I ran into a friend this morning. I saw she was on foot with shopping bags.
“Need a ride?” I asked.
“No way! I’m not getting into that car!” She replied, casting a derisive eye on the many dents of my blue minivan.
“It wasn’t my car!” I yelled as I pulled away in shame.
My friend was referring to my recent 200 mile trip home in a tow truck. As you can see below, the car in question was not my car.
The car in question belonged to my friend, A. The car in question is also brand-spanking new, which we all know my car is most definitely NOT. Earlier this week, A, and I were driving our daughters home from camp. Camp is seven hours away and we drove there without problem. About 4 hours into the drive home, all the lights on the dashboard went on, including the light that could either have been a) the battery, or b) the engine. It’s gone on in my car several times, and I still couldn’t tell you which it is.
I suspected we should probably stop driving, so I urged A to pull over and call AAA. She wisely told me that we did not need to be stranded on the side of a two-lane highway in Nowhere, Pennsylvania, waiting for AAA to show up, and that we should keep driving until we could get off the highway. At some point the car informed us that things were getting far worse, as it promptly refused to drive over 40 mph, if that. We made it off the highway and pulled into a Valero gas station, where the attendant directed us to the auto shop across the street.
AAA sent someone who told us that because it was 4.55, the car could not possibly be looked at until the next day, at the earliest. We explained what was happening in the car and he said,
“Yup. Limp Mode.”
“Huh?” We asked, sure we’d misheard him.
“Limp mode,” he said nodding to his sidekick, who added, “Limp Mode, alright.”
Limp mode? That sounded suggestive, dirty, and downright unpleasant, but that was all lost on these guys (and a succession of other men who chimed in over the course of the afternoon). (It is worth noting that all the men were quite helpful, even if one had a distracting swollen cheek and black stuff oozing out the corner of his mouth.)
Inside the auto shop sat possibly the least helpful human being in North America, and that includes Florida. As it was now 4.57, she told us that not only could she not help us, but that there was not a single person in town, or in any of the neighboring towns, who could help us.
“There’s a rental car company in Bumfuck,” she said. But it closes in three minutes.” Big smile.
I could see this was going nowhere quickly, so we called AAA back and began to do the math. We could either shell out for a hotel room, towing, and possible a rental car while we hung out in Nowhere, PA and waited for the car to be fixed. Or, we could shell out to have the car towed 200 miles home (actually 100 miles, because I got 100 miles covered in my AAA plan. Go AAA Plus!) I thought about the toothless Valero attendant across the street who looked like he wandered off the set of Deliverance. Whenever I went in to stock up on Twizzlers and BBQ potato chips, he smiled strangely and looked at me the way my husband looks at a chicken dinner. I thought it best to get out of town.
Ryan showed up an hour later and confirmed that the car was, in fact, in Limp Mode. A was a trooper and gamely drove the car onto the back of his tow truck, and climbed down. Before she could say anything, I called shotgun and jumped in the front seat. She and I both get carsick, but I can’t imagine she suffers anywhere near as much as I do, and besides, I’m taller. Taller people get to choose where they sit. The front seat also gave me a better view of Ryan and a better position from which I could pepper him with questions.
Here is what I learned:
1. Ryan had never been to New York. (New York is less than 3 hours away.)
2. Even though he spoke with a strong southern accent, Ryan was born and bred in PA. (I really don’t know how this happens, although I think it may have something to do with all the country music I was forced to listen to.)
3. Ryan lived in West Virginia for a while and worked in a coal mine. He started to complain about all the safety regulations, but I knew EXACTLY where that was going, so I quickly asked him another question and learned that…
4. The furthest Ryan has driven is Colorado.
Ryan drank a lot of Mountain Dew and at some point he pulled out of tin of tobacco. For a while my grandfather smoked a pipe, and I actually love the smoky sweet smell of tobacco, but I’ve never seen it chewed before. I tried not to stare. I tried not to crane my neck and gape as Ryan rolled down the window and spat. There was a little piece of me that wanted to taste it to see what all the fuss was about, but I didn’t think it would mix well with my steady diet of Twizzler and BBQ potato chips. (They are the cure-all for car sickness, as long as you eat them continually, without pause, on the journey.)
We pulled into a rest-stop at the Delware Water Gap and peed. Ryan was giddy with excitement. New York was moments away. I realized that were were headed over the Tappan Zee and not the GW Bridge, and that poor Ryan would not get a shot of the Manhattan skyline. He’d have to settle for downtown White Plains. As it turned out, Ryan had no plans to stick around. Once we’d arrived, taken the car off the tow and paid him, he chugged a couple of Red Bulls and headed back to PA.
It was close to midnight and we were all fried. At home, I put my eight year old to bed, got undressed, and was glad no one was there to see three potato chips and a third of a Twizzler fall out of my bra.
Still no word on what was really wrong with the car. Limp Mode, indeed.