At about 5pm last Monday, I’m preparing to leave the office for a few days away with the family, before the kids go back to school. I had booked a couple of days in Hershey, PA. I love Hershey Park - very family oriented, reasonably priced and not too far of a drive – about 4 hours. Well, my office phone rings and I see from the caller ID that it’s my wife. She probably wants to know what train I’ll be on, obviously excited about taking the kids away - I was only half right. Yes, it was Dawn but she was upset because of the car. On her way home, just about every light on the dash was lit. She thought we would have to postpone the trip a day or two. I booked the hotel a month ago. It was very unlikely we would be able to find another room for the 6 of us at the last minute. “Not an option, I told her – we’re going!” Extremely upset, she demands -“You need to call Eddie, right now - see what he says!” I very calmly replied, “No, Eddie will not be able to tell us anything about the problem just by dashboard warning lights. I’ll take a look at it when I get home.” You see, Eddie is our local car mechanic. I told Dawn I’d take it to him first thing in the morning.
I must mention something very important here. As much as I know about house construction, repairs and remodeling, I know absolutely nothing about cars. Not that I haven’t tried, you see automobiles require a whole different set of tools and knowledge – of which I never acquired. My only memory of my father working under the hood of our family wagon was when the light he was using to see fell and broke on the engine requiring him to pick broken glass out of the carburetor with needle-nose pliers. I’m not laughing because I’m no better. My automotive expertise is limited to changing the engine oil and I don’t even do that anymore. I decided to hang up my oil wrench after a single drop of motor oil flew from the oil can landing in my eye as I spun it onto the underside of the engine. I was wearing contact lenses which are plastic and plastic is a petroleum based product. Well, when oil and plastic are combined, the plastic kind of melts – right on my eye!
So, back to our trip. When I finally arrived home, I could see the vehicle information book was out of the glove compartment and open on the kitchen table. “We have no ‘Stabil-i-Trac’. The book says not to drive the car – it’s not safe – what’s ‘Stabil-i-Trac?” I don’t know what it is and I really don’t care. What I do know is that I’ve been driving vehicles for over 30 years without it and it was not going to keep me from taking the kids to Hershey Park!
The next morning I got to the gas station where Eddie hooked up a small computer to the car. One of the seven computers in the car was not communicating with the other computers. That would make all the dashboard lights come on. Eddie thought it would be safe to drive to Hershey. That was all I wanted to hear. I got home and told Dawn what Eddie said which only seemed to slightly appease her. Then, the questions – “Does he know we’re going to Hershey?” “Yes.” “He said it’s OK?” “Yes.” “…to go all the way to Hershey?” “Yes.” She usually runs out of ways to ask the same question. The trick is not to answer any differently – she would have made a great trial attorney!
The car is loaded with bags, kids and a bottle of wine (that’s for me if we break down half way there!) and we’re off. We didn’t get out of our development before Dawn started telling me how nervous all the lights on the dash was making her. So, I took a piece of paper and covered the instrument panel. But not before she could see the Brake lights were on as well. “Now, the brakes!?! Are we going to lose the brakes?” “No.” “Are you sure? How do you know?” “Because the brakes are not computer operated.” “Did Eddie see the brake light?” “Yes.” “He did?” “Yes.” “What did he say?” “Nothing, it’s not a problem.” “How do you know? I’m very nervous about this.” At this point I stated that I would no longer discuss anything else about the car.
Everything was going along fine. After about an hour, we were approaching the Whitestone Bridge that will take us off Long Island and into the Bronx and I realized the air conditioning is not working. Now, I’m getting nervous, what next? Reluctantly, I told Dawn. Prepared for her shock, I said, “We’re turning around to go back and get the mini-van.” To which she replies, “I’m not comfortable with the van either.” At this point I believe I said something about leaving her in Queens, but I decided instead to open the windows and attempt crossing the bridge. You see, I’m not as scared to break down on a very busy, major New York bridge with 4 kids and no shoulder as I am to hear Dawn say “I told you so.” for the rest of my life.
Yes, we made it to Hershey and back. The kids had a great time – we all did. So, this morning, as I’m telling my boss about the trip and why I was late due to dropping the car at the dealer, Dawn calls me from our driveway – “I can’t get the van out of park!” What can I say; she just keeps giving me great material!
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