Friday, March 09, 2007

Classic Disaster in Connecticut

Whenever I haven't had a disaster in a while, I start to worry. The universe tends to even things out, so I feel like there must be something big in store for me. Little things don't really count, like how my coat sleeve was apparently stuck under the spout of the coffee dispenser this morning and made me pour coffee into my sleeve. That's just a little joke. No, what I'm worried about is the Next Big Thing. I am way overdue. I thought I might try to remind whoever is in charge of this sort of thing of a few of the things that have happened in the past. Maybe they'll feel sorry for me and think twice before sending something new.

Since my car has been featuring prominently in my life these days, I thought I'd remind them about what happened last April, on an ill-advised trip to Connecticut.

M had an interview down in Connecticut for a teaching position, so I thought it would be "fun" to go with him. Get out of town for a quick overnight trip, see a little of an area we might end up moving to, and generally keep him company. His car is sort of like driving a tin can, so we decided to take mine. Hah! Be warned, this is a long story.

The drive started out fine, until we hit the Connecticut border. We stopped for gas and the car started to overheat for no apparent reason. It was unseasonably warm and the air conditioning wasn't working, so that was probably part of the problem. I found out later that the place I had taken the car two weeks earlier to recharge the cooling system had somehow clipped a wire that was essential for the air conditioning to work. After spending a little time in a well placed shopping plaza with an AC Moore and a Barnes and Noble, we hit the road again and hoped for the best.

We managed to navigate the Connecticut Turnpike without any more incidents, and got to the hotel. I can't remember the name of the town we were in, but I remember someone telling me that the singer 50 Cent had recently moved to this enclave of preppiedom, and people were freaking out. Our room was of course "not ready", despite the fact that it was more than an hour past the stated check in time. We went out for a bite to eat and when we went back an hour later, guess what? Still not ready. Half an hour later, we got into a room and collapsed. We were only a few minutes away from the Mohegan Sun Casino, so having never been to a real casino, we thought we'd go check it out. Also, I had heard that Lisa Loeb was playing a free concert there and I wanted to see her. I could see that they had done everything they could to make it beautiful and inviting, but no waterfall or light show could cover up the despair and sadness that filled the place as people stared with glassy eyes at their slot machines. I can't even begin to describe what it was like. We had a hugely overpriced and slightly unpleasant dinner in a supposedly gourmet restaurant with barely average food and atrocious service. We wandered back to the middle of the place to see if we could catch a glimpse of Lisa, which we were finally able to do. That was really the only good thing about the night. We found our way out and went back to our hotel for the night.

The next morning, we packed up and M got dressed in his new sport coat as we prepared to head over for the interview. We discovered that we had left his dress shoes at home. Now, you would think that finding a pair of shoes in the great state of Connecticut might not be a major production. The only mall we could find was set to be demolished later that week, and even though it was still technically open, there were only two stores in it. One was a shoe store. They didn't have any shoes. After driving around with no idea where we were for about an hour, we finally stumbled upon a Wal-Mart. Against my better judgement, the boy needed shoes, so we sucked it up and bought some damned shoes.

Hot, sweaty, crabby and disheveled, we finally found the college. Turns out the address they gave us doesn't actually exist anymore, since they have rerouted and renamed the street that the school is on. We did our best to spiff M up a bit, and he headed off while I parked the car in the shade and took a nap. He was gone for a long time. I told myself that this was a good sign, that they had a lot to talk about. Nope. They were merely keeping him waiting around while they tried to find the person who was supposed to interview him. It didn't go well.

