It warn’t so dang funny when it was happenin’, y’know


Okay, you were warned.

On Tuesday, my mother and I had our annual physicals. He decided Mama should have another colon scope just to make sure the minor symptoms she has now and then aren’t a problem, and he changed some of her medications. To cheer her up, I dropped by the house to pick up the tiny dog (he goes crazy if we leave him alone at home for hours–he gets bored, poor baby) and headed over to the Black-Eyed Pea for a to-go treat.

We were ALMOST home. We turned onto Renner, a six-lane road that could pass for a drag race track at rush hour, and the car lost power.

I kept pushing on the “go” pedal, but nothin’ happened. Engine stalled. We rolled forward slowly from inertia. Crazy drivers swerved around us and HONKED. Did they think I would stop the van in the middle of a 6-lane road if I didn’t have to?! I coasted into the parking lot of a huge new Texas Instruments building that is currently abandoned and tried to explain to my mother that it wasn’t an overheating . . . there was no indication of ANY problem on the dials, no steam, no hissing noise. Nothin’.

She and the dog were getting overheated, though. She entreated me to start ‘er up and try to get home, because it was 97 degrees by then and no A/C. I managed to get ‘er restarted, but as soon as I pulled out onto the road the engine stalled again.


I rolled to a stop in the left lane. It’s a wonder we weren’t flattened by the traffic. FYI, one must NOT SLOW DOWN and get IN THE WAY because these drivers have Places to Do and People to Go.

A frenzied shout-out to the LORD resulted in the car starting just briefly enough so I could roll into the median–where the two left-turn lanes conflate, y’know, where you make a U-turn. We stopped there, and people honked and shot us the yo-yo finger as they passed.

Example of dog excitement

Everyone was sweating by now. My silk goin-to-doctor blouse was in serious danger. Dog’s tongue hung out like one of those red rolly things they used to use to stack cartons of bottled Coke on in the store. “Call Hubby!” Mama shrieked.

Yay for cell phones (again). I dialed . . . told him we were in the middle of the road, stuck. He was in the middle of a system test and quite gobsmacked to be contacted with such a statement. I asked if he could think of any tow trucks or find out where his friends use as a tow place, as our Mobil closed two years ago and our Texaco (the last place near us with a mechanic) closed in December. He said, “I don’t know!! I can ask.” Mama was shouting, “Come rescue us!” He kept saying, “You can’t leave the car there by itself!” I kept saying, “Just come get these two before they asthma-out or something, and I’ll stay with the car!”

As the shouting came to a head, I noticed a Richardson police car had pulled up behind us. “I gotta go–here’s the cops!”

But the police car just sat there. Nothing happening. After another minute, it pulled alongside us and Mama rolled down her window. “Do you need help?” asked the police officer, a woman. “Yes!!”

The officer put out a call on the radio for a tow truck–which is apparently how a lot of tow operators make money, as someone said right away he’d head our direction. Then she put her car behind ours again so we wouldn’t be flattened.

Within a minute or two Hubby pulled up and parked in the left-turn lane from the other direction, and I hustled my two little panting-heavily patients into his Kia. Unfortunately, hubster still hasn’t quite gotten a round tuit as far as getting the Kia’s A/C recharged, so it blew nothing but hot air–not much of an improvement.

The tow truck arrived swiftly. “You’ve gotta move this car so they can get into position,” said the police officer, putting on her yellow-green vest and directing traffic (which was still pissed at us.). I grabbed my purse, digital camera, cell phone, the stack of take-out food cartons, and my tote bag with my Alphasmart and iPod and portable backup drive (which I’ve started taking along with me as insurance against disk problems or burglary–more on which later) out of the Disabled Vehicle (yes, this time that staple of Traffic Copter reports was us) and hustled to the Kia. We moved into the other left-turn lane (what a mess) and watched as the tow operator hooked up poor ol’ Nellybell and did his magic.

I thought I should take my patients home before they got dehydrated. I was already pouring bottled water over all three of us (lucky that I am paranoid enough to keep a couple of bottles of spring water in each car.) But they insisted they were fine.

The tow guy said, “Follow me to the Ford dealership.” So that’s what we did.

