Strange Brouhaha

Friday, March 31, 2006 was the play?

So, what happened at 10:00?

The ballet got out around 9:30, I think. It was so good that 1) I didn't want it to be over; and 2) I was surprised that we had been in the theater that long (curtain was shortly after 7:00). We had gotten parking right across the street, and we were able to get to the car and leave the parking garage without too much hassle, just a bit of a wait. We pulled out of the parking garage onto Canal street, and followed the signs to the onramp for Interstate 90. The highway, at the Canal street ramp, splits into 290 and 90.

The car lurched once, twice, and then stopped responding to the gas pedal.

Right before the highway split, the engine died.

I'm going to spare you a lot of the details. Suffice it to say that we had a dead car in the right lane of a busy Interstate highway interchange with no shoulder and hordes of traffic racing by. Not an ideal situtation to be in, especially not with a frightened 7-year-old in the back seat.

We waited for a while. At least two police cars went by without stopping. Finally, and I say this as an act of supreme generosity towards myself (which I am allowed, since I'm writing this account), Savannah prevailed upon me to abandon the vehicle. It was fortunate for us that there was a Holiday Inn about a minute's walk away from us: the Holiday Inn Hotel & Suites Downtown.

A couple of years ago, my father-in-law got us a AAA membership. I've kept it up, and it's come in handy a number of times, including this one. I was able to get a tow truck from Road Services Inc. Eddie, the driver, was really friendly and nice. We dropped the car off in front of a service station within walking distance of the hotel. He then drove me back to the hotel--he didn't have to do that--where I had left Savannah and Lani with instructions to check in. We obviously weren't going anywhere that night.

We barely slept. I dozed for a few minutes here and there, but mostly lay awake riding a wave of adrenalin and anxiety. I had left a wake-up call, because we ended up dropping the car in a tow-away zone: the Midas location opened at 7:00, and the tow-away zone started at 7:00, so I knew it was critical to get there *before* 7:00 to keep from getting towed.

Thursday we spent waiting for the service people to call to tell us what was up with the car. I finally called them in the afternoon, after we had already renewed the hotel room. There was no way that they were going to be able to fix the car on Thursday, they said, but "definitely" long as they could get the part they needed.

I spent most of that day just staring at the walls. This was a combination of the two things that I'm probably the worst at: coming up with things to do when there's nothing to do, and waiting for other people.

The short resolution is that we left Chicago this morning, the part still unavailable. I decided that we couldn't wait any more, and we rented a car and came home. The part they needed--it turns out that the timing belt had broken, and they needed to replace the belt and pulley but didn't have a pulley on hand--is on order and should show on Monday, when it's back to Chicago for me.

I want to talk about a few of the things that this episode has taught me.

  • We are not going without cell phones anymore. (Yeah, it's shutting the barn door after the horse has escaped.)

  • Every single person we met--and I mean *every* one--was unfailingly friendly and kind. This is not the impression a person usually has of "the big city". I was impressed, and I'm going to try and work that part of the whole thing into an article.

  • Not that I'm in any way trying to compare our situation to the situation of people who have been displaced by disasters, but I have a new understanding of what Hurricane Katrina victims are going through. It was pretty tough for me--I don't know about Savannah and Lani, they seemed to hold up really well--to wear the same clothes for three days. I managed to go buy some clean socks, and just that alone made a huge psychological difference. I can't imagine what it's like to go without clean clothes or a place to stay or anything like that. Seriously, the best part about coming home was getting out of my suit and into clean clothes.

  • People need help. Everywhere. Not just big-scale help, but small-scale help. Do what you can--and I mean small things, too, like the tow-truck driver who drove me back to the hotel and made sure that I knew how to get back to the service place, or the hotel desk clerks. Even if it's just a co-worker who's stuck on a difficult problem. I know that we all know this already, but it bears repeating.

If I think of anything more--and there's a lot I've left out--I'll come back with it.


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