Friday, February 15, 2008

The luckiest flat tire, ever.

So two days after the long car saga I piled the kids in the car and we were going to the store to pick up toothpaste, and hit the library. I know it's just too exciting to bare. So we'd barely pulled down the drive and I was asking the kids to quiet down because something didn't sound right with the car. By the time we hit the road I was telling Felix more firmly to hush up so I could hear that noise. By the time I got to the main drag I was running through this laundry list of new vocabulary words, front wheel alignment, struts, maybe loose lugnuts, maybe a loose tire? I drove as I ran through the options in my head. Realizing I was low on gas I pulled over to Costco. While I was filling up walked around the car and checked all the lug nuts only to see I had a flat tire. Very flat. I turned to the couple near me and asked if they could see an air pump near by. There wasn't. But the gentleman directed me to Costco's tire department to fill it. So I did. They were slow at the time and the man asked me to pull around and offered to take a look at it. As he put air in it, we could both see the nail and the hear the air hissing out. My first reaction was to kid around with the guy and in the process I blurted out that we had bought the tires at Costco. I had only meant to tease him about the quality of the tires, I mean -not impervious to nails? The nerve. The man's eyes lit up and he told me to go around to the office because they were probably on warranty -and lo and behold they were! So that's how I got my free tire.
Of course I had to wait for an hour for them to put it on. The kids and I killed time getting four big tubes of toothpaste. Little did I realize that it was the worst container of toothpaste ever. The kids were incapable of getting the attached cap to click on, and left on its side the paste just pours out to form these huge blue lagoon style puddles on the edge of the sink. But hey, I got a free tire! If I'd have gone anywhere else I probably wouldn't have remembered where we'd bought them and I would have just paid to have it replaced.
At this point I realize that the glitches in my system of three bad things are just too hard to work out. I have to re-envision history in order to fit events into the theory and it's failing all together at helping to predict when I'm done with a string of bad luck. I mean does a flat tire even count if it's replaced for free? Does a bad tune up count if it's refunded? These are some of the things I found myself pondering as I lay curled in a fetal position at the base of the stairs with a broken ankle.
The hallway light had gone out earlier in the day and I was worried about the kids falling in the dark stairwell. While dinner was cooking I had a little time so I went up to the first landing and got the lightbulb out and headed down the stairs. As I headed down I remember thinking that this wasn't so dark. Then I missed the last three steps. The lightbulb however remained unbroken. Can you imagine how inconvenient it would have been to clean up the broken glass? I spent a little time cursing like a sailor (no offense to the clean mouthed sailors in the world). The hardest part was pulling it together to tell Emer to just give me a minute, so that she wouldn't be scared. Then the timer went off on the dinner in the stove, so like Pavlov's dog I answered the beep and hopped up and got the dinner out on their plates, and served at the table. When I sat down to rest for a minute, I realized that I felt like I needed to pass out and throw up. Kneeling near the toilet I figured that either my ankle was broken or I was really turned off by my own cooking at this point.

I really like bed time for the kids. Once they've had dinner, we're on a getting ready for bed trajectory that I just hate to interrupt. I knew that once they were all in bed I could think it through clearly, call friends and pull together a plan for childcare and a ride to a doctor -because my luck being what it is, I busted my driving foot ankle. We finished the kid part of the evening, but not before making all 20 of Felix's valentines for his classmates and his party at school the next day, clearing up the kitchen and all the other chores. Emer helped a great deal tucking people into bed and fetching things for me. Once they were all in bed I made my calls, again realizing how fortunate I am to have found so many great people to populate my life. By the time I went to bed, I had a plan. Next morning that plan had to be scrapped because school was canceled on account of the ice storm, and before I even had time to really scramble, friends called and offered to help. At the hospital I was really happy to get it wrapped up and to get crutches, because as adept as I am at hopping, it gets old, as does crawling up the stairs. Then the next day Eric came home! He was so out of it with tired though, that it was like he was only half here. I think it's also really disorienting to come from his experience to this home. For five weeks he's had a driver, security guard, translator, laundry lady, cafeteria lady and maid, as well as no kids.
Today I went to get my cast and the silliest things pleased me. Having a ride that I didn't have to call for, having an appointment with a doc by myself. Again I got lucky! Instead of a cast and all the trouble I'd have keeping it dry in the shower, or trying to drive or not being able to drive, I have a boot! Oh happy boot. And just in time too, because by now the crutches were killing me and I ached all over from using them. My friendly boot fitter explained that the crutches were set all wrong for me and I shouldn't have to stoop way over to use them. And I'm satisfied to know that I'm not some crutch wimp with no upper body strength, no, I am super mom, queen of all things difficult and unlucky. Queen of the universe.I'm also just so satisfied to know that there really isn't anything I can't handle. Eric has been helpful since he got home, but he's also not babying or pampering me either. At first this annoyed me a little. I mean, I had a few ordeals, not to mention the usual grind of kids needing so much all the time and he didn't fuss over me or drown me in 'poor baby' kind of comfort. What I realize though, is that it isn't that he doesn't appreciate all that I went through or that it was difficult, it's just that he had all the confidence in the world that I could handle it. He never doubted that I could handle it, and the only one that's at all surprised is me.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Lucky 3

I know. It's almost eerie the silence over here. We're actually fairing pretty well, though the first two weeks seemed like a trial by fire, which came to test my confidence in the number 3.