We struck out for home. If you have ever been on the Connecticut Turnpike through Hartford, then I don't have to explain what that was like. If not, all I can tell you is that if you are driving any slower that 85 mph, you're gonna get creamed. We pulled off the highway to a rest area to get out and stretch and generally pull ourselves back together. I figured it was M's turn to drive for a while, since I was still shaking from the last half dozen miles. He put the car in reverse and hit the gas. The next thing we know, there is a horrible screech and a bang, and the car lurches to a stop. After getting out and lying on the ground under my car I had no choice but to admit that this car wasn't going anywhere. The axle was not attached to the car anymore, and was crammed up into the wheel well, scraping the hell out of the wheel. Still shaking, and now crying, having realized what could have happened if it had fallen off while we were driving, I did what any girl would do, and I called my Dad. M called AAA for help. Three hours later, a tow truck showed up. What we really needed was a flat bed because THE AXLE SHE IS BROKEN AND THE WHEELS THEY NO GO!!! No one seemed to understand this except the tow guy who said "I can't help you, you need a flat bed." We called AAA again. They have no record of us ever having called, and we start all over, stressing the importance of the need for a flat bed and trying to explain where we were. When we pulled off the road, it was around five-thirty. By the time the flat bed shows up, it was close to midnight. The guy driving the truck had never used a flat bed before, and was completely clueless. It took him forty-five minutes to get the car on the truck, in the process dragging the car sideways, effectively separating the rest of the wheel from the car. We got in the truck and drove to a Citgo station that was in the middle of nowhere and was very, very closed. Our helpful driver left us there by a dumpster in the dark, at one-fifteen in the morning, with no idea where we were or what we were going to do. He did give us a phone number for a cab. We called, and one of the nicest, kindest people I have ever met came to get us. He drove us to the next town over where we finally found a Holiday Inn Express that would take us in. The first couple of places we passed were a truck stop and something else that defies description. Our cab driver refused to stop at either one, saying they just weren't safe. The next two were full. Apparently there was a girls basketball championship going on.

The next day, it became clear that the mechanics at this Citgo station were just as inept as their tow guy, and I started to have my doubts that they could fix this. I called my Dad again, and since I was obviously near the breaking point, he called them for me and we all decided that the best thing to do was to get the car away from them. We called AAA again and went through the whole tow truck vs. flat bed thing again to get it to the local Midas. At least this time we were within walking distance of a couple of restaurants and a TJ Maxx. What started out as an overnight trip ended up being three nights, which by the way, wasn't cheap. So, between the cost of the room, extra meals, extra clean clothes purchased at TJ Maxx, and a few items I didn't need that simply made me feel better, the car repairs and towing charges, it cost us close to $1,500.00 to go to Connecticut for a job that Mark didn't get.

The moral of this story? Never go to Connecticut.


Alex said...

You've got a point.
I've been to Connecticut.

Anonymous said...

Um. I live in Connecticut.

I'll try not to take offense. I'm so sorry that this happened to you! I actually broke down crossing the state a few years ago, in HARTFORD, and it was a pain, I tell ya.

I only wish I had met you before all this had happened. I could've steered you to better places here in the state.

Hopefully things work out for your car, and for your hubby.

Take good care.

Heather said...

Um. It wasn't really about Connecticut.

Kate said...

i've had oddly similar car disasters in new hampshire (right around portsmouth, dover area actually). so maybe it was a foreshadowing of our disaster blogging?

i was born in connecticut see... and my parents decided to move back to vermont when they put casinos in the mall. or because i had poison ivy every damned weekend, and had been singing things like "g.d.s.o.b." (in long form) at the top of my lungs in the bath at age 4 (learned from my babysitters husband, a postal carrier). all i remember is having only wild boys and an aging italian couple to play with, poison ivy, and that hartford was always under construction.

cars pick the worst possible time to do the worst possible thing, and the people who are supposed to "fix" things end up being the last people you want working on your car. example: car failure in yarmouth maine on our way to bolster a friend who's dad had had a heart attack. two weeks, two garages, and two alternators later... (that was the portsmouth "incident").

and connecticut cracks depend largely on what part of it you've experienced...

Heather said...

Hartford was always under construction. We used to drive through Hartford twice a year on our way to Indiana to visit my mother's family. I told someone I knew recently that Hartford was under construction for something like fifteen years, but they didn't believe me!

Speaking of Connecticut, do you have any idea who this mamalee commenter is? I wonder how she found the blog.

Alex said...

Mamalee is another blogger and found your blog by searching knitting or connecticut or something. That's what I'd bet. If you click on her name, you can go to her blog...a quick look makes it look like it could be a fun place.

At any rate, as far as I'm concerned, this blog entry was ALWAYS about Connecticut.

Heather said...

What I meant was that the fact that it HAPPENED in Connecticut wasn't the whole story, and it wasn't a good reason to take offense. If I really wanted to offend the people of Connecticut, I'm sure I could, but I chose not to. I may have sounded snippier than I intended, but sarcasm just seems to come flying out of my mouth.