That day did not go exactly as planned.
In related understatement news, a car with no transmission fluid doesn't travel very well.
So my friend Craig and I decided to attend the Jays-White Sox matinee today. He's a huge White Sox fan, there being no accounting for taste, and Roy Halladay was starting, and it was Alex Rios bobblehead day, and hey, I haven't seen the Jays live for something like twelve years. I was really looking forward to spending some time with Craig, and then rubbing in the Jays' inevitable victory all the way home.
Before we left, Eva gave me her cell phone "just in case." We hardly ever use the thing...in fact, it took some effort to find it.
JUST IN CASE
Things started out great. We got out of town in plenty of time to be two of the first ten thousand fans into the Rogers Center (can you say bobblehead, boys and girls? I knew you could!)
So could the car. Craig's car chose the moment we hit the 427 to enact its best bobblehead imitation, bucking ahead and slowing down, bucking ahead and slowing down, and forever refusing to find a gear. We managed to get off the highway and coast most of the way to
here...the Applewood Shaver House.
I didn't know what this place was at first, of course, and didn't care. In its parking lot, we diagnosed a slow leak in the transmission fluid line. It didn't look too bad...there wasn't a puddle or anything, just a spritz of droplets on the pavement. Get some transmission fluid in her, we'd be on our way, probably still getting there in time to catch the first pitch.
I walked a couple of blocks to a convenience store in search of said fluid. My hopes were not high. I worked at a 7-Eleven for years. We stocked tranny fluid, but I knew from serving a few distraught customers that most mom-and-pops don't.
"Do you have transmission fluid?", I asked the man behind the counter.
"Trans...mission?" He stared at me blankly, then waved a hand in the general direction of, well, most of his store. Seeing no help there, I sought a corner, where I found two jugs of windsheld washer fluid (good to -40) and a single bottle of 10w30.
I went back to the man, who was staring at me as if I was too paleskinned for his store. "Do you know," I asked, enunciating carefully, "where the nearest gas station is?"
He waved right.
That was too much English for him. I went outside and peered off to the right, not seeing anything.
I trotted back to Craig. Lo and behold, there was another car in the parking lot of the Applewood-Shaver house. A pair of ladies who were old enough to have built the Applewood-Shaver house were inside. At Craig's urging, I asked them if they knew where the nearest gas station was. They did. Not only that, they offered to take Craig there.
En route with their captive audience, they gave Craig the kind of history lesson that only sesquicentennials can, making him swear he'd read the historical plaque on the Applewood-Shaver property.
Craig and his chaperones had to visit two gas stations before he managed to procure transmission fluid. Before he poured it in, he made a point of examining the historical plaque I'd read several times, there being nothing else in the parking lot to read.
The fluid poured in with a flourish, we got back into the car.
"Let it work through the system", he muttered as we circled around the parking lot, gradually building up confidence before exiting on to the West Mall.
The car balked and bucked and bobbled. A sharp stench that put me in mind of frying hair made itself known. Uh, Craig? You might want to get this off the road pretty quick.
As luck would have it, we managed to coast right into a Shell station/garage.
As our luck would have it, the garage was shut up tight. Sunday of a holiday weekend....a holiday weekend that was looking less and less like a Halladay weekend every minute.
The gas station lacked a few things. No bathroom, said the convenience store worker's twin brother. Which is against the law, but I wasn't about to argue the finer points of jurisprudence with a man whose vocabulary in English only slightly exceeded mine in Urdu. No phone, or indeed phone book, either. The man behind the counter knew his garage was closed, and he didn't know any that were open.
Better and better.
TOW TRUCK, TOW TRUCK, ANYONE SEEN A TOW TRUCK?
Across the road we went, hitting a No Frills for some blessed bladder relief (I was starting to wonder if piss would serve as transmission fluid) and a drugstore for its phone book. I, meanwhile, dragged out my wife's cell and attempted to call her.
The phone was completely out of transmission fluid. No power at all. Dead as a certain Chrysler Neon.
I borrowed Craig's cell and called Eva in some agitation. I could get myself back to Kitchener, no problem. But I wasn't about to abandon Craig, and he wasn't about to abandon his car.
Craig called a towing company and inquired how much it would cost to tow the car back to his home in London. Six hundred bucks, came the reply.
At that rate, we could stay in a hotel for a couple of nights and get the car fixed Tuesday.
"Do you know of any garages that are open?" Craig asked.
"Well, sure, Canadian Tire's open."
Finally! Some good news! We got the number out of the book and called.
They didn't pick up the phone. Craig let it ring and ring and ring...nothing.
The second picked up right away and said they were open until 5:00. They'd look at Craig's car if he could get it towed there.
So began the wait. We flipped on the radio and the White Sox starting scoring two runs immediately. Of course, I thought. THEY'VE got transmission fluid.
Time slowed. Baseballs and tow trucks chased each other behind my brow. Four innings later a giant baseball rolled to a stop in front of me and resolved itself into a tow truck, whereupon two men got out.
"They never told me there were two of you", the driver said. "Let me run this trainee back to base. I'll shoot right back and get you."
"How long will you be?" asked Craig.
"Ten, fifteen minutes", he said.
Half an hour later the truck was back and we were en route to Canadian Tire, hoping like hell it wasn't too busy and they'd get to see and attend to the car before they closed.
STEEEEEEEERIKE THREEE! YEEEEEEEERRRRR OUT!
The tow truck driver took us to Canadian Tire by the shortest route. He told us as we came into the lot that so long as there was an open bay, he was going to back us right in...and proceeded to do just that. Craig and I exchanged smiles.
"I like this guy," I said.
"You can't do that!" I piped, mimicking the mechanics inside.
"I just did", Craig answered.
Craig had warned me he didn't have his credit card on him, and he'd exhausted most of his cash paying for the tow. Not to worry, he said, his girlfriend had her card--he'd call her and she could give them the number over the phone.
No can do, they said. We need an actual card to swipe.
He pleaded. They refused. He explained our situation. They refused.
Oh fuck we're fucked went the voice in my head. (I've cleaned it up for this family blog.)
Craig started calling around, hoping to track down family or friend that could bail us out. I, meanwhile, went across the lot in search of a pay phone and called Eva collect. "I can get home easily", I repeated. One bus to the subway, the subway downtown, a bus home, I even have a Grand River Transit ticket on me."
Nonsense, she said, she was coming to get me. And Craig, if need be, she'd take him home. The car, though...there wasn't much we could do about that.
I told Eva the address and let her Google Map it--I'd lost all track of exactly where I was as the tow truck twisted and turned.
"Okay," I said. "I'll go back across and talk to Craig. If you find both of us here when you get here, I guess we're going to London."
I then trudged back across the lot.
"Any news on your end?" I asked Craig.
"Yeah, it's all good. They're working on it now."
I found a supervisor and put it to him. It took some convincing, but I told him I was pretty sure it was a cheap fix. It is. They let me use the card over the phone."
"Let me call Eva back. God, I hope I catch her in time."
She's gonna kill me, I thought.
The bill reads
I'm in the wrong friggin' line of work.
Craig stayed with me after the car was repaired, until Eva arrived to bring me home. We got some catching up done. So the day was far from a rainout. Actually, all things considered, it was a pretty good day. Some total strangers really came to our rescue, restoring a smidgen of my faith in humanity. And hey, it could have been a lot worse. We might, for instance, have been in an accident.
Oh, and the Jays? They came back to win, 8-2. So all's right with the world.
Thanks, Craig. It didn't turn out like we planned, but it turned out okay in the end.