30 bucks & a basket full of chocolate

oilbadI was supposed to go to Wisconsin this week. I was supposed to have coffee with old friends, crash with ex co-workers, visit the old dayjob, see my grandmother and my Aunt and Uncle, and celebrate my mother’s birthday. Oh yeah, and the kids were supposed to see their father.

That didn’t happen.

Why? Because Murphy is a bitch and the Universe is his tool—or is that the other way around?

Packed and ready, armed with a full box of Kleenex for this annoying cold I decided to wake up with and Bob’s iPod full of “keep me awake” music, the kids and I left the house. We stopped for snacks and cash for tolls. Gassed up, got Mountain Dew pumping through the co-pilot’s blood, and hit the road… on time. Yes, I was shocked. Yes, they were shocked. That was a first.

That should have been a clue.

Just before the first tunnel (an hour out) I looked down and saw “check gauges”.  Hmmm… Well, the brake light is on but it’s always on because it’s got some twitch the service guy said wasn’t a problem. Ok, whatever… Wait. A. Minute. Battery gauge fine. Gas full. What the heck is the problem with the oil gauge? Call the hippie!

“So, my oil gauge runs high but the oil is fine, it’s just a gauge problem. Does your truck have the same issue but shows it low? Or am I really out of oil?”

“Ummm… no. You better stop and check that.”

“Crap! Ok, we’ll stop as soon as we can.”

Of course, I’m on the turnpike. There are no gas stations. *zoom* There’s a service plaza on the other side of the divided highway, that’s not fair! We drive another 45 minutes to find something on our side. Ok then, we’ll check the oil and be fine.

No, first we’ll fight with the damn hood! Eaux. Mai. Gawd! Call the Hippie, again.

“Really? What the hell is the trick with the hood?!” Wiggle it, he says. Fine. And after 15 minutes of beating, pounding, shouting, screaming, and swearing—and some of that from the nice man that stopped to help the poor woman and two children—we finally get the hood open. I didn’t notice until later that I had bent my claddagh ring all to hell beating on the hood.

And the oil is fine.

What the hell? Ok, it took us forever to get the hood open. We’ll start the truck and check it again. Hmmm… still not bad. We’ll add some and call it good. Start the truck and check the gauge. Ahhhh, it’s where it should be. Well, that was fun. Off to Wisconsin we go!

A mile down the road the gauge jumps like it’s been goosed and bottoms out. Cue the horrible grinding and ticking from the engine. Pull over on the turnpike and call the Hippie again.

After an update and some discussion, it’s decided that I need to stop again and double check the oil. Even though I didn’t see a spill or leak, we need to know. And then I need to turn around. This trip isn’t happening. This is the oil pump or vacuum seal or godknowswhat, and I can’t play this game of “unknown engine troubles” for 19 hours. I don’t want to have the engine blow in the Michigan deadzone and be stuck with a dead truck & 2 kids in the pitch black without cell service or an open anything for a hundred miles. I vote no. And we don’t trust my truck enough to just swap and make the trip in the other vehicle. And of course, there’s no way I can rent a vehicle this week or borrow one from anyone. Crap. Ok…

“Call your father…”

They talk to their dad. I talk to their dad. Yup. Trip canceled. We’ll just have to figure something out later for a visit. It wasn’t on purpose and it can’t be helped. Nope, no one’s angry, just disappointed. Kram’s eyes glass up and George gets that hateful PMS look on her face. I have to do something.

“Ya know, I had plans too. I was going to see friends I haven’t seen for ten years and we were having a party for your grandmother.”

Two blank gazes greet me. It’s all about them. I realize that. Fine, we’ll try humor.

“Ya know…” An eyebrow cocks at me. “How about I buy your happy? I have all this cash for tolls and you guys are off the rest of the week. How about I give you each a twenty for spending cash and we color eggs for Easter and we make the best of it. I know you’re too big, but do you want Easter baskets?”

“Make it thirty and you’ve got a deal.”

I opened my mouth to say something and stifled the giggle that was about to come out. He was serious. My sweet little Monster drinking, girl ogling boychild was bribable. His deadpan expression was serious!

“Keep mine at twenty and make me a chocolate Easter basket. And I mean chocolate. No jelly beans, no froo-froo candy. Nothing but chocolate and Easter grass.”

Again, I thought of smirking. Then I looked in the review mirror. She was serious, too!

“Really guys? I’m gonna buy your happy with thirty bucks and a chocolate Easter basket?”

In unison, “No.” Then George finished the thought for both of them. “This still sucks… but that will ease the pain.” She flashes a smile at me in the review mirror, “and yes, we’ll make the best of it.”

“Deal.” We’re going to get our butts home and bribe the kids to not take this out on me—sounds like a plan.

I started the truck. The oil gauge was normal for a minute then bottomed out. The sounds are unnerving but not uber dangerous sounding. I slowly pulled back onto the turnpike and hoped for an exit, not a wayside, so I can check the engine and turn around.

Another 40 minutes and we find an exit, with a gas station—yay! Pull off, pay the toll, get to pumps and turn off the truck. Breathe. This sucks.

Pop the hood. Not! I fight with hood. Mechanic fights with hood. 2 men in camo fight with hood. Young wanna be stud fights with hood. I start truck out of frustration to show the mechanic what the oil gauge is doing. It does nothing. It’s normal. I bang head on steering wheel.

It doesn’t sound bad. The gauge is working. Quick! Let’s get it home. Crawl out of the gas station and back onto the turnpike. Everything seems ok. The guage is fine. The sounds are fine. Hmmm… thank you, Murphy?

Then the gauge does this neat fluttering trick. The heavens open up and it starts raining. The gauge bottoms out and the ticking starts again. I swear under my breath and clench my jaw and the steering wheel, thinking “2 hours… I can do this for 2 hours.” And the peanut gallery begins his interrogation.

“What happens if there’s no oil.”  Ok, we’ll put this in simple terms for him, right?

“The engine blows up.”

“Blows up?”

“Well, yeah. No oil equals no lube equals gears grinding and angry engine stopping.”

“Stopping like it just turns off and we coast, or stopping like the engine falls out and we go flipping into the ditch?”

“Ummm… so what’s on your iPod, any movies?”

He knew the tactic. And in turn, I learned that my son works just like I do—when there’s undue stress that you can’t control and someone else is dealing with it, take a nap! He was unconscious within minutes… just like I did to the Hippie on a previous trip when the horrible lightning storm was making me nervous.

Crawl my sorry ass and broken truck home. Pull in and just breathe. Nugget comes running out to greet us and I give her a huge squeeze.

“So, it appeared we’ll be spending Easter with you… is that ok?”  I think she screamed “yes” or something, there were giggles and volume, that’s all I know for sure. Sauce never did come out. Eventually, a Hippie came strolling from the house. He had the same look on his face that my father would have had. He acted just like my father. He was all business. “Tell me what happened again. ”

We covered everything again and I showed him the video George took on her phone—yes, that image up top is real. We smoked. I called the mechanic and made an appointment for today. Emailed and called my mom & sister to cancel my participation at the party. Emailed & texted old friends that I won’t get to see after all. My cute sniffle turned into a horrible head cold, so I took NyQuil and said F. U. to the day from hell.

Murphy is still a bitch, the Universe still has a wicked left hook, and sometimes “check gauges” isn’t a metaphor. Sorry Julz, Joans & ChiChi. I’ll catch you all next time. Oh… and Happy Birthday, Mom!

ps. Just as I’m about to post this, the mechanic calls, “How do I open the hood?”

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