Tuesday, March 22, 2011


I read once in Reader’s Digest that when women drivers hear a funny noise in their cars while driving, they repair it by turning up the radio. I resemble that remark! However, since I only heard that squealing noise once in a while when turning corners, how important could it be?

I had to go to Newburgh, New York to a weekend workshop from Syracuse. Now, my last major driving event – defined as me doing all the driving – was the fateful trip from Tucson to Phoenix. However, I was only 22 then; now I was almost 41. My life had changed a lot; surely my driving luck would follow suit! The car I drove was your basic nunmobile – we had two others just like it. Had I thought of it, I would’ve probably named them Patty, Maxine, and LaVerne, but this wasn’t a time of creativity and imagination. This trip wasn’t particularly optional, but it seemed easy enough. The directions said to take the New York Thruway to exit 17; how hard could that be? Clearly, Newburgh had to be somewhere around Albany. I could handle this.

Obviously there were some things I hadn’t mastered in the intervening 19 years. Had I kept reading the map until I actually found either Exit 17 or Newburgh, I would’ve noticed that it was in one of the most southern counties of the state. A brighter person might have figured out that since I was entering the Thruway on Exit 37, this wasn’t going to be a short trip!

There are actually people who don’t stop at practically every rest stop on the way; they don’t like to travel with me! They also arrive places much sooner than I do. The Thruway’s web site says the trip should take around an hour and a half; it took me five. However, since I was still on my endless quest to prove that I’m a functioning adult, I thought I did pretty well, until maybe the exit before mine. That little squealing noise I’d heard once in a while before now became louder. Naturally, I turned up the radio. Then the noise became non-stop.

Now, I’m actually pretty good in a crisis. Yes, it’s challenging to follow written directions to a place you’ve never been before while listening to a noise that hasn’t been heard in America since they ended the torture of witches. But I managed to get where I was going. Then I stopped being calm. In fact, I think the word hysterical might do nicely. I called home to get directions on what to do, since I had enough money for food and tolls as well as a gas card, but nothing else. I was told to see if I could get the car repaired at the gas station belonging to the gas card. Ah, how simple – if you’re in Syracuse, and this gas company is every six blocks. However, this was someplace else, and I had no phone book. The person I spoke to also said she’d call me back, and the place I was at had plenty of signs telling you how to get your messages when someone telephones for you, but they didn’t mention that they might not actually ever take the message. In the meantime, I tried to find the nearest Mobil.

If you’re ever really bored, try calling information to get a gas station in a town you’ve never been in! I’d seen one – was it this town? If not, what town was it? To add to the experience, I learned two very important things – none of the local gas station owners learned to speak English until they were adults (at least the five I spoke to), and the directory assistance doesn’t have a global positioning device to help you figure out what’s nearest to you. Pity. As far as I could guess from the phone conversations I tried to have, the gas stations there don’t repair cars. Finally, my hosts took pity on me and were extremely helpful in my getting the car repaired. Turns out that noise was the brake shoes rubbing together. Of course. I made that trip five more times and each time I was asked “Aren’t you the one with that car?"

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