M. Giant's
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Throwing stuff at the internet to see what sticks


Friday, August 03, 2007  

Sprinkle Cars

It's been a pain in the ass getting Trash's car fixed. She dropped it off at the dealership a week ago today, and they told her it would take a couple of hours. She went and had lunch with a former coworker at a nearby Indian restaurant (mmm, Indian). When she got back, they told her it was going to be more than a couple of hours, and they were going to be giving her a free loaner car for the weekend. And then she could come pick up her car on Monday.

She called me and told me this before they actually set her up with the car, and I urged her, "Make them give you a Sky Roadster. That would be awesome."

She ended up with an Aura, for the weekend, which is just about the dullest car Saturn makes. It's basically a plastic Bonneville. Trash didn't like it. She told me I wouldn't like it. I didn't like it. M. Small liked it plenty. "Are we buying this new car?" he asked Trash excitedly when she picked him up from day care in it that evening.

I know we shouldn't complain. It was new. The radio worked. The air conditioner worked. It was clean. It was free. But if I refrained from complaining about stuff I shouldn't complain about, I would never post at all.

Monday was a perfect day for Trash to go pick up her car, because she was working at home that day anyway. Too bad the car wasn't ready on Monday.

On Tuesday afternoon, I called to see if it would be ready that evening. They said it would be another couple of hours. Trash called a couple of hours later. They said it would be ready tomorrow.

Neither of us were going to be able to make it there until after work on Wednesday, but I called around noon that day anyway, just to check on the progress. "Should be a couple of hours," they told me. I called again at three. "Just another hour or forty-five minutes," they promised, "and then we have to get some paperwork ready." Before I left work at 4:30, I called again. "The car will be ready," they promised, "but the paperwork won't. We'll just have to mail it to you," they said.

Whatever.

Wednesday night after work, we got dinner into M. Small as soon as we could, and then I bundled him into the rental car. Except he didn't call it the rental car, because he doesn't know the word rental. He called it something else, based on a word that sounds like "rental" that he does know.

So he took his last ride in the "sprinkle car," all the way to the "car store" in Bloomington, a southern suburb. We arrived around six, just as they were closing the parts department. I got the keys, paid for the repairs (which, since it was under warranty, cost me zero dollars and zero cents, and given the time frame, was worth every penny), got the keys, and transferred M. Small's car seat from the sprinkle car back into Trash's car. I started it up, turned on the radio with considerable satisfaction, went to put on my seat belt, and got pissed off.

See, one of the other small things that we'd asked them to fix was the little button on the actual seatbelt strap. Now, sit back in your chair for a moment, and simulate the movement you make with your hand when you put on your seatbelt. You probably reach up with your left hand to your left shoulder, where the buckle is hanging there waiting for you. It's hanging there because a little plastic disk prevents it from slipping all the way down the belt, between your seat and the door. This seems like a minor thing, until you have to stop and dig that thing out every time you go anywhere, at which point it gradually becomes a more and more major annoyance.

And by the way, if you're already wearing your seatbelt, close down this browser window right now and get your eyes back on the road before you kill somebody.

So I was pretty irritated that this one small thing hadn't been fixed, after several weeks of calls, trips back and forth to the dealer, and nearly a week of the vehicle being in their custody. I brought M. Small back into the shop, and said as much. I wasn't loud, I wasn't foul-mouthed, I wasn't even particularly impolite. I confess to having been…short.

Fortunately for them, they apologized and said they could take care of it on the spot, if I wouldn't mind just waiting in the lobby for five minutes or so.

It's a nice lobby. There's a separate lounge, with comfortable furniture (which I didn't sit on). A coffee machine (which I didn't drink from), and a big TV screen which I didn't pay attention to. That is until 6:22, when the local CBS affiliate came back to its evening newscast with a big BREAKING NEWS graphic. I had that frisson you get when something's happening somewhere, then realized that since this was actually part of the newscast, it didn't have to necessarily be anything big. How big does something have to be to break into a newscast with, after all?

I was wrong. News wasn't the only thing breaking.

Trash called me from home on my cell phone a minute later, when the news station was still trying to make do with a 3-D weather map to just show where the bridge was supposed to be. Where I thought it still was, in fact. I was picturing some partial collapse of a single section, like in the Northridge earthquake. Trash's car was ready to go a minute later, and I went out to drive it off, a lot nicer to the people than I had been a few minutes ago. "Don't drive over any bridges," Trash told me on the phone. Well, I had to get across 494 somehow, but I did stay off the freeways.

I called my mom to tell her I was fine. "Why, what's going on?" she asked. I told her, and she and Dad turned on the news. She was glad I called. They couldn't get a hold of my older sister for a little while, and I later heard that they were backing out of their driveway to go find her by the time she was able to get through to call them back.

Listening to a local news station, I still couldn't get my head around the fact that the whole damn bridge was completely down and in the water, no matter how many times they told me it was, until I actually got home and saw it on the TV. Trash talked to her brother, who had been on the bridge five minutes before. She talked to M. Small's birth mother, who had been on it that earlier afternoon and swore she felt it shaking at the time.

We got a lot of phone calls, text messages, and e-mails from out-of-town friends that night, which was nice. We heard from Linda, who had just left to move out of town the day before. We heard from Lawre, who had left our house to move to New York City on September 12, 2001. BuenaOnda even called from Mexico City. "It's great to hear from you," I said. "I'm glad you're down there where the infrastructure is better maintained."

I don't actually remember the last time I was on the bridge. It was weeks ago, if not months. We don't have much call to go north of the cities these days. Today I'm glad, and not just because I'm not one of the tens of thousands of people who live and/or work in Minneapolis whose commute is directly affected. I keep trying to imagine what it would be like to drive your car onto a bridge, and then a few minutes later, leave that same bridge by boat.

And it could have been worse in any number of ways. It could have happened in the winter. The river could have been higher. It could have been an overhead truss bridge dropping steel girders on top of everyone. It could have happened in the absence of people whose first instinct upon seeing they were alive was to help other people, to run to that school bus. It could have been worse. But it was bad enough that I'm glad my family and I weren't anywhere near it.

And thank you for your comments on Wednesday night's short post. I appreciate you thinking of us.

posted by M. Giant 9:02 PM 2 comments

2 Comments:

That's a lot like what it was like for me: I got home just as you were calling me to say you were fine. That was nice, but I had no idea why you wouldn't be.

I also thought you were talking about a whole other bridge, down on the south end of town. I am occasionally fairly dumb. Ah well; I'm glad you guys are safe.

By Blogger Febrifuge, at August 4, 2007 at 4:14 PM  

I am glad you are OK... just a quick pointer. The Aura is not plastic... it is steel. Just as all Saturn's will be. It is cool they let you drive the Aura... the 2007 North American Car of the Year... beating out the Camry among others. :-)

Dave

By Anonymous Anonymous, at August 5, 2007 at 4:08 AM  

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