Saturday, May 19, 2007

Crisis Management

(Warning! Long post ahead!)

Back in my college days, I drove cars that could be called somewhat unreliable. There was the Opel I loved, but it had a nasty habit of shearing points, causing the car to stop going (I got pretty good at diagnosing the problem and changing the points). There was the car whose u-joint decided to give out on the beltway during rush hour. I did not react well to car problems, especially car problems (or weather problems) that stranded me where I did not want to be.

Apparently, that aspect of me hasn't changed much in 25 years.

My cell phone rang late Thursday morning (it never rings). It was my nephew, saying that his car was broken down in DC (he was on his way to a Nationals game). With a little help from a coworker and Google maps, we found out where he was and he managed to get the car to the stadium without it blowing up (or so we thought).

While he was enjoying the baseball game, I searched the internet for auto repair shops in the vicinity. RKF Stadium is in Northeast DC and it's not exactly a great neighborhood, although it's improved over the last several years. I found one shop, about a mile from the stadium and gave them a call. They couldn't look at the car immediately, but they could look at it on Friday. I said we'd try something else.

Daniel called after the game to let me know that it seemed like the car was fine and that he was leaving the stadium. Five minutes later, he called again. The car was overheating and losing coolant again. This time he was close to Union Station and was going to park it. It was clear to me that there was no way the car was going to make it 43 miles in rush hour traffic. I called the mechanic back and said I'd take him up on his offer to fix the car on Friday and by the way, could he recommend a towing company?

I called the towing company, arranged for them to meet Daniel at Union Station, and made sure that Daniel had enough cash to pay for the tow and that R. (the mechanic) was going to be there when W. (the tow truck operator) would arrive with the car. Daniel and Madeline would take the Metro from Union Station to Vienna, and I would whisk them away to Leesburg. We finally arrived home sometime after 8:00 PM. I also alerted my boss that I might not be at work on Friday, since I would have to help Daniel deal with the car.

So, Friday dawns. After a suitable length of time passes and I don't hear from R., I called him. I was very relieved to find out that it was a bad thermostat and coolant sensor. That's an easy fix and relatively inexpensive. He estimated the car would be finished around 2:00 at the latest. Excellent! Daniel and Madeline decided they wanted to go into DC and visit the museums, and I alerted work that I'd be in around 1:00 (might as well go in since I had to drive past the office to get to the Metro). We were well on the way to having this crisis resolved.

I was way too optimistic.

I didn't hear from R. and finally called him to get a status check. He estimated the car would be finished between 3:30 and 4:30; he had to order a thermostat. Fine, no problem. That's a common occurrence.

I had a 4:00 meeting which ran until about 5:30. I called R. again to get a status check. He couldn't install the thermostat because the thermostat housing was damaged. He would wire the fan so that it would come on when the car was started and run continuously to help keep the engine cool. He also said that he thought the head gasket was damaged. The car would now be ready around 6:00 (at the height of rush hour).

The uneasy feeling that had been growing since my first call with R. exploded into full anxiety. If I were a nail-biter, I'd have chewed my fingers to the bone. I called Daniel and told him how to get to the shop and I continued fretting.

After Daniel arrives at the shop, I settle the bill with R. and Daniel and Madeline are on the road. Less than 10 minutes after Daniel leaves the shop, he calls and says his car is overheating again. As soon as I hang up with Daniel, his father calls and says that Daniel is broken down and in a very bad area. I told him not to worry, that I'd handle it.

I said some very bad words after we hung up.

I called Daniel and got their position, looking it up on Mapquest (at the same time IMing with Tom, who said he'd get them to a police or fire station). We decided to get the car back to Union Station and park it in the garage. I called his father back and assured him Daniel was okay and that the neighborhoods in that area often look way worse than they were. Then Daniel calls; he's safe at Union Station and was getting on the Metro.

We arrive in Leesburg at 9:00 PM. Fortunately, Tom had margaritas and pizza and salad waiting for us. I was so knotted up inside and still fretting. How are we going to get the car back to Leesburg? How are Daniel and Madeline going to get home? What do I do about the repair bill, since R. didn't fix the car at all?

I'm still knotted up inside. We're going to have the car towed from Union Station on Sunday. Tom was going to do his usual long run and let me drive to DC and deal with the almost final chapter by myself. No way! I hate driving in DC and at this point, I never want to set foot inside that city again. Tom relented rather quickly, sensing that I was rather vehement about not doing it by myself. We'll have the car towed back to Leesburg and my brother will come pick it up at some point. I'll take Daniel and Madeline back home Sunday afternoon, taking the opportunity to visit my parents at the same time.

And all will be well.

Comfort Knitting
During this drama, there was knitting. There had to be. I knit on my simple stockinette sock. I turned the heel without too much drama. I'm thinking the leg will be a bit boring and am tempted by feather and fan. But it's too hard. I just want to knit around and around and around; a mantra of knit, knit, knit, knit...

May the remainder of your weekend be free of car troubles, fretting, and drama.


PurlingPirate said...

I'm with you. I hate car problems. I once threw a major hissy fit in the middle of a Toyota dealership in Houston after they fixed my car and then tried to charge me $300 more then I was quoted. I was not a happy camper.

Sheepish Annie said...

'Twas the plain vanilla sock that got me through my last round of vehicle repairs. It also kept my hands busy so that I didn't end up in the big house after strangling several less than helpful mechanics.

Knit on! I'll think good thoughts for the nephew's vehicle and for your stress level.

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry you had so many problems :( it sucks when they give you the run around like that. at least you could knit with all that going on. it's the only thing that keeps us all sane huH? or else it could have been worse! hahaha

Cari said...

oy vey! Glad you made it through. What a headache.

Anonymous said...

You seem to be very level headed in a crisis situation! Car troubles are one of those things that make me forget I even have a brain. What a GREAT Auntie you are too! Daniel is lucky to have you.

Anonymous said...

Oh, you're such a good aunt! I can't imagine that you publicly blew your cool, and you were smart to get a simple sock going to handle that stress.

lauren said...

I'm sure you can handle things well. It's nice that knitting has become an outlet of your emotions. It's wise that people must express out their feelings to avoid depression. Hoping everything is alright now.
And i got some car fixing to do too. Just got some parts (bmw rotors, calipers, etc.) for brake upgrade...