The joy is in the journey, right? But what if you’ve done everything to ensure the journey is utterly joyful and everything – at least it feels like everything – goes wrong?
Case in point. A girlfriend who was enjoying her sweet pad in Hallandale Beach, Florida – that’s on the Atlantic between Ft. Lauderdale and Miami – invited me down right out of the blue. Well, maybe it wasn’t entirely out of the blue. She’d read a recent blog, saw that I’d been sick again, and was daydreaming about sunshine and beaches and margaritas. She sent me the link for cheap Spirit flights out of Detroit. I got my Jazzercise classes covered for a few days, got a mani/pedi, got my back-pack packed.
Not so fast! I’d had a problem with my vehicle on New Year’s Eve. Rushing back to London from picking up my daughter Randy at Pearson it sputtered and died on the 401. It’s a 2010 Yukon Denali – let’s call her Pearl – that’s been for regular service and oil changes. There’d been no indication of trouble, then suddenly engine power was reduced as the dashboard lit up with various symbols and warnings, one of which was “ENGINE POWER REDUCED”. Really? Oh, and “STABILITRAK” something-or-other. We sat on the side of the highway leafing through the thick manual, but after a few minutes Pearl started without the scary rumblings and we carried on. The “Check Engine” light stayed on for a few days, then went off.
But I’m a pretty smart girl. And a scaredy-cat white girl. I didn’t like the possibility of being broken down on the side of I94 by myself, so I made a service appointment for Pearl the day before my departure and told the service guys what had happened on New Year’s Eve. They hooked her right up to a computer, which is exactly how we deal with vehicles these days, isn’t it? There’s no looking under the hood anymore.
Computers are pretty smart too. But, after 15 “key cycles” – that’s putting the key in, starting it, turning it off, taking it out – the computer’s intelligence about your vehicle troubles can be significantly diminished. The service department found “nothing wrong” and I set off for Detroit fairly certain I’d make my flight. Pearl was full of fuel – cheaper fuel at the time – and I’d even stopped her damn nagging about the windshield wiper fluid just before getting on the 402.
I was in the passing lane, not even to Strathroy when Pearl lurched, my heart lurched, and we limped over to the shoulder. I immediately called my service guys, to wail, but also to tell them exactly what the messages were that were flashing on the dashboard, as I hadn’t been certain before. And you know what they told me to do?
“Turn the engine off. Take out the key. Open the driver’s door. Wait for a few minutes and try it again.”
Should I close the door again? Swearing, swearing some more, swearing while waiting a few minutes, then swearing while trying it again, would have been just as valuable advice.
It just didn’t make me feel that confident, I must say. My dad was a mechanic. As a kid, when one of our vehicles was broken down on the side of the road, which was often as we drove shit-boxes, the hood would be up and Dad would be asking for Mom’s nylons, or a hanger, and he’d spend some time under there, repairing things. While swearing.
Anyway, it worked, miraculously, but the “Check Engine” light remained on and I was not even to Sarnia when Pearl bit the dust again. An OPP cruiser pulled up behind me. I guess they do that when you hang out on the shoulder of a major highway too much with your four-ways on. Constable W. Wells confirmed I wasn’t a criminal and banished me to London Line, because Pearl couldn’t keep up, and I limped into a dealer in Sarnia.
By then, panic had set in. How do I make my flight? I’d called B, to wail, and he offered great suggestions, over top of my wailing, like try Robert Q, call the airline, get another flight. When I finally figured out to go straight to the top, talk to the guy in charge, the service manager in Sarnia had Pearl in the shop. I chatted with Spirit on my cell to discuss possible flight changes. The very kind service manager came back into his office to tell me they’d have Pearl fixed fast, and they did AND it was under warranty! Spirit had me on hold, so I disconnected, ran out, jumped into Pearl, let Bluetooth kick in and called Spirit right back to say, “Yay! I’m on the road again!”
Not so fast! They’d already changed my flight to the next day, charged a zillion dollars to my credit card and it would now cost a zillion dollars to change it back. I tucked my tail between my legs and sulked to my cottage in Grand Bend as another winter storm moved in.
I tried not to think or say “shoulda-woulda-coulda”, like my mom used to do. When I called my gf in Florida to tell her I’d be 24 hours late coming in, I did say, “We can put a *$#@ing man on the moon, but we can’t figure out how to fix a *$#@ing vehicle anymore?!”
As the wind howled all night, threatening to level the cottage, I watched the cluster-*$#@ of snow squalls pounding Grand Bend on weather radar on my iPad. The time for them to stop kept changing – 5 am, no 6 am, no 7 am, no 8 am. I waited until daylight and headed out, insecure in the knowledge that Highway 21 was closed from Grand Bend to Bayfield and the 402 was closed due to “tractor trailers everywhere”. K106.3 played Highway to Hell in 402’s honor.
I white-knuckled it all the way down Lakeshore Road, through intense white-outs most of the way, but every once in a while it cleared and I marveled at the pristine white snow tornadoes forming in the ditches. The sun was shining in Sarnia. It was -12 degrees Celsius, feels like -*$#@ with the wind chill.
I was five hours early for my flight.
The sun was shining in Hallandale Beach the next day too. It got up to about 80 degrees Fahrenheit, feels like plus-heaven with a Bud light chill.
Jeez, I hope the trip was f—— worth it!