Car Trouble

November 7, 2008
By Emily Marsteller, Washington, DC

During my 6th grade spring break, my family and I took a trip to Hilton Head, South Carolina. Driving from my house in Washington, DC to our hotel was expected to take about 14 hours. The problem is, my Dad is handicapped, so the technology in his car was far more complicated than that of a normal car, therefore more things could go wrong. Also, this car was seven years old, and handicapped usable vehicles don't last for very long. So, my Dad spoke to the mechanics before hand, and they gave him a funky-looking car part to bring just in case the one in our car broke. All that I knew about this part was that it made steering significantly easier and that it looked like a bended pipe with aluminum foil on the ends. With this car part, we left home confident that we were prepared for anything and that we would arrive at the hotel that night. We were very, very wrong.

It was around 11:00 am and we had been on the road for about four and a half hours. My fourteen year old brother and I were in the middle of watching the movie Poseidon, I felt the car slowing almost to a stop, as if low on gas. Instinctively, I looked up to see my Mom’s panicked reflection in the mirror, and the gas dial which claimed that our tank was half way full. I also figured out that, judging by the cars that were zooming past us in all directions, we were on a highway.

Thank goodness, there was a gap between two cars in the lane to the right of us and my Mom was just able to get our car to the side of the road. Everyone in the car except for my brother, who was still deeply absorbed in the movie, and my Dad’s nurse Anne, who was sleeping, let out simultaneous sighs of relief. I went to walk around outside for a while, while my Mom walked for a while, trying to find help, and my Dad turned his cell phone on and began dialing numbers to try to get some help. A little before 11:30, my Mom returned having been unsuccessful in her attempt to find help. She and my Dad talked for a while, and then they decided to try driving again.

The engine sped to life as if nothing was wrong with it. My Mom cautiously drove on until fifteen minutes later when we reached a Quiznos. My Mom parked the car and everyone except for my Dad went inside to get something to eat and to ask for help. Someone at Quiznos called a nearby gas station and got someone to come look at our car. We ended up paying close to $50 for someone to look at our car for five minutes. The nearest dealership, we soon learned, was a one hour car ride if we had no car trouble. However, at this point, trying to get to that dealership was our only logical choice.

We were doing fine until about 25 minutes after our Quiznos stop, when our car simply stopped, the same way it had before. We gave it about 30 minutes to cool down, then we started again. This happened three more times before we finally made it to the dealership, the necessary stops grew more and more frequent as we got closer. It was 3:00 pm when we finally got there.

We sat in the parking lot, using our suitcases as chairs, for several hours. We heard no hopeful news from the mechanics until about 5:30, when they explained to us that they were 70% sure that a worn-out gas filter was the problem. He offered to drive someplace that night to get a new one for us. My parents agreed, and my Mm got into the car with one mechanic, while another one led the rest of us to the lounge.

After being gone for about an hour and a half my mom and the mechanic returned to the dealership and the repair began. At around 8:30 the job was finished. The mechanics refused to accept any tips. Although this was a really long, bad day, I have to admit: we were pretty lucky. Had it not been for those people, goodness knows what would have happened to us.

We hit the road at 7:30 the next morning, after spending the night at a Hilton Hotel. We planned on arriving at our real hotel around 1:30 that afternoon. This was yet another trip that took much longer than expected.

At about 11:00, we were leaving a gas station and my Mom found that steering the car was significantly more difficult than usual. So began our second car problem. My Mom had to drive like this for about 45 minutes until we finally arrived at a dealership. A mechanic came up to our car, talked briefly to my Dad, then reached into the engine of our car. Seconds later, he pulled out a car part that looked very similar to the one we had purchased, except that it was in three pieces. Then the mechanic announced that it would be two weeks before they could order a new one. I saw my Dad’s jaw drop in the mirror. Had it not been for some people who were talking outside, you could’ve heard a pin drop in that car.

“Is this it?” my Mom asked, holding up the spare car part. Once again, the dead silence, as we all crossed our fingers and the mechanic stared at us with wide eyes. Finally, he nodded and we all let out sighs of relief, just like we had the day before when we got off of the highway. We weren’t so thrilled when we figured out that the repair would take two and a half hours, but we knew that it was much better than two weeks. That bent pipe saved our vacation.

For once, everything did go as planned. We were on the road at 1:30, and we got to the hotel at 4:00. That trip was the beginning of our search for a new car, although it didn’t happen until eighteen months later.

Although we did have pretty lousy luck during that car ride, I can’t forget that it could’ve been a whole lot worse. This was one of those times in life when you get a ton of bad luck, but you get enough good luck to balance it out. For instance, I can’t complain about our first break down because had it not been for a gap between two cars on that highway, I wouldn’t have been alive to complain about it. Likewise, I’ve been thankful ever since then for the mechanics who replaced our gas filter. And of course, thank goodness for that funky looking bent pipe.

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