I’m sharing this story for 2 reasons, to get my fears out in the open and remind myself that even bad experiences don’t mar a good trip. Here goes.
A long time ago in a Galaxy far far away I was a young an up and coming Punk Rocker. Oh yes, I had purple Pat Benetar hair, wore a spiky dog collar as a necklace and wore all kinds of nifty safety pin jewelry created handcrafted late at night and in my right mind (I swear) from… you guessed it, safety pins.
My mother chose to spend the majority of her adult life in the French Quarter, New Orleans. However, she had temporarily relocated to Key West, Florida. Brother and I and our significant others decided on the spur of the moment to visit her. Punkers do that ya know. And so this story begins.
Late nighters that we were, we all dutifully showed up at crack of dawn at the rendezvous point. We smoked a couple of … “cigarettes”, yea that’s what they were, downed some coffee and piled into brother’s old Chevy, painted flat black, in proper punk fashion. On the road again, I can’t wait to get on the road again….Sorry I broke into song. Away we go down that highway radio blasting, not much money between the 4 of us. Life is good.
Things went well until after dark. It began pouring rain. A torrential downpour of biblical proportions. Sitting in the back seat I began to feel that the old car felt a little more wobbly than usual. I asked my brother to pull over and check the tires. Nothing appeared wrong so we resumed, Eastward Ho! A little later we all felt that something wasn’t right with the car. Brother exited the highway and headed into the parking lot of a strip mall. Pulling into the parking lot it seemed that the car was drunk and wobbling all over the place and we heard a loud thunk and then metal on metal. After a slow motion donut we came to a stop more or less in a parking space and investigated. The right rear tire fell off. It fell OFF. It FELL THE F@@K OFF.
In the downpour we located the tire and only a few of the lug nuts by the dim light in the parking lot. Fortunately there was a tire place in this mall, but it was the middle of the night so we had to wait until morning. At this point I felt it prudent to mention that I had a bottle of champagne in my pack and offered to share. Not like I could sneak sips of it as if it was in a little lady flask. So we cracked the bottle open and passed it around, sitting in the car in our soggy clothes. After some discussion and a further inspection of the tire and the remaining lug nuts we came to a conclusion. The night before, some idiot had stolen the tire, replaced it with a thread bare old tire, and hand tightened the lug nuts. What kind of sick puppy does this? We could have been killed! We would have probably noticed a missing tire even before coffee.
Morning finally came, we put our own spare on the car with shiny new lug nuts and away we go. Later that day the transmission on the car started going out. We rolled into a mechanic shop with a heavy heart and light wallets. The mechanic said that the transmission was shot and it would take eleventy seven million dollars to replace it. We retreated to a diner across the street to discuss our limited options. I remembered an auto mechanic class specifically for women I took years before. One of the topics was the top 4 or 5 things that auto mechanics try to tell you that you need X expensive repair when all you really need is Z inexpensive repair. This was where I learned that transmissions have filters and that some mechanics will tell you that you need a new transmission when all you need is to get that filter cleaned.
Armed with this Eureka moment we went across the street and I explained to the mechanic that replacing the transmission was not an option. I asked him to clean the filter. He looked at me like I had 2 heads and said it wouldn’t help. I asked him to humor me since that was all we could afford. He was probably thinking “how the hell does this addle brained filly know about those dag nabbit filters?” He cleaned the filter and said it was so full of gear shavings that it was a miracle we made as far as we did. We paid him 35 dollars and hit the road again.
We finally made if to Key West. We did have a fun trip with much laughter. Brother’s car lasted a few more years. The transmission never did go out as far as I know. I ended up staying in Key West and met future husband #1. He was a bartender and co-worker at Sloppy Joes, the bar where Ernest Hemingway used to hang out in and drink himself into oblivion. We married and moved to his home town, Boston. But that is another day and many more stories later.