Thursday, December 15, 2011


[Here's Part 1 of The Plattsburgh Saga.
Here's Part 2.
This is Part 3.
Here's Part 4.]

You're probably wondering what happened with my car. Or you wonder how anyone can make a story last so damn long. If so, sorry, because we've miles to go on that tale.

(If you haven't yet read about the car, the story begins here and continues here.)

So, yeah, my car was to be done early the week after Thanksgiving. I'd already asked for the Tuesday after Thanksgiving off for a morning engagement, so a plan formed over Thanksgiving weekend. My father and I would drive in the rental up to Plattsburgh that Tuesday afternoon, then he'd drive my car and I'd drive the rental over to Lake Placid to drop off the rental car, then we'd drive back to my house together in my car. It's a nine-hour trip, and it'd be a late night, but we have a pretty good time together.

Sunday night, the shop manager at the garage in Plattsburgh (let's call him, "Lee") called me from his cell phone. I am not sure I've mentioned yet that he seemed to think, after our interactions in the car and on the phone, that we were buddies — at least. His status as a single (well, divorced) guy had come up more than once. Anyway, he called Sunday night to let me know the car would not be ready until late in the day Tuesday. I was so pleased I'd padded the schedule. We weren't going to arrive in Plattsburgh until late in the day Tuesday, so we were fine.

My mother, who is often skeptical, was skeptical. She suggested I call before we left.

Tuesday morning, I called before we left. The car would be ready, Lee said. We discussed again whether I might pay in cash in exchange for a sizeable discount. I actually lost it at him briefly in the phone when he seemed to be unable to actually explain this "cash discount" to me in terms that made any sense. I told him I thought I'd be paying with a card, instead. (Word to the wise: If you have prevented a person from calling AAA and then shown up incapable of moving her car without her own brute strength, do not later suggest that part of your "discount" is that you are not charging her a "towing fee.")

And then my father and I embarked on a pretty jovial road trip. We called Lee a few times from the road and we reassured the car would be ready. We stopped for lunch. We joked around a lot and told stories.

About 20 minutes outside Plattsburgh, we had a call from Lee. Would it be possible, he asked, for us to maybe spend the night in town?

Some questions are not so much questions.

We went to the shop and he assured us he'd be happy to put us up in the local EconoLodge, but he wanted to be sure the work was really done well. He also launched into a weird diatribe about how much he is trying to do for the community, between the homeless shelter he's trying to build (Note: Plattsburgh does not, in fact, have a million people in it, whatever Lee thinks.).

Luckily, my father is retired and didn't need to get back for anything urgent, so we agreed (as if we had a choice) and headed to Kmart for toothbrushes and toys for Toys for Tots. We had a lovely dinner surrounded by Francophones (because, you know, pretty much Canada). We watched a movie at the hotel yadda yadda amnesia something something January Jones. We slept in until 7:30 and enjoyed the waffles at the continental breakfast, went to the AAA office to satisfy my father's desperate need for paper maps even when I have a GPS. And then we explored Plattsburgh. As we wandered along the shore of Lake Champlain, we got another call from Lee.

"Hey, you," he said as my skin creeped. He was just wondering if it might be possible for me to pay most of the bill on the card, of course, but $300 in cash, possibly — you know, because of the homeless shelter. My father and I talked about it, decided it was clearly shady, but whatever. Sure. We could do that.

And there began several hours of Lee telling us the car was almost ready and then calling us back to say that it was not. At least twice, I was literally a block or less away from the garage when he called to ask for more time. Eventually, he called to ask if we could put the cash in an envelope and label it "Toys for Tots" because "not everyone in the shop needs to know everything that goes on." Seriously.

But through it all, we had a pretty good time. We walked around downtown, looking at the war monument and taking pictures with our cell phones. Although I do not recommend a trip to Plattsburgh just for the Museum of the War of 1812, I do recommend stopping in if you're in town. We went to Radio Shack and TJ Maxx and Staples (naturally, we needed envelopes). My father wrote "Toys for Tots" (complete with quotation marks), which gave us no end of mirth.

And finally, my car was ready, at nearly 3:30 Wednesday — just enough time to get the rental car back to Lake Placid. Lee warned us that it might need a "breaking in period." The car might have a little trouble upshifting. After one more weird joke in which he suggested he might move in with me and my father could start calling him "son," he gave us our warranty, we gave him a credit card and an envelope with cash inside and quotation marks outside, and we hit the road.

When we got to Lake Placid, I asked my dad how my car had handled. He said it was about like Lee had suggested, and otherwise fine. As soon as I got back behind the wheel, I was worried. It felt like it had before it broke down. My father tried to reassure me, and I tried to allow myself to be reassured. We were making good time; we decided not to stop for dinner and power through to Keene.

And then.

And then the transmission died, about an hour from my destination.

When the car stopped accelerating and then slowed nearly to a stop, I pulled over.

Day 29 of my month of gratitude: I am thankful for the kind of father-daughter relationship that makes a semi-catastrophe into a fun(ish) adventure, rather than a real catastrophe. I am thankful for stupid, stupid little jokes, for support and apparently limitless willingness to help. I am thankful not to feel like "Daddy's Little Girl" because I have always felt as respected, smart, and strong as any adult in the room, even when he dotes. And I'm thankful he's finally started reading the blog. :)

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