do empty out all the bags, books, magazines, dancing shoes, canvas fold-up chairs, oil, windshield washer, radiator and other miscellaneous car-related fluids, coins, fly swatters, toy groceries, a blanket, an emergency kit, and approximately four years' of accumulated, un-identifiables from the seats, glove compartment, floors and trunk.

I watch the car formerly known as mine as it is towed away to its final resting place. It will be sold for parts and compacted into an unrecognizable mini-mass. I silently say goodbye, because the car never listened to me before; why would it start now?

I spend most of the day waiting, surrounded by bags and crates and pounds and mounds of stuff, for M. to pick me up.

This is not the first time I've driven a vehicle into the ground and it probably won't be the last. I need a cheap, reliable (mutually exclusive?), and, preferably, cute -- or at least presentable -- replacement ASAP!

If you've got any ideas (or better yet, a car that you'd like to offer me for way, way less than it's worth), please let me know.

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