The dealership was hardly a mile down the road. It’s all pretty close to home–we were not far from the house when this happened. I dropped Hubby off to deal with the tow guy and rushed the other two home into the cool house. They started divvying up my vegetable plate as I changed clothes (my good Doctor-Going outfit now totally sopping) and jumped back into the Kia to pick up Hubster. The repair guy said he’d call in a couple of hours. By this time it was 4 PM and Hubs blew off going back in to work.

Around six, the repair guy called. He was quite jovial in reporting that my van is still under warranty, and that I had to pay a $10 co-pay for each item that had to be fixed under warranty. Good so far. (Every other car I’ve ever had was worn out when I got it–this one was new, and has given not one problem since 2004.) He said, “Well, you have a failed air sensor–the car acted like it was out of gas because it WAS, as far as the engine knew. There’s no such thing as a carburetor in a fuel-injected setup, but it’s like there’s no air getting to the carb and thus no combustion. So she stops. That’s covered.” Whew. “Um, have you changed your air filter recently?”

“Two weeks ago, my husband got a new filter for his car, and I asked if he’d get one for mine as well . . . he was doing that so that when he takes it back to Kia for the A/C to be fixed, they wouldn’t say he hadn’t been maintaining it. But although he found it easy to replace the Kia’s filter, on the Ford he said it was a terrific struggle. He was all scratched up all down his arm when he got it done.”

“Well . . . that’s because the filter is pretty much mangled. He forced it in upside down and backwards.”

Now, pause for general laughter and hilarity. The man cannot do mechanics or house repairs. If he rewires a lamp, it catches fire. He can do anything on a computer, but that is ALL–unless you want to pay for repairs to his repairs. I should NEVER have let him replace that filter. But it gets worse.

“So anyway, this filter has been shedding and tearing apart. The junk has been blowing into your engine.”


“So the throttle body is full of this debris . . . so I need to clean it. Have to take it out and clean by hand. That’ll cost around $97.”


I was glad he was telling me it could be fixed AT ALL. I quickly agreed to the repair. I suspect that HE knows as well as I do that what caused that air sensor to fail is that it is INSIDE the throttle body and that the filter debris ruined it, but if he puts that down, the warranty won’t cover that part of the repair, and they wanna make that money. I won’t tell if he doesn’t.

They also replaced the air filter (!!), the cabin air filter which was totally trashed from not being replaced (who knew there was one?), the fuel filter which is ditto, the “info” button on the dash panel, and part of the A/C compressor. They had to recharge the A/C and flush the coolant system, too, and put more air in the tires. My part of all this–because the hand repairs and the A/C repair are expensive and the filters cost a bundle when Ford sells them to you instead of AutoZone–comes to $580. I am only relieved that the car didn’t throw a rod or get trashed, and that Visa exists.

By that time I had realized I didn’t have my Visa Check Card. I just knew I had picked it up out of the van (where it usually gets dropped temporarily into the door-handle-grabby-place after I come out of a store) . . . but it was nowhere to be found. Not in the take-out sack which we dug out of the trash (food-covered mess!), not in Hubby’s car, not in anyone’s purse. Mama got all amped up, but I said, “I’ll get it out of the van at the repair place once I get over there tomorrow–if it’s not there, I’ll cancel it.” Didn’t wanna cancel if I didn’t have to, as I have several bills coming through automagically using that number.

Rental car hilarity ensued early the following morning. Miss Panic Button (my female parent) couldn’t possibly stay calm if we didn’t have a car in the driveway, because WHAT IF SOMETHING HAPPENED YOU KNOW THINGS DO AND I JUST CAN’T STAND IT, so I decided we might as well get a one-day rental. Ford paid for it, and Mama paid the $15 a day insurance add-on and the $10 upgrade to a car large enough to get into without your knees being against your ears. Our insurance also covers all but $5 of the towing, if I understand them correctly.

The Enterprise rental car folks didn’t show up to deliver the car when they said they would, though. They were due at 10 AM. By 10:40 I was on the phone to them. They said, “Oh, you have to call and tell us that you really ARE ready to be picked up, because lots of people aren’t ready when they say they will be.” Hmm. Anyhow, around 2 PM they did finally show up. About a minute after I left with their representative (you go back to their office to sign papers and pay and so forth, and then you get the wheel), the doorbell rang at home. Mama answered it to find A POLICEMAN.

