USA2

Boston, Massachusetts

The phrase “wrought with peril” might be a little overboard (and inaccurate), but it’s the phrase that keeps coming to mind. I keep getting the feeling that there’s a silver lining here, by the way people are reacting to the news, and I’m sure they’re right, but I’ve been so tired and frustrated and hungry and discouraged today, it hardly seems like I should be happy about any of this.

So here’s what happened: James and I, en route to the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Massachusetts, had just exited the highway, only a few blocks from the hall of fame — it would have been within sight if we hadn’t been on the other side of the highway. My car was coasting down the exit ramp, dead, check engine light on, dead. Turning the key, the starter would click but nothing would move, turn over. I pushed the car off to the side into a lane under construction as James steered. Within a minute, a AAA tow truck had pulled over and was looking under the hood of my car. He diagnosed the problem to be related to my timing belt, as it was the only thing not turning when I’d turn the key. We should have just had him load my car onto the flatbed and tow me to the Volkswagen dealer, but we needed time to think things over, so he just helped us push the car across the street into a Texaco parking lot. James and I talked it over and eventually decided that I should call AAA and get a truck to take the car to a mechanic. Around 40 minutes later, a truck — of the same company as the one before — pulled up and loaded my car. We took it across the river to the Father’s and Son’s Volkswagen dealership, where we filled out a form and left my key in their doorslot.

The shop won’t be open until Monday, of course, so its future is still up in the air, mostly. And my future as well. I figure my car will either be easily fixed with a day or two’s work or not-easily fixed, needing around a week or more. In the first case, I’ll probably just continue to hang out in Boston until it’s ready, and then take the two-hour bus ride back to Springfield. If it will take longer to fix — or if they’re not sure — things will be a little more complicated. On one hand, I could probably just chill in Boston for a long time and be perfectly happy, but I’d also really, really like to get on with my trip, into Vermont and Canada. In order for that to happen, I would either have to rent a car (which is extremely difficult since I’m not 25, as most rental companies require) or use public transportation (terribly inefficient, dirty, and uncomfortable). It may be possible for me to rent a car with my dad’s help, but since they leave Monday afternoon, there will be a short window of opportunity between when the mechanic opens and they catch their flight. It’s all speculation for now, of course, and there is really no reason to continue with this train of thought. I’ll get through this, and for the better too.

And that’s the silver lining everyone keeps mentioning: there’s a lot of fortune in the timing. For one, it’s a good thing James and I decided to leave the city today, for this could have happened tomorrow on our way to Andy and Parthena’s wedding, somewhere in downtown Boston perhaps. And that would have been bad. It also could have happened when I was on my own, in nowhereland, and that would have been much worse with the rental car age limit and need of a credit card. Finally, it also happened at a fortunate location: just off the highway, near the Hall of Fame, only a few miles from a Volkswagen dealership. My AAA membership covered the tow since it was within five miles, and the driver was nice enough to take us back to the HOF.

We managed to spend a few good hours out of the sweltering heat, without worrying about my broken car and how we were going to get the hundred miles back to Boston. We enjoyed the Hall of Fame, for sure, but we also rushed it. Like most HOFs and museums of its stature, there’s just way too much to do in a single trip. The HOF is housed in a new basketball-shaped building, silver and beautiful. I didn’t get any good pictures of the exterior today, but when I pick up my car, whenever, I’ll be sure to.

James and I had planned a Spring Break roadtrip to Springfield years ago — maybe five or six years ago, actually — that never came to fruition. We had the AAA books and a route picked out and were excited about it, but something happened really close to that March, some money problem or something, and we just ended up not going. So this sidetrip from Boston was definitely a good thing, a long time coming. James was excited about it, I know, and almost didn’t go so he could stay with his wife and daughter in Boston. That is, until he was assured they’d be watched after by our folks. Then we were gung-ho to get out to the airport ($2), get my car out of parking ($45), and get on the road ($8.60 in tolls). Not a cheap trip.

Then we were faced with the huge dilemma of getting back to Boston. Cheaply, efficiently, smartly, and quickly. We balanced all of our options, priced several car-rental companies, paced, decidedly undecided. I’m even more fingernail-less than before. Ultimately, we walked a mile into the heart of Springfield to the bus station, where we saw our first taxi-cab in all of the city, flagged him down and got a ride ($30) all the way to Hartford, Connecticut to the Bradley Airport Hertz Car Rental. A half hour later, we were on the road back to Boston.

That’s when I noticed they charged us $245 for the two days of having the compact Ford Focus — waaaay more than it should have been. When it rains, it pours. I diagnosed the error: they had added all the extra insurance fees on our bill, effectively doubling the cost of renting the car with 50 dollars more per day. James had — and I can verify this to the letter — declined those extras, saying “no, leave it alone.” Right away James and I got on the phone with the Hertz manager Paul; he doing his best mad-as-hell act, and me doing my best not to laugh. It worked, too. The manager at the Bradley Hertz said we needed to take the car ASAP to the Boston location and they’d be ready to take the charges off for us. We were relieved at the simplicity of solving the problem. Until we got to Boston.

The people at the Boston Logan Hertz place hadn’t heard a thing about it. They pittled and puttered for a half hour before deciding to call Paul, the manager back at Hartford, to verify our story. And he did, I suppose, with a few loose ends. No matter. Another twenty minutes later, they finally had our contract reworked sans insurance and $25 extra dollars for our trouble and time. So in effect, James had saved us $160 with his squabbling.

The family had requested that we park the car in town, since the going rates for parking are cheaper now that the Fourth tourist-rush has dissipated. So we parked within a block of the hotel, just around 10 p.m., a terribly long day just past. Hungry as can be and achy from the day’s malnourishment, we stumbled down to a random Chinatown restaurant where we were served too much food, just as we had hoped. I got the second-half of my chicken fried rice to-go, even though we’re microwave-less back at the hotel. I’ll find a way to eat it later; it’s just too good.

Tomorrow is the wedding. My cousin Andy Wollen is marrying Parthena Toultsides, in a real-life Big Fat Greek Wedding (Britnee has been teaching me a lot about them already, since that is her favorite movie; “say ‘oh’, say ‘pah’, say ‘ohpah’” she tells me). I’m looking forward to it, as it should really be quite the experience; certainly a new one for me. The peril tomorrow brings though, is that it’s the last full-day for my family to be around, and I’m increasingly nervous about what will happen with my car situation. There’s probably nothing to be so worried about I guess, but that hasn’t stopped me so far. Everything will look better with sleep, so I shall try that for a few hours.

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