Tuesday, September 6, 2011

have car, will travel?

That question mark is there for a good reason. Here was the weekend plan. My grandparents celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary on September 1.

Let's hold the phone for a minute. You heard me right. My paternal grandparents have been married for SIXTY YEARS. They were high school sweethearts, married at 21, and had 6 kids in 10 years and raised them in the same town where they grew up (and where I grew up!). They are still sharp as tacks, live in their own house 5 minutes from my parents. They have 19 grandkids and even a great-grandbaby to boot. I mean, what a feat! How lucky are they?? How lucky am I that THEY are my family?

Anyway, my dad and his siblings were throwing a party for their parents down on the Cape on Saturday. Because I had to work, and because of holiday weekend traffic, my sister and I thought it best to leave later in the evening of Friday, listen to some good tunes, and get the hell out of dodge in a timely manner.

I have bad travel luck. I just do. I'm one of those people that perpetually runs late, hits every red light, gets stuck on trains that go 10 miles per hour for an entire journey (no, that really happened to me in 2006. It was horrible.), and gets caught in traffic that turns a 4-hour-trip into a 8-hour-trip on a bus next to some poindexter with hygiene issues (how is it that I can never have a cute seat mate?). But, I thought, maybe, just maybe, this night would go smoothly.

And it did. Smooth out of Staten Island, where my sister goes to school, smooth across the Verrazzano Bridge, smooth tunes on the radio, a smooth plan to indulge in fast food once we had crossed into Connecticut. I admired the glowing city skyline--the blue and red Empire State Building, the shining white Chrysler Building-- from the window as we zoomed along the Bronx-Queens Expressway. My sister was driving, and it was planned for me to take over in a couple of hours.

Then things started to get hairy. The traffic slowed a bit, but we kept a good pace. Then the interior car lights began to dim.

"Um," my sister said, "Uh, all these sensors are flashing,"

I looked over, and the airbag lights, battery light, and a few other sensors were blinking. But, being that this car is about 12 years old, and it's had some funky issues like that in the past, I assured my sister we were fine.

"Is it driving the same?" I asked.

"I think so.."

Then the radio stopped working. And then the odometer started pulsing up and down, and I started saying "pull over! pull over!" and I stuck my head out the window to try to stop the oncoming traffic in the right hand lane. Then the car was dead.

Dead. Dead. Dead. Between the right hand and center lanes on a bridge in the middle of the Bronx-Queens Expressway. Dead.

We didn't know what to do. My sister called 911, I called AAA while continuing to wave cars on that were beeping behind us, and occasionally yelling expletives and people who eased by with disgusted looks on their faces.

I mean, it was like a scene out of a hapless chick flick, without the comedy and with much more swearing, and many more tears (on my sister's part! promise!).

To boot, 911 did nothing to help us. The first guy to show up was in a towtruck that didn't have jurisdiction on our side of the highway (wacky NYC traffic rules), but set up some flares and offered me a cigarette which was, truthfully, the nicest thing he could have done. We were hoping for a statie, someone to keep the traffic moving, but we just waited it out, sitting ducks, in our old clunky car.

3 hours and $200 later, we arrived back on Staten Island, our fun evening of driving home turned into an unforeseeable pain in the ass. And we missed our family reunion.

The verdict? I just shouldn't travel.

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