There we were, my pals Jacob and Steve and I (Lauren had wisely decided to fly and meet us in Chicago), driving up 65 North, when the battery light came on in the van. Hm, we thought. As the van started acting stranger and stranger, and more things started dinging and flashing on and off, we routed to an Autozone to get the battery checked out.
I talked to a man wearing a bright red shirt, black suspenders, a Newsboy cap, and round glasses. He looked like he should be sitting at a typewriter tapping out headlines for a 1940’s newspaper, but here he was instead, grumpy as hell, past the end of the shift at the Autozone.
He quickly diagnosed our van with a bad battery “Yep, this is nasty”, he said. “This has to be the worst battery I’ve ever seen.” It was a hot day, but nice to be out of the car for a moment. We waited about an hour for Newsboy to change the battery, during which Steve and I each ate one Doritos Loco Taco from the Taco Bell next door, then thanked him profusely and went on our merry way. The van was back in action and we happily exclaimed about lucky it was that it was *just* the battery.
After about an hour, the van started showing all the same symptoms, eventually fully turning itself off as we coasted to a stop at a gas station in Lafayette, Indiana. Shitttttttt I thought. Of course, it couldn’t be that easy.
Sitting at the Family Express, I frantically attempted to charge my phone at the gas station while calling AAA and researching hotels for the night. It was now past six PM and there were no repair shops open. After a few attempts, I got through to AAA, ordered a tow truck, and sent the guys off in an Uber to the Quality Inn with most of our gear. I downed a water bottle and decided to eat something while waiting.
In the Dairy Queen across the street, I stood behind two men, tweaking hard on Meth or Opioids, or something. They scratched at their arms, gnashed their teeth, and moved side to side as they tried to place their order. I finally got to the front of the line and was explaining that I wanted not a combo, but just a small fries and a mini blizzard. At that moment I got a call from Jacob, overheard him saying “Oh she’s gonna love this…” before “Hello?… yeah, you booked the rooms for next week. I’m sorry. She won’t change them”.
OH MY GOD I thought, shit. “Let me just call Priceline and plead my case,” I said, “Sorry!” I said to the nice man working the DQ counter, to whom I was being excessively rude.
I sat for about 30 minutes at the DQ, eating my fries and explaining to the kind woman at Priceline that I didn’t even want my money back, merely to change the date for the hotel and that I had booked it not two hours ago. After some back and forth with the hotel she came back from hold “Ma’am? Yes, the hotel has declined to change the dates for you, and they’ve also declined to refund you”. “Oh, I said, but they said it was at the discretion of Priceline”, “No”, she said, “It’s at the discretion of the hotel.” Fine, I thought, FINE! IT’S ONLY MONEY.
I rebooked the hotel, wondering who I might gift a couple of free hotels in Lafayette, Indiana to for next week, and waited for the tow truck. An hour later, a man wearing a stained jacket and missing his front teeth showed up with a large truck. “Hello! I said, how are you doing?” “Do you really want to know?” he said. “Um”, I replied, “Yes? If you want to share”. He smiled and did not share.
I explained the van saga. “Do you want me to test the alternator and see if that’s the problem?” he asked. “That would be great!” I said, wondering if we might be able to figure this thing out tonight and save some time in the morning. He pulled out his battery test gear, and immediately exclaimed, “Oh, your battery is bad!”. “What! I said, I just got it at the Autozone, like an hour from here”. “They sold you a bad battery, look!”, he showed me his screed which indicated battery health in the RED.
I tried the car with his charge cables and it started immediately. “I would just drive it to the Autozone and get that fixed right now!”, he said “Aren’t you glad I tested that?”. “Do you think the car will make it?”, I said, “and what if that’s not the problem?” “What do you mean, I just tested it! Yea, it’s just around the block! I would go right now!”
I pulled out of the parking lot and headed to Autozone No. 2. About 45 seconds into my drive, the car turned itself off, leaving me on the side of a busy road, with my hazard lights not working. Shit! I thought, shit shit shit. I called the tow truck man’s number four times, but there was no answer.
I started to feel pressure building in my head. Breathe, I thought. Breathe. It was getting dark. I tried texting the tow truck. “I didn’t make it, can you help me?”. “Where are you?” he replied.
As my van was loaded onto the truck, I called the Autozone and frantically begged them to stay open. They were due to close in fifteen minutes, and I knew that it would take longer than that to change the battery. “Please,” I said, “I know it isn’t your fault but a different Autozone sold me a bad battery!”. The man sighed “OK, I’ll take a look”, he said.
Arriving at Autozone 2, I found my man, who was heavyset and walked slowly with his feet turned out. He opened up my car and tested the battery. “Where did you get this done?” he asked. As he installed the new battery he started making noises of concern. ‘Your terminal”, he said, “It’s not connected correctly.” “Yeah, this isn’t going to work, you need a new terminal., we can’t do that here” “Can I drive it to a repair shop for tomorrow morning?” I asked. “No, I wouldn’t drive this, you better leave this right here!” he said. I thanked him for staying open and handed him a $20 bill
It was dark. The Autozone 2 closed. The tow-truck man who ruined my life was gone. My pals were at Longhorn steak house drinking and sending me weird steak memes. I sat on the curb and waited for an Uber to the Quality Inn. Since I had paid for my room twice, I figured I should try to get some sleep.
TO BE CONTINUED
OMG Rachel, if there’s a God you now have a “get out of purgatory free” card! Be careful out there, it’s a jungle…