Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Notes on vehicles

This morning, as I looked for a place to park at my son’s school when I was dropping him off, I frowned when I noticed that, once again, someone had parked their car in a “pause parking” spot and left their vehicle. We’re not allowed to leave the car when we are in pause parking. I had hoped to park on that side of the parking lot because it would’ve been safer to let my son out of the van instead of his side being where there is oncoming traffic. In the event I’m in such a position, though, I usually have to shove my car door open against the bushes, climb out with branches sticking in my hair and sticking into my back, and act as a barrier for him to pass through on my side to safely cross the lot, where a sign holder is waiting. It’s not the end of the world if I have to park there, though, but it’s still nice when I don’t have to.

And I guess another parent was miffed about someone leaving their parked car in pause parking, too, because I noticed him saying something to me after I watched Jesse go into school and he was walking to that car with a piece of paper in his hand. I watched as he left this piece of paper – possibly an angry note? – on that car and then he got into his car to leave.

As I left the school parking lot, I was wondering what that note said. I also thought how very rare it was for me to see someone leaving a note on a car.

Well, later on that morning, I ended up leaving a note on a car, too – my own!

When I drove Trevor to school later this morning, I noticed there were city workers clearing away tree debris on the ground from when branches had fallen from trees. I made a mental note to take an alternate route on my way home. (I’d rather not drive through areas under construction or where city workers are busy doing things because I don’t want to hold them up or be a problem – or deal with the VERY LARGE vehicles or traffic!). Everything else was fine as I drove Trev to school and dropped her off. But as I was driving home, the steering wheel started to jerk left and right. This was actually something that happened recently as I was driving it before, but it was when there was ice, snow and mush on the roads. I had talked about this with my husband and we both just chalked it up to road conditions. But now it was happening AGAIN! I was confused. Why was this happening? The snow was mostly gone and the ice was definitely gone. It had been only been raining that morning.

Well, I came to find out that it didn’t have ANYTHING to do with road conditions and EVERYTHING to do with the van!

I soon started experiencing a clunking sensation coming from the engine. Then I smelled a foul odor and the speedometer suddenly went berserk. The van started to slow down. Pushing on the brake did nothing and pushing on the gas only irritated the engine even more.

Realizing what was going on, I tried to move the van off to the side of the road – but it only got so far. When the van died, the front was pointed towards the side and the back was sticking out, blocking oncoming traffic. I tried to turn on the emergency lights to let people know I was broken down but nothing was working at that point.

So I sat there, feeling bummed that the van had broken down and that I could not get it home before it died (a feat I HAD managed to accomplish with one other car!). Fortunately, it broke down a couple of blocks from my house, and I thought I might be able to push it home. But when I tried putting it into neutral to push it home, the van would NOT move. It was completely locked right where it was. I tried texting my neighbor for help but didn’t get an answer. Then as I was starting to Google what else I could try doing, I noticed someone stop at the Stop sign near where I was parked and ask if I needed help. I explained that I was having trouble pushing the car to get it out of the way. She promptly got out of her car and I told her I couldn’t move the van at all. She offered to push and instructed me to set it up in such a way where she could get the van to move. As I was doing this, I noticed another car stop behind hers and a man jumped out then ran over to help, too. All three of us worked together and, eventually, the van was completely pushed off the road and onto the side.

I thanked both of them as they left. The man checked to make sure I had a phone before he left. I was so grateful to them for their help! (Eugeneans are AWESOME!) (This was the second time two people offered to help when I had to push a car – the last time was when I ran out of gas and we pushed it to a gas station.)

Then I sat there, trying to figure out what to do. My neighbor still had not answered my text. My husband was at home, sleeping. I didn’t have membership with Triple A to call for help and I was trying to think of if I could text a friend for help.

But then I thought, WHAT help? What could possibly be done now?

I had to think. Should I try again to push it home? Maybe that wasn’t a good idea. We’d been lucky to even get it off the street – and home was 2 blocks away. Should I text a friend for help? But what could a friend do, short of driving me home? I didn’t need a ride home – I could walk it. A friend might be able to get the van towed home, but I wasn’t sure if I was up to staying with the van for who knows how long waiting for a tow truck. But what if it didn’t need a tow truck? What if all it needed was as a simple fix and I could get it running again?

The best thing to do would be to walk home and ask my husband to come look at it. He is VERY GOOD at fixing cars. (Me? Not so much.)

Then I realized that I couldn’t leave the van here like this. I mean, what if a police officer came along and thought it was abandoned? Or what if the owner of the property saw a suspicious vehicle parked like this and reported it? I would have to leave a note.

I checked my phone to see that once again I had no messages, then took out of my purse a small notebook and pen. On a piece of paper I wrote “BROKE DOWN -- WALKING TO GET HELP” and I left it on the van.

Then I started to walk home but then I noticed something on the ground. I stood there to get a good look at it. It really looked like a metal part of a car. I moved it with my shoe to confirm it was indeed a hard thing then bent over to pick it up. It slipped right out of my fingers and I noticed it was covered with oil.

Yep, I sighed. Part of a car. It must’ve come off when the van was in the street, breaking down. I grabbed a paper towel I had in my pocket and used it to pick up the metal round thingy. I cradled it in the paper towel since it was all oily and put it on the van’s windshield, at the bottom.

Then I walked home. When I got home, I woke my husband up and told him what happened. We walked back to inspect the van and I told him about the part I found. He looked at it and then he found another part on the street. We checked the surrounding area to make sure nothing else had fallen off of the engine then he took a look at the van. He told me he suspected what it was then that he would come back with a tarp so he could get a better look. We walked back home and I started to get my breakfast as he left. When he came back later, he told me it was the CV shaft that had broken and that we would have to get it towed home. He also explained there were two ways it could’ve been broken and that a professional mechanic would have to look at it to determine what exactly was wrong. So he took a shower and he was going to leave to go arrange for the van to be towed to a shop. Unfortunately, he had car trouble too (ugh!!) but after THAT was taken care of, he left. Later, when he came back, he confirmed the van was now at a shop and that we’d learn either tomorrow or Friday what was wrong with it and how much it would cost to get repaired.

So it looks like I am now without transportation for a while. Who knows for how long. My husband will be driving the kids to school until I can get another car to drive. I don’t know about Jesse’s basketball practices, though. Or even his gymnastics class, if I am without transportation for that long. And although I had no idea how long I’ll be without a car, I emailed Jesse’s basketball coach to let him know the situation and that Jesse won’t be able to make it to basketball practice this week. He has a game on Saturday and my husband will have to take him to that. (Good grief, this is the SECOND TIME I have had a transportation issue interfere with Jesse getting to basketball practice!!)

But hopefully, it won’t be like this for too long. Hopefully I can get new transportation soon. Or the van won’t cost an arm and a leg to fix. We have only had the van for a year and while I don’t mind if we have to say goodbye to it, it would be nice if it had lasted longer. I hope that will be the case.

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