A while back, during one of my complaints about “Biomes I”, the mini-van from Hell, (I’ll say it again, never, ever buy a Pontiac) I promised to bore you with my NYC story.
On October 7, 2001 my ex-college roommate Eric got married in Hoboken New Jersey. I drove the van down to attend the wedding that Sunday morning. I planned to return to Rhode Island late that night but at the last minute decided to spend the night in the hotel the reception was held at and drive back the next day. What else happened on October 7th? We began our invasion of Afghanistan. New York City was in sort of a lockdown police state out of fear of reprisals.
So, I’m heading back to New England Monday morning and fighting the traffic on I-95. Halfway over the George Washington Bridge I blow a head gasket. My van starts overheating and as I try to pull over I’ve got National Guardsmen, with guns, telling me “don’t you dare stop that car. Keep moving”. White van with darkened windows, driver with a beard and looking really hung over and tired. Keep it moving. If the van just died right there, what were they going to do? Shoot me?
After the bridge you go through a series of tunnels, which are really not tunnels but roads running beneath buildings. I stop and ask a state trooper if I can pull over because my car is overheating (steam is rising from the hood, so it’s not just a bunch of bull). Keep moving, he said. Somehow the van keeps going and once I was clear of the bridge and tunnels, what do you know? I-95 is under repair, down to one lane. No way I can stop now. So I keep going and take the first exit I find. Rollling down the exit in neutral, I find a tiny little auto repair shop. I pull in, and the old man who owns the place pulls the car into his one bay. “Can you fix it?” I ask. “I can fix anything” he says. Whew. “But it’ll take about three weeks.” Doh!
Triple A wanted $500 to tow me home, so for three hundred bucks the old man loads my van onto his flatbed and drives me all the way to Rhode Island and drops it off at my mechanic. I pay him, tip him and buy him breakfast. The van is shot. But with three more years of payments to make I really have no choice but to fix it. New engine, new transmission and a month of car rentals total seven thousand dollars. If I had broken down any time or any place else I could have pulled over, saved the engine and been towed home and repaired for less than a grand.
Four years later, the van is back at the garage. I have my new Prius and I’m trying to just fix up the old car enough to sell it and maybe make enough to pay the mechanic for the latest round of repairs. Like I said, never buy a Pontiac. And never attend a wedding the day we start a war. Bin Laden owes me seven grand. Think I’ll collect?