Saturday, November 12, 2011

The Universe. And Car Talk

I've been feeling pretty down about human nature recently, what with the happenings at Penn State and idiotic conservatives making awful "jokes" like these in defense of Herman Cain.

Hardly surprising that the Wall Street Journal columnist would make insensitive sexist jokes. When I worked on Wall Street it was a cesspit of sexism and harrassment.

But sometimes, just when you're ready to hole up on your sofa in a Snuggie with a huge supply of chocolate and avoid the rest of the human race until it runs out,  G-d , the Universe, Fate, or whatever you want to call it, sends you a much needed reminder that there are really good people out there. 

So Friday afternoon, I got in the MomMobile, a dented, scratched, but regularly serviced SUV with 130K plus miles on the clock, and set off for Lititz, Pennsylvania, home to the amazing Aaron's Books

Unfortunately, in order to do this, I had to brave what Son and I refer to as The First Circle of Hell, otherwise known as the New Jersey Turnpike. (It used to be the Second Circle of Hell, but because of what I'm about to relate, it has been promoted to First.)

I'd just pulled off the Turnpike onto I-78 when, upon checking my rear view mirror*, I noticed white smoke emitting from my exhaust pipe. As a big fan of NPR's Car Talk, I knew that this was not a good sign. I went to get off at the next exit. As I went down the exit ramp, my power steering went. Then I noticed my brakes weren't so well either. At this point, you didn't have to be a Car Talk fan to know that things were seriously FUBAR. But as if I needed any more clues, white smoke started pouring out from under the bonnet. This car was smoking.

I managed to pull the car into a gas station forecourt across from the end of the exit ramp. Turned it off because I was afraid it was about to blow up. I asked the attendant if he could help me. He was more pissed off that my car was leaking some kind of fluid on his property. But then this wonderful man came out from the convenience store where he'd been buying a snack. His wife had seen me in trouble and she told him he had to help me. His name is George Gibson and he owns Gibson Auto Repair, right around the corner from where I rolled up in my smoking MomMobile with no brakes or steering. 

Mr Gibson could be on Car Talk himself because he REALLY knows car repairs. He stuck his finger into the liquid and immediately ascertained it was transmission fluid. He figured it was a hose that had snapped. But then he got worried because there was also green/blue fluid, which looked like a different problem, maybe the radiator.

 Meanwhile, the gas station guy is still freaking out that my car is leaking on to his forecourt, so Mr Gibson helped me back the car off the forecourt onto the street - by this point so much transmission fluid had leaked out that the car wouldn't move forward in drive, only in reverse. Then he and his employee Marvin towed me around the corner to his garage. 

At this point I'm totally panicking, because I have this crazy weekend schedule that involves much driving - book festival, visiting Son at college, then Philadelphia for Awesome Boyfriend's big family birthday celebration on Sunday afternoon. And now my car is kaput. To the rescue comes Mrs. Gibson, who drove me, the bagels I'd bought for Aaron's Books, the presents for Awesome Boyfriend's family, the 2 dozen chocolate chip cookies I'd baked for Son, my laptop bag, my weekend bag, and my presentation stuff (I wasn't exactly traveling light because I thought - "hey, I'll just THROW IT IN THE CAR") to Newark Airport so I could get a rental. 

Mr and Mrs Gibson and Marvin didn't know me from Adam. I was just some random author in distress who rolled in (literally) in a smoking (and I don't mean that in the OMG wish I owned one sense) car. But they couldn't have been kinder to me at a time when I was panicked and stressed and after a week when I hadn't been sleeping well because off all the stuff triggered by Penn State. I also have to mention the guy at Hertz,Newark,  who saw me schlepping all the aforementioned stuff trying to locate my rental car and asked me if he wanted him to go and get it. He also helped me load it all in the car, and when I tried to tip him he refused, and just told me he hoped my day got better. 
I was so touched by the kindness of these people I didn't even know, and it helped heal some of the scabs that have been torn open by the PSU stuff. 

And then this morning at breakfast I was blessed to met Sharon Robinson. Hearing her speak so passionately about her deeply personal connection with winners of the Breaking Barriers in Sports and Life Essay contest made me so profoundly grateful that we were brought together at this particular time. Because I needed reminding that for every Mike McQueary, Joe Paterno, Tim Curley and Gary Schultz, there's a Sharon Robinson, a Mr and Mrs Gibson, and a Marvin. 

There's hope for us yet.

*My fellow Americans, particularly those who stick in the left lane holding up traffic: I urge you to do this on a regular basis. Far more regularly than you apparently do. It could save your transmission.


  1. Great post. Nice to be reminded that not everyone out there is out for themselves and pushing past you to get ahead.

    Hope the weekend wound up terrific.

  2. Fabulous post!
    What is the song? "You can't always get what you want, you get what you need!" It plays in my head : )

    Sorry about the transmission : (

    (driving the 195,000 mi toyota)

  3. It has been a crazy weekend, with highs and lows. I'm very much looking forward to getting back to my novel tomorrow, so I can cause someone ELSE problems for a while!