At the end of an absolutely wonderful and much-needed weekend getaway to Hershey Park, Pennsylvania, we bade farewell to our friends at the exit gate and weaved our way through the crowded parking lot to our car. We had decided to “honor thy education” and make the 4-hour drive home on Sunday night to ensure our children would be in attendance at school on Monday morning… rather than staying over with our friends and driving home the next day without traffic. We packed our 3 tired and hungry children into the minivan, and, in the midst of the “let’s stop for a quick slice of pizza before the kids fall asleep” conversation, we climbed aboard ourselves. Key in the ignition, turn…. CRACK, CLANK, CRASH. Though we hadn’t moved an inch it sounded as though we’d run over a bottle. So, after the requisite, “What was that?” my husband and I climbed out of the vehicle and, each on our respective sides, peered underneath the car. To our surprise, a big hunk of metal thingy (my definition) was sitting just beneath the passenger side of the car. Tim called it a “belt tensioner” feeling rather auto-savvy since they’d just had one replaced in one of the cars at work. Long story, not short, but shorter… Sunday 6pm is not a good time to break down in Hershey, PA. No triple A, not an auto part store open within 50 miles and darkness descending. With some difficulty, we finally got permission from the park security staff to abandon the car there overnight without the fear of towing, promising to retrieve it in the morning. A quick call to our friends and they returned from their campsite to retrieve my weary family. Wendy’s drive-through for dinner, a new hotel room and we were all sound asleep by 10pm. My kids would not be in school on Monday after all!
Bright and early the next morning, Tim and our friend, Mike, bought the part and fixed the car with just a little difficulty and some telephone assistance from Albert, our mechanic back home on Long Island at Felix-Albert’s Garage. By 12:00 noon, we were on our way. 18 hours late. We stopped for the “quick slice of pizza before the kids fall asleep” that we’d talked about the night before and began our 4-hour journey home. But, we only got as far as the main highway ramp when the “low oil” light flashed on the dashboard. Tim informed me that he’d previously had the feeling there was a slow oil leak and that he’d have Alex look at it when we got home. For now, he pulled into a gas station, bought some oil, refilled the receptacle, the light went off and we were on our way again. And, our friends were absolutely right. There is much less traffic midday on Monday than on Sunday… So, besides the unfortunate deer carcass Olivia saw on the side of the roadway, the rest of our trip home was uneventful.
However, Tuesday morning’s ride to school was NOT uneventful. Our usual morning rush landed me 15 minutes behind schedule. I dropped Olivia off at school and headed toward Sunrise Highway to get the boys to school. At the first traffic light that caught me, I noticed smoke seeping out from under my hood. Not a lot, but because of the preceding days’ excitement, I cancelled the left turn onto the highway and went right instead. Right to my mechanic, that is. As I got out of the car and began walking toward Alex’s office I heard someone yell, “Shut that car off QUICK… You’re over heating!!!” One of the mechanics came running out to my car and, with the boys still in the vehicle, he pulled the keys out of the ignition and popped the hood. Alex followed, welcoming me with a smile and, “You made it home in one piece!” He joined his mechanic under the hood, both men shaking their heads. Alex looked at me and said, “Boy are you LUCKY!”
“NOT the word I would have used just now, Alex!”
“Well, you’ve blown the head gasket. You’re lucky this didn’t happen on your drive home from Pennsylvania, or the engine would have seized.” I finished that sentence in my head… “miles from home, on a Sunday night, in the middle of nowhere, with 3 sleeping children.” Suddenly, LUCKY is just exactly how I felt! As it turns out, the first breakdown was a freak and had absolutely nothing to do with the second. But, the second, coming on the tail of the first, put me in the mindset that the car was in a fragile, gotta-get-it-checked-out state and certainly made me respond more quickly. And, the second was such a HUGE problem that if I’d driven another 5 minutes, our engine would have been a useless hunk of metal under the hood. OK, I’m LUCKY!
Not LUCKY that the car broke down. Just LUCKY that it broke down when it did, where it did and that I got it to the mechanics on time. I’m also LUCKY to have gotten an extra day added on to our vacation. And, most of all, I’m LUCKY to have such great friends (thanks Tammy and Mike)!
Olivia said, “Mommy, nothing bad ever happens to us!” And, she’s right! You see, “LUCKY” really is a matter of perspective… and attitude!