There are days when you realize that you should have never left the house.
I had a routine doctor's appointment at 9:15 am. I arrived on time and proudly strolled into my doctor's office ready for praise. I'm not known for my prompt arrival at his office. I leave home with good intentions but his office is 23 miles away and necessitates travel on the inner or is it outer beltline? (I've only lived in Raleigh for 14 years; I know where the road is, just not what it's called.) Traffic is always congested in the early morning. (Yes, a 9:15 appointment is early.) I am not a morning person.
But this morning, I was on time! However, there was no praise as a staff member was out and the nurse was wearing dual hats as nurse and receptionist, so there was no one up front when I made my grand entrance.
Do not think me so shallow as to waste your time, dear reader, bemoaning my uncelebrated entrance. It was but a minor blight on my day compared to the horrors to come.
As I returned to my car, the gathering rain clouds suddenly evaporated and the sky turned an incredible shade of cerulean blue and I smiled. Then I put my key in the ignition and as the motor came to life, I heard a distinct dinging sound or perhaps it was more like the chime of a doorbell. Seatbelt was on, door's were shut tight, so why the dinging chime?
I stole a look at the dashboard and there were strange icons brightly glowing. I gasped! (Okay, I wasn't really that dramatic; it was more of a sigh than a gasp.) I grabbed the manual for my 2006 Pontiac G6 from the glove compartment and frantically searched for matches for the glowing icons. Check engine light...okay. The other glowing image warned that the Fates had put some serious mojo on the electrical system and that driving could drain my battery.
I did the only thing that I could, pressed my forehead against the steering wheel and repeated that great litany three times, "Oh crap!" I followed up with a few references to copulation.
I decided to come home. I did as the manual advised and turned off anything that was a drain on the electrical system--the daytime running lights, the radio, and the a/c. I made it halfway home before deciding that I had to have a/c. I rolled up the windows and turned on the a/c and as a blast of hot air hit me in the face, I found myself disparaging the parentage of male dogs. The a/c didn't work!
Arriving at home, I called General Motors (I believe in starting at the top). I explained that my car was six years old and only had 42,319 miles on it and I couldn't fathom why it was falling apart. I also reminded the nice lady on the phone that they had to replace the catalytic converter earlier this year and that GM had picked up the bill, agreeing with me that a car with such low mileage should not have turned into a rotting piece of fecal material. She agreed to call a local GM dealer, the same one that had done the previous repairs, and get them to agree to waive the diagnostic fees. I said that was a good start but that I would be very unhappy and unlikely to ever purchase another Pontiac if GM failed to cover all costs. We agreed that we would revisit costs once there was a diagnosis of the patient.
The service manager instructed me to have my car in their shop by 7:30 am tomorrow (Wednesday). I explained that I have a major interview tomorrow afternoon for my dream job combining my background in public education with my legal skills and need my car in working order by 12:30 pm.
Feeling bereft, I called my sister Rhonda and sobbed out my troubles. In full drama mode, I proclaimed, "I'm tired. It's always something; I just can't take it anymore," punctuated with barely suppressed sobs. I'm not a total wuss; this has not been a great year for me--I lost my job, spent my savings, went back to my old job, still looking for a more stable job and my personal life sucks. However, Rhonda always knows how to remind me that my theme song is "I Will Survive," the Gloria Gaynor version. She allowed me to be a drama queen, gave me sympathy and then she made me laugh with some silly story from the headlines that I can't recall.
Next I called Bob, Rhonda's husband. Bob is always far more rational that I am. His advice was so practical: "Take your car to the dealer now and you won't need to get up at the crack of dawn tomorrow. Don't worry about the job interview; I can take you if necessary."
So I headed out to leave my car at the dealership. Halfway there, a flashing message read simply, "Power Steering." As I wrestled with the steering wheel, I realized that the car had decided to tell me that the power steering was gone, gone, gone. Steering a reasonably straight line is a bit difficult without power steering but it's making a right turn that scares the hell out of you and causes you to use a lot of expletives as the person behind you blows his horn because you're not wrestling your steering wheel fast enough to suit him.
I made the turn and was all of a mile from the dealership when suddenly my car slowed to a crawl, chugging along at about 5 miles per hour. The guy behind me was riding my bumper as if he thought that I was inviting him to play bumper cars. As I exclaimed quite a few expletives, I heard a sound that I couldn't quite place at first, sort of like the popping sound of the final few kernels of popcorn. Then it registered, the door locks were popping up and down as my electrical system went haywire and then died.
A very nice man stopped and pushed my car onto the shoulder. Another young man, who is a mechanic, stopped and took a look under my hood and pointed out that my problems likely stemmed from the alternator belt which looked as if it had been through a shredder. A friendly young woman stopped to ask if I needed help. Finally, the tow truck arrived and took me and the car to the dealership. The car is there now and I'm at home.
I'm stressed and a bit addled, but the day wasn't a total wash. I was touched by the strangers who stopped to offer assistance. Next to Scarlet O'Hara, my favorite lady of southern literature is Blanche Dubois from A Streetcar Named Desire. This evening, I can truly recite Blanche's most well known line from the play, "Whoever you are, I've always depended on the kindness of strangers."