Monday, March 2, 2009

Day Fifty: Intermission, folks. You can smoke, those who smoke.

I'll keep touching on my post-Katrina experience and probably wrap that up pretty quickly, but today I've got to tell my "what happened today" story.

Also, thought it worth noting that this is my 50th consecutive day of blog posting. Woot.

Tonight, we're hosting a small post-show cast party for the Hero Squad group. That's supposed to start at eight, so Kim and I both get off work a bit early to clean up a bit (and, in Kim's case, to make a three-layer chocolate cake which, if described in two words, would be "Awesome McAwesome."). Around five o'clock, Kim asks me to take her car and go pick up Robbie from the babysitter's house, but warns me that it may be low on coolant. So I go to pick up the baby.

Now, from here to JoAnn's house is typically about a twelve-minute drive, stretch it to maybe eighteen due to five o'clock traffic. I'm almost to her house when I notice the temp gauge, creeping slowly toward the H for most of the trip, is now moving at an alarming pace past the H and into the "danger zone." Additionally, a very heavy vapor-type substance that smells bad seeps from the all the vents. I decide this is bad, and I roll down my windows to air out the vapory stuff and I pray my car into the driveway and park it, leaving the windows down to air it out. I pop open the hood after I stop, but nothing is smoking, so that's good. Hopefully, I tell myself, the car was simply reacting to going faster than it wanted to on the highway, and if I treat it more gently it'll get me home without further incident.

Pick up baby, talk to baby sitter, give car time to cool down. Strap Robbie in the back, head for home. Get about five blocks and the temp is higher than it was the last time, and the smokey-vapory-stuff (it's not really smoke, though) is very thick. I pull over into the first parking lot I can find and call Kim to come pick up the baby.

For twenty or so minutes, Robbie and I walk back and forth on this little strip of sidewalk outside of Discount Tire Co. just off of I-59. Kim shows up, and I move the car seat to her car and tell her I'll drive her car back home, four blocks at a time if I have to, and I'll get there as soon as I can.

Turns out, five blocks was a very generous estimate. I make it a little over three before having to pull over again. Wait fifteen minutes, let the car air out, take it another two and a half blocks, have to pull over again. The vapory stuff may not be smoke, but it's not good to breathe, I can tell that. I stop this time at a gas station and buy some coolant (you'd think maybe they'd have had some at Discount Tire, but nope. Just tires) for Kim's car. It's not the right type, but by now I've realized (judging by the huge puddles I'm leaving everywhere I park) that the car is just leaking it back out anyway, so it's not like it'll set in and do any damage. I pour the ENTIRE BOTTLE into a tank smaller than the bottle and still don't fill it all the way up--bad sign--and pray it gives me just enough to make the last seven minutes or so home.

Well, it does, mostly. I keep the windows rolled down so the creepy Stephen King-ish mist airs out, because it never really stops at this point. Whenever I'm stuck at a light, it simply gathers on my windshield, and I have to sink down into my seat to find a spot I can still see out of. Almost home, almost home...

Finally, I pull into my complex. The coolant has held Heat Monster at bay pretty well, but now it's lost the battle. The gauge races past the H as I make the last turn into the final spot. The vapor is now gushing out of the vents, and it's actually difficult for me to breathe as I pull into the parking space and shut off the car, opening the door as quickly as I can, leaning my head out, and taking a very deep breath.


Now, Kim's car is old, and we are planning to replace it as soon as I've saved up three pay stubs to apply for government help in replacing our old car with a new, more emission-efficient model, and that'll happen next month. However, I think this old car has had it. Whatever is wrong with it now, it's probably not worth the money to fix it. I expect it'll sit in the lot until it's off to the scrap heap.

So if you find me asking for a ride at any point in the next month, please be kind. We are a one-car-family for the time being.