You see it's always seemed to me that bad things came in threes. I like it. It's a small number, you rack up three bad things, and then you know you're done. What I found though was the problems with the system, glitches. You see, I was counting the failed hot water heater as 1, the dog throwing up on the bed as 2, and a simple tune-up on the car gone horribly wrong as 3. So you see I was done. But then with the three inches of very wet snow, the power failed, and I quickly realized that dog vomit is not as bad as I had previously assessed.

So we made it for two hours with no electricity. I went into planning mode and I quickly fixed them dinner, put them all into their warmest PJ's, and we lit the candles and told stories. Then the power came on again, and we did a little power is great dance, spent a half hour watching tv and then it went out again. So once it got dark we all went up to bed and Emer and I tried to remember the plot of every Shrek movie. Tully eventually fell asleep -Emer is an excited story teller, then Felix then Emer. I fell asleep quickly.

Later my luck turned. But I have to go back before I can go forward. You see I had originally scheduled a tune up for the car because it was sounding a bit funny and I suspected the air filter was clogged and needed replacing. Eric had taken his car for a check up before his trip and he had told me the story of all the mechanics huddled around his car laughing, only to discover they were laughing because his air filter was filled with nuts. So with visions of nuts in my air filter I strolled into the dealership and explained my crazy theory of air filters and a car that didn't seem to have the right amount of pick up. Have you been to a dealership? Because this is how they set up the mark; let you sit in the waiting room with cnn repeating the same stories for what seems an eternity, call out your name with their little clip board in hand and say they'd just like to talk over a few things with you. This is where they pile on the additional services that would cost a fraction at a regular mechanic and try to talk you into going for the full service package. I was in that waiting room long enough to see the pattern, also to see that besides the elderly and women there weren't any stereotypical -I have an innate knowledge of cars type fellas around either.

So the guy called me over for our little talk and I agreed to replace the left front strut that was leaking. I also said I would probably reschedule another day to have the brakes and rotors replaced but that I really had to go. I also asked on my air filter and if it had been checked. Guy told me it had, tried to talk me into more. Finally, I leave the dealership. I run some errands and then have all three kids in the car and the engine light comes on, suddenly the car is straining to get up hill. I managed to get where I was going, though I was pretty stressed out at this point. Luckily a friend had met me where we were dropping the kids, she followed me back to the dealership where I left the keys, as well as a few choice words about how I had taken the car there so this wouldn't happen and that I wanted a diagnosis by the morning. Morning came and I called only to be told that I have a failed throttle position sensor which is a non serviceable part and the entire throttle body would need to be replace for 1750! Oh but the dear gents offered to get to my brakes too. So scrambling in my mind for some rational thing that had been overlooked I asked again about my air filter and if it had been checked and he said that it had and I asked if he could verify that it had been checked and he said he could. I also asked about the fuel filter, same story. I told him I would call him later to tell him what I had decided but that at the moment I had no confidence in either their ability or trustworthiness. Okay, my language was a little more course than that, but I'm giving you the cleaned up version. Long story short, no really it's still long -I limped it over to another mechanic and they took the throttle apart, cleaned it, put it back together and charged not much at all. I had them replace the brake pads and resurface the rotors too. They are now on my xmas card list and I'm going to bring them home baked cookies. They liked my nuts in the filter story, especially when they pulled out my filter to see that is was as black as night.

I went back to the dealership. With Tully on my hip, her naked Madeline doll in her hand and a dirty filter in my other hand. I dropped it on the guys desk and asked if he had a minute. I gave him my tirade, loud enough so other customers could hear, he sent me to the service manager, I repeated my shpeal and they stonewalled me. At this point I was shaking. There's this adreneline rush that comes with confrontation and for me it's like a whole pot of coffee. I threatened to call the better business bureau, call one of those consumer reporters from the local news agency, and take them to small claims court. I felt like the shaking was my tell though and it was giving away my bluff that I don't really have the time or resources to pursue all that. They said I could do what I please, and that an air filter wasn't covered in the minimal tune up. I left feeling foolish. Still shaking. Air filter with me of course for my fictional court case.

20 minutes later I got the call that they would be refunding the cost of the tune up back to my card. I think the naked Madeline doll was the most compelling component of my argument though. And while I was getting the call about that I proceeded to find 3 cheap and sturdy pieces of furniture that we'd been needing at Salvation Army! My lucky day!

That's all the story I have time for tonight but in my next installation of the continuing saga I'll tell the tale of the luckiest flat tire I've ever had. It's a much shorter story I promise.

Things are looking up! And here's proof. Don't forget to vote!

Yes We Can - Barack Obama Music Video