Thursday, May 27, 2010


A couple of weeks ago my best friend T called me with news that managed to turn my Y axis 180 degrees and caused my world start spinning in the opposite direction. She's been my partner in crime, my confidant, the devil on my shoulder, the voice of reason in my ear, my medicine, my poison, the source of my sanity and a pillar of strength for the past 9 years-- what was happening had to be a cruel joke, but it wasn't. In that moment, I told her that if there was anything I could do, anything at all, to just say it and I'd be there. Last week we decided that I was going to go to her, so we could just be.

In order to do this, I needed to head back to CA, with the kids, drop the older 2 off with my parents and then take the twins with me to T. No big deal-- this is cake! We just did this trip, we're pros. I called my friend J and asked her if she wanted to take a few days off of work to come out and then drive with me and she said yes. And I reminded her that I had 4 kids and she would be stuck, in a minivan, for 4 days. And she still said yes. That is a good friend, right there

So I got everything in order, started packing, tying up the loose ends and getting ready to be gone for anywhere from 6 weeks to 3 months. I took the car in for a check up, making sure they checked the transmission because the car had done something funny when I tried to reverse earlier in the week. They changed the oil, told me everything was fine with the transmission and I told them that was good because the last thing I needed was for the car to blow up on me in the middle of Texas. Everything was going great, and then J's flight got delayed, and she ended up stuck in Dallas for the night, instead of making it to me.

No big deal, slight change of plans. I would just take a little detour and pick her up from the airport after her flight landed on my way out the next morning. We ended up getting on the road 4 hours later than I wanted to, but no worries. All we had to do was be in CA by Saturday, we still had time. At one point we pulled off to fix the straps that were holding down the stroller on the top of the van and I noticed there was a very weird sound coming from my car. I thought we were dragging something underneath, but when I looked, there was nothing there. I turned off the air conditioner and we drove a bit and the noise seemed to disappear, so we went on our way. After stopping for dinner we decided to push for another 120 miles and then called it a night.

The next morning we got up, got dressed and headed out. Everything was going well, despite it being 80 degrees at 8am. Because it was so hot I broke down and turned the AC back on. I noticed the car was a bit "jumpy" but would calm down after a few words of encouragement. We were making really good time and I blew through a tank of gas in record time. Looking back, I should have realized I was getting only 15 miles to the gallon, instead of the normal 21 highway that I normally get. As we pulled off to get gas, the car jumped. And then pretty much refused to accelerate. I managed to make it to a gas station, only to have the car peel out on me as I tried to accelerate into a parking space. At that point, I knew something was really wrong, and my gut told me that if I didn't get the car to a service center, we were going to be stranded within 90 miles. And the thought of being stranded on the side of the road with 4 kids and a busted up car in 90 degree heat gave me a panic attack. 4 kids, 4 carseats, J and me cannot fit in a tow truck! What would we do?

There was a dealership about 15 miles away so I gave the car a little rest, said about a hundred and fifty prayers and slowly headed back onto the freeway. As I pulled into the left turn lane to turn into the dealership, my dashboard lit up like a Christmas tree decorated with warning and check engine lights, and then the car refused to accelerate. We literally coasted into the parking lot. Thank you, Jesus, we made it but Oh. My. Goodness. Are you kidding me? W defines the "middle of nowhere" as "Texas" but we weren't in Texas-- we were in The Middle of Nowhere, America. Stuck. There was no way that car was going anywhere.

The service guy was like, "well, we'll see if we can work it in, but we're really busy..." and I was like, "well, my 4 kids and I are going to have to sit in this waiting room and terrorize all of you until you manage to 'work it in' so you might want to think about doing that sooner rather than later, if you know what I mean." And he was like, "well, last time we saw this kind of problem it took about a week to get the parts." And I was like, "well, that's hilarious because there's no way in heck we are going to be stuck here for a week. I'll rent a car, fly a plane, stowaway on a train car, paddle a boat or find a donkey cart and go get the parts myself before we are stuck here for a week." And he was like, "well, the other dude is going to look at it while I'm at lunch and then we'll go from there" and I was like, "well, ok, cause I don't really want to ride a donkey from here to Dallas to pick a transmission, know what I mean?" and he was like, "yo, I totally do."

So the other dude took it out for a test drive and disappeared for a couple of hours. When he finally made another cameo, he was with the head of the service department, someone who is normally  allusive. I knew this wasn't good news. Mr. Allusive didn't beat around the bush, he just gave it to me straight and told me they had ordered me a new transmission, and it would be here the next day. Oy. And then the service dude told me he would personally bust his butt to get it put in as fast as he could, while still doing it correctly, and that we should be on the road again by 3, maaaaaaaybe 4. Oy.

Apparently, when I took the car in to be serviced before I left, they didn't really look at the transmission. Because if they did, they would have seen that it was a mess. The other dude told me that the pan thingy under the transmission was filled with metal and that it was totally messed up. He also said he was pretty sure we had been driving in 1 gear, overdrive, for a very very long time and that he was really surprised we had made it as far as we did. He also said it was a very good thing we had stopped because if we didn't, we would have been stranded within 90 miles. Oy. And believe me, there is NOTHING between here and the next big city, which is well over 90 miles away. We would have been screwed.

After spending almost 6 hours in the dealership, we made our way to the hotel for the night. The dealership was awesome and had contacted some of their advertisers and got us a free hotel room, free food and a $30 van rental. That all managed to take some of the sting off the fact that my van, that only has 25,000 miles on it, is now having the AC fixed for the 4th time (because that, and the defrost also failed again about 300 miles before the transmission did), has had the radiator replaced at 8000 miles and is now getting a new transmission. I really know how to pick a winner of a car!! Ironic, because the Jetta I had before I got married required a new transmission at eight HUNDRED miles, and then 2 more transmissions after that. Everything I touch turns to crap, I swear.

Now I get to decide if I want to call the other service center, the one who told me my car was just fine 4 days ago, and yell at them, or if I just want to file a formal complaint through the car maker, or both. This dealership thinks the other dealership just said they looked at it, but didn't, but still filed the warranty claim to get some cash. They think this because 1) there's no way they could have told me what they did (took the transmission apart and looked at it) in the time they said they did it in (2 hours) and 2) if they had taken it apart, they would have seen some of the problems the dude did right away. Oy. I'm just irritated.

Thankfully, I have the best kids in the entire world and they are pretty much up for anything. They are having their moments but they are doing pretty well, especially for being cooped up in a car and waiting room and hotel room for the better part of 3 days. It could be sooooo much worse. I'm waiting for the call to come get my car, and praying really hard it comes sooner or later and then we are going balls to the wall and driving as far as we possibly can to get through the rest of America and to California before Saturday. Oy.

To be continued... just not sure how yet...


Sarah said...

oy is right JoAnna. You can't ever do things the easy way, huh? You must feel like candid camera is hiding somewhere videotaping you somedays! I hope you are back on the road with a functional, safe car ASAP. And, I hope your friend will be ok. You are such a good friend- I'm sure being with you will be a huge source of comfort for her, with whatever it is she's going through.

Mark said...

Yaaay, on your way again. Love you babe.

Name Nazi said...

You're in my prayers tonight, JoAnna!