Now, what would YOU think? Imagine being 80 years old and having that happen. After the initial gasping and freaking out, she got calm enough to hear the officer telling her that our garage door was open.

“Yes, I know. I opened it just now so my daughter can get in with her rent car–she left her garage door opener in the other car.”

“Well, ma’am, we’re patrolling this area because of robberies and burglaries over the past few weeks. It’s an invitation to the bad guys if you leave the door open.”

Once she recovered, she closed the damn door and then started answering frantic calls from the neighbors, who thought we’d been burglarized or that somebody’d been hauled to the pokey because they’d seen the police car drive up. (They have been her neighbors since 1967, after all.) The neighbors informed her that there has been a rash of stealing up and down these streets by a team of people using an unmarked white van, and that lots of neighbors are getting worried, and that this is why I see the police parked at just about every corner these days. When I got back with the rented car, the dog explained in loud barks (while jumping up and down) that as soon as I left, the police came to arrest Grandma and steal our garage door and the mowing men were mowing when the police officer came but they all leaped behind the fence to hide until the police car left (probably some workers are “illegals” and they were afraid that was the INS) and the phone kept ringing and what was I thinking leaving the house AT ALL!!!

*sigh* And you wonder why I am so tired.

Innocent victim here before the chaos began, headed inside to pick up food order. Note Visa card gripped in left hand.

I did find the card, in fact. It was in the *passenger* door grabby-hole. Apparently when I climbed into the car and tried to wrestle the digital camera out of Mama’s hands so she would not take my photo again, she got my card and dropped it into the slot. Ergo I didn’t think to check that spot when we were making our emergency escape. Fortunately, the Ford repair crew is scrupulously honest. They didn’t even steal any of the change out of the cup holders. Although, come to think of it, I didn’t see Mama’s lucky penny that she keeps on the floor mat under her left shoe whenever she rides in the car . . . they probably picked THAT one up. Maybe it’ll be luckier for them.

Next up: tale of antique books being semi-consumed by vermin. Yikes!!


Author: shalanna

Shalanna: rhymes with "Madonna" and "I wanna," and is not a soundalike with "Hosanna" or "Sha-Na-Na." Aging hippie with long hair, husband, elderly mother, and yappy Pomeranian. I've been writing since I could hold a crayon. I started with fiction, which Mama said was "lying." “Don’t tell stories,” she would admonish, in Southern vernacular. “That's all in your imagination!” When grownups said this, they were not approving. So, shamed, I stopped telling stories for a few years--rather, I stopped letting anyone read them. I'm married to a fellow computer nerd who doesn't really like hearing about writing, but who reads sf/fantasy and understands the creative drive. I'm actually a nonconformist/hippie still wearing bluejeans and drop earrings and the Alice-in-Wonderland hair with headbands and sandals. Favorite flavor is chocolate/orange, favorite color is either Dreamsicle orange (cantaloupe) or bubble-gum pink, favorite musical is either Bye Bye Birdie, Rocky Horror, or The Producers . . . wait, I also love The Music Man. Is this getting way too specific and irrelevant yet? Obvious why I don't sell a ton of flash fiction, isn't it? To define oneself, I always say, it is good to make a list. How about a booklist? Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird Frank and Ernestine Gilbreth, Cheaper by the Dozen C.S.Lewis, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (all the Narnia books) J.R.R.Tolkien,The Hobbit/LORD OF THE RINGS trilogy Gail Godwin, The Odd Woman F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby J. D. Salinger, Catcher in the Rye (before dismissing it, actually read it) George Orwell, 1984 Kurt Vonnegut, Cat's Cradle Donna Tartt, The Secret History Mark Twain, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn James Allen, As A Man Thinketh Mark Winegardner, Elvis Presley Boulevard James Thurber, My Life and Hard Times The Wizard of Oz, L. Frank Baum Winnie-the-Pooh/House at Pooh Corner, A. A. Milne Peter Pan, J. M. Barrie The KJV and NIV Bible (each translation has its glories)

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