I picked up Lindsay after work. She let me use her Monte Carlo (which I affectionately call a Monte Christo, unintentionally and to my embarrassment) for a few days, and I was simultaneously returning it and driving us to Wheeling. Lindsay would then take the car on to Ohio, where her family lives. It was a simple plan. It was fool-proof. Keep reading.
We were hungry, and on our dismount from Pittsburgh, I suggested a trip to a Chinese buffet in Bridgeville. Lindsay agreed, purely on my enthusiastic endorsement.
We pulled out of the parking lot at Lindsay’s place, and I discovered that a dashboard light was on. Specifically, the one that said VOLTS.
“VOLTS? What the fuck does that mean?” I said.
We couldn’t figure it out.
It stayed on all the way to Bridgeville, where we discovered that the King Buffet was closed for remodeling, just as it had been six months ago, the last time I tried to go there and give them my money.
I continued to voice my confusion about the VOLTS light. A sample: “That’s the least useful dashboard indicator light ever. It’s a unit of measurement. It’s like a light that says inches.”
We didn’t think much of it. That is, until Lindsay discovered that the beloved air conditioner was on the fritz. Of the 4 numbered levels of gusting power, the 4th, which should have felt like an arctic gale, felt like 2.
Whatever. The car was still running fine and would hopefully take us to our destinations. It meant windows down instead of frozen air in our faces, but that was a small sacrifice for moving wheels. Did I mention that Lindsay has had this car for about 2 weeks?
So, our plan B was Taco Bell. The empty parking lot was a bad omen. Naturally, it was closed, too, for mysterious reasons.
Eat N’Park it is!
We ate dinner, had a couple of milkshakes, and got back in the car. It was getting rather dark, and we celebrated the imminent arrival of autumn while I pulled on to I79.
The dashboard lights, all of them, were dim. I cranked the power on the light dial, to no avail. The headlights were dim, from a blazing white to a dull brown, like a guttering flashlight.
The car was still driving fine.
“If these lights get any dimmer, you’re spending the night in Wheeling.”
Then I drove up a hill.
I jammed the accelerator down, and it sputtered. The lights went out, all of them.
I barked out situation reports, as they happened. Lindsay, the captain of the boat, gave me calm, measured instructions.
“The brakes might be spongy, so be careful.”
“Pull into that exit ramp, if you can.”
“Aim for the shoulder.”
The power steering went out. Guiding the car to the shoulder was like steering a bike with your older brother sitting on the handlebars.
It slid to a gentle stop, and we fumbled for the hazard lights. It didn’t matter. The car didn’t have enough juice to power them.
So, we got out of the humid, wounded Monte Carlo and made phone calls.
I called my mother, to inform her that we wouldn’t be in Wheeling. She was disappointed, with her suddenly empty nest (my youngest brother moved to Morgantown the day before, to attend WVU), but more worried about her son and his friend sitting on the shoulder of an exit ramp. I reassured her, and then called Becky, to inquire about a good repair shop. She and Sara came up with a place on 65, so Lindsay called AAA and made those arrangements.
Lindsay and I sat on the little, grassy shoulder, back-to-back and talked. She apologized for not getting me to Wheeling.
She really shouldn’t have. Those two hours by the road were better than anything else I would have been doing that night.
Truth be told, I was a little disappointed when the tow truck showed up early.
In all, not a bad way to spend a Friday night.