January 2, 2008


In yesterday's blog, I wrote "May you have all the luck in the world!"

That reminded me of a particular time when my car, my old Audi, broke down. It happened about two years ago and probably was one of the worst breakdowns I ever had. It's a good example of what that blessing is all about. Here's what happened.

It was a cold, wet day and I'd gone down to D.C. for a job interview and to visit a friend. When I decided to leave, my car had trouble starting so my friend pulled out a portable jump-starter and we got my car going. Thinking that the problem was probably just the rain -- my car had a history of being hard to start in wet weather -- I proceeded to drive home. The engine sounded rough, but it was running. I figured I'd just try keep my foot on the gas and drive straight to the auto shop when I got home. About 45 minutes later, I ran into some traffic...there was an accident up ahead.

I remember considering briefly to pull over and wait for the traffic to clear, but decided to stick it out. The traffic slowed to a stop. I had to slow to idle...And my car died. Shit. I was at the midpoint of my trip - nowhere near home, and my friend was almost an hour behind me.

I hit the emergency light button, got out and started looking for someone with a portable jumper. Luckily someone was willing to help out, and we got my car restarted. Just then, the traffic was starting to move and I hopped back in. At this point, I knew something was very wrong with the car. I didn't think I'd make it to the next exit, but was hoping I could keep the car from dying if I could keep my foot on the gas. The technique worked until a few minutes later, when the traffic slowed again to a stop. The car died. Again.

To make matters worse, I'd forgotten the car charger for my pager, and the battery had died too (great timing), which meant I couldn't use the AIM relay to call someone.

Out of the car into the freezing rain, I ran around asking if anyone'd help me move the car off the road onto the left shoulder and call the AAA for a tow. Luckily, a good samaritian was willing to help out and we pushed the steel car onto the shoulder.

After an hour of waiting, the tow truck finally came and he tried to start my car, and declared what I already suspected: It's the battery. Off we went to Autozone, and when we arrived, much to my dismay, it was closed. I asked the guy to take me to the Pep Boys that we'd passed on the way. We arrived just before 8 o'clock, and I ran inside and asked for a battery. Eighty bucks later, I had a battery for my car. Then the cashier asked me, "Do you have the tools to install this?"

My stunned reply: "It doesn't snap in?" I really thought it was like regular battery...just pop it in, snap it in place, and lo and behold, I had a working car. No such luck. Shit. And they were closing at eight -- we were in a tiny town and apparently noone was open past eight or nine.

The cashier told me to go auto repair section and see if anyone was still there. Luckily there was one mechanic still there, cleaning up. "Please please help!"

I could see him hesitate. "Look, I'll give you twenty bucks if you help me. It's all I have in cash right now. If you don't help, I'll be stuck sleeping in the car until the store opens in the morning. I have noone near me. Everyone I know is either in Harrisburg or in DC."

"Ok ok," he grudgingly agreed. And fifteen minutes later, he had installed the battery and refused to take my money. The car started just fine and although it was still rough, it wasn't stalling and dying whenever it idled.

Looking back, I was pretty lucky. If I had passed that midpoint and the car died before I got to Harrisburg, I'd be much worse off. There's a long stretch of highway where there are very few towns or any traffic at all. It would've been long wait for help and a long, expensive tow.

Luck was on my side; I was both lucky and unlucky that day.

1 Comments (Click here to comment):

emergency lights March 22, 2012 at 7:01 AM  

Hi, good post. I have been thinking about this issue, so thanks for sharing. I will definitely be coming back to your blog.

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