Monday, August 28, 2017

A True Story by Bethany Buchanan

Guest Post by

I thought it was a sweet gig. And it was at first.

I had lived in the barn apartment for almost a year, and things were going well. It had always been a dream of mine to live in a barn and take care of the horses. High aspirations, I know. But I was finally living the dream. My landlords, John and Priscilla, lived in the main house, and couldn’t be nicer.

Every summer they went away for about two months to go sailing in and around Europe. As part of keeping things going at home while they were away, they asked me to drive their three vehicles to keep the batteries charged.

The truck was easy; but Priscilla’s car, a Mercedes, was much fancier a car than I am used to driving. For the past decade, I have driven a Ford F150 STX which is the most basic model of F150 available. It doesn’t even have power windows or power locks. So getting behind the wheel of Priscilla’s Mercedes felt like strapping into the space shuttle.

John’s car was an Audi A4 convertible. I have always had a soft spot for convertibles, so his was the car I was really looking forward to driving over the summer. Trips to the bank, post office, and grocery store would be a delight. But after only a few weeks, the car started having a harder time turning over when I turned the ignition switch. Thinking that perhaps once a week was not often enough to keep the battery well charged, I decided to drive it more often. But soon enough, one evening I found the battery completely dead. 

That weekend my sister Ruth came over for dinner and to hang out on Friday evening. We used her car to jump the Audi, and I drove it over to the mechanic’s which is only a mile away. The guys there said they would be happy to replace the battery, and I walked home. By Monday evening I got the call that the car was ready , and I could come pick it up. However, I waited until Friday evening to do so when I could get a ride over from Ruth instead of taking the time to hoof it over during the day. 

The next day, I was working as announcer at a local schooling Hunter/Jumper show. It was just a couple of miles up the road. I decided to take the Audi. After the show was over and I was leaving, I put the top down for the short drive home. I pressed the button, and the top unlatched, the trunk hatch opened to receive the soft top, and the soft top slowly started to fold itself back into the trunk.

And half-way there it stopped.

The trunk hatch was open, and the soft top was sticking straight up in the air. Nothing was moving. After a few seconds where nothing happened, I pressed the button the put the top back up. To my great relief the soft top started to close over me once again. But when it clunked down onto the top of the windshield, it stopped. It did not latch into place, and the trunk hatch remained open, blocking my view in the rear-view mirror. 

Once more I pressed the button to put the top up, but nothing happened. I pushed it the other was to see if the top would go down, but still no response. I turned off the engine and started the car again, but there was no sign of life from the convertible top. I was in a pickle.

I decided to drive the Audi straight back to the shop, which mercifully was only a few miles away. Since the trunk hatch was still open and sticking straight up in the air, I drove at a snail’s pace. Not daring to go over ten miles per hour, I hugged the right shoulder and crept along the fairly busy two-lane highway which connected the horse-show facility to the garage. 

When the mechanics finally checked the car out on Monday, they called to say the switch would need to be replaced. Finally I got the call that the car was ready, and I could come pick it up any time. Unfortunately, I was insanely busy. So it was a couple of weeks before I got a ride from a friend in the evening to go get it. 

The Sunday after I picked it up, I drove it to church on a beautiful clear morning. It wasn’t too hot yet, so I put the top down on my way to church. When I arrived, I put the top back up, because you can never trust Florida during the summer. A sudden shower can come out of nowhere and soak everything within moments.

After church, I went out to lunch with some friends as is my usual custom. It was quite cold in the restaurant, and I did not have a jacket. By the time we finished lunch I was glad to go out into the heat. Even though it was the hottest part of the day and the sun was shining brightly, I decided to put the top down for the quick jaunt home.

I sat in the parking lot of the restaurant and pressed the button to put the top down. The top unlatched, the trunk hatch opened to receive the soft top, and the soft top slowly started to fold itself back into the trunk. And half-way there it stopped. The trunk hatch was open, and the soft top was sticking straight up in the air, and nothing was moving.

I couldn’t believe it. I pressed the button the put the top back up, and the soft top started to close over me once again. But when it clunked down onto the top of the windshield, it stopped. It did not latch into place, and the trunk hatch remained open, blocking my view in the rear-view mirror. Just like last time. Only this time I was twelve miles from home instead of two or three.

I turned on the hazard lights and crept out of the parking lot. I believe it is an unarguable fact that there are a lot of idiot drivers in South Florida. As I drove slowly along the two-lane road I hugged the right shoulder to make it easier for overtaking cars to pass me when the lines on the road and oncoming traffic allowed it. However, at least one car decided that that meant there was plenty of room on the road for me, him, and the oncoming car to be in the two lanes all at the same time. 

At one point, a man on a motorcycle passed me going the other way; he then turned around, got behind me, and shouted that I should pull over. I pulled in to a fire department and asked if he was a mechanic. “Of sorts” was his response, which meant no. But he wanted to help. He opened the fuse box and checked to make sure it wasn’t a blown fuse. Which it wasn’t, but I told him I appreciated the effort all the same.

Once I was out of traffic on the long stretch of road between counties, things were less stressful, but no more enjoyable. The road has a wide shoulder as well as a bike lane, so I was able to get all the way out of the driving lane and putter down the shoulder. The song “Driving Slow on Sunday Morning” by Maroon 5 popped into my head, but I don’t think this was exactly what the singer had in mind.

What should have been a fifteen minute drive took an hour and twenty minutes. I had failed to charge my phone the night before, so my phone battery was only at 5%. I didn't even have my music or podcasts to help pass the time. And I don’t like listening to the radio. I tried not to think of all the things I needed to get done at home. I reminded myself that Sunday is supposed to be a day of rest. I tried to enjoy the scenery. I tried to be thankful that I didn’t have to walk everywhere. 

Once home, I drove the car straight into the garage. As far as I am concerned, there it can sit until John gets home. John and Priscilla have an office manager who used to have the same car, and as I have been keeping her apprised via text of what’s been going on with the car, her response has been, “Thank you for reminding me why I don’t own that car anymore! Lol.”

Thanks, Linda.


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