Saturday, November 15, 2008

Another Road Trip Into Hell

Why do I get into a vehicle and travel down (or rather this time UP) the friggin freeway? And why call it FREE, it is NEVER free for me. This trip cost me over $525! What was my role? I was running my cousin to an appointment for his passport. He was to fly out to visit family in Japan. He hates driving in traffic. My mom volunteered to take him. My mom has no depth perception, no license, cannot drive, so guess who she has take my cousin?

Since her and I are both going to we must take grandson. YEAH! Three year old on a road trip to Seattle. Its supposed to be a "quick trip" so we are going to take off at 7:30 am which means no late night Thursday night for me (which is "my alone time to get my stuff done"). Early to bed, early to rise.

Up early and off only a half an hour late, which we had budgeted time for. We hit the coffee stand in Clatskanie right on schedule with half an hour to spare. Woohoo! We will be in Seattle about 30 minutes before the appointment, plenty of time to find the Federal building, taking into account noon rush hour.

We hit the Fort Lewis area and all of a sudden my dad's Jimmy loses power. I look down on the dash board and every idiot light is flashing. I am in the far left speed lane with VERY LITTLE SHOULDER and start frantically changing lanes to the right praying I have enough power to make it. I did and coast over to the ditch, as far over as I possibly can.

My cousin looks at me like I am nuts, "What the hell are you doing, we can't stop on the freeway! We don't have time to stop for anything!" I point to the dashboard, "We're not going anywhere." He looks over a covers his mouth so he can mumble words grandchild shouldn't repeat. I pick up the cell phone and call Triple A. The joy of crossing over the state line from Oregon to Washington with a Triple A card! WHY is it Oregon/Idaho on AAA but Washington is all by its lonesome? It is a lot easier than it used to be and the dispatcher we get is nice.

"Are you pulled over at a safe spot?" he asks? "Um, not really, if a semi-driver looks down at his map or spills his coffee we're toast," I reply. "Okay, you are on the freeway, that moves you up. Now, can you tell me where you are at?" I hate this question. My dad's a retired truck driver and my husband's a highway inspector for ODOT. They both constantly grill me on "being aware of my surroundings" when I am driving. What exit did I just pass? Which one am I coming up on? What mile marker am I nearest?

I tell the dispatcher, "I am somewhere near Fort Lewis and I can see a warehouse that says "Grand Prix" on it, and "Discount Something or Other," I reply. The dispatcher chuckles and starts typing into his computer. Then, grandson offers us his binoculars! Bonus! My cousin uses them to peer down the freeway and is able to see the next exit. I tell the dispatcher who then asks where we are towing it. Sigh, where does he recommend? My cousin says it looks like the alternator is out. The dispatcher recommends Tveten's Auto Clinic. I ask for their phone number and tell the dispatcher lets say that's the spot and I'll let the tow truck driver know when he gets there.

In the meantime, my mom is frantically dialing the federal building to change cousin's appointment to later in the day. She gets it changed only to one and half ours later! I get a hold of the auto center who will have the Budget rental car people waiting at their lot for us. The tow truck guy gets there 15 minutes after I initiated the call to AAA! WOW! Things are looking up! He hooks us up, we get the auto center, they will do a diagnostic for $49.50 and call to let me know for sure what's up before starting work. We jump in the Budget car and race over to that lot to sign paperwork, CHA-CHING!

Off to Seattle. We pull up the Federal building with five minutes to spare. I drop them and start circling for a parking spot. I finally found one and the ONLY bargain of the day. I plug a meter three times and end up paying only about $3 for roughly two hours. Then, I wait with a child who has been sooooo good up to that point that he now NEEDS to break free and let lose. BLAH, BLAH, BLAH, wah, wah, wah! Question, question, question, why, why, please, please, Anger, anger, pout, pout (okay, that was me) and then we spend some time glaring at one another. Suddenly I look down at my phone, thinking, "Why hasn't the auto center called me?" My cell phone is DEAD. It has four different colored bars running across the screen! CRIPES, craps nasty words and exclamation marks!!!

I turn it off and on, nothing. I take the battery out and put it back together, still the same four colored bars and nothing else. Blankity, blankity, blank, blank!!! Brand, friggin, blankity, new "verizon smartphone"!!!

I desperately look around and frantically dig through my purse and find that my mom's left her cell with us, whew! However, I don't have the auto center's phone number written down, it's in my cell phone. I call my cell number and pick up the messages. Yep, the auto center's left me TWO in the past hour. I call them back. The diagnosis is the alternator is dead and the belt's been chewed by wild animals that apparently live under the hood of the car when my dad isn't using it. Cost? $395, plus the $49.50 diagnostic. The good news is that they'll have it ready by the time we are back from Seattle. I tell them to give me about ten minutes and let me confirm that I have the funds available.

Now, I get to call hubby. I had told him last night, "I am running to Seattle to take cousin to his appointment for his passport." He looks at me and says, "That's nice of you. How come you are involved?" I reply with one word, "Mom." He says, "Oh, okay. How much is this costing us?" I say, "Nothing," and when he raises an eyebrow I add, "Really, nothing! Dad's letting us use his Jimmy, it's more comfortable for four to sit in and cousin's paying for the gas." He looks slightly amused and then slightly bemused. "Okay, but try not to spend too much. We really have quite a few coming for Thanksgiving this year. We aren't sure where things stand with finances quite yet, just be careful." I reply, "I will, you know me." He muttered something, I chose not to ask for a clarification.

Now the call to hubby. "Hi dear, did you catch anything?" He went out on a seafood expedition with some friends. "Yeah, 12 crab and we are headed out for clams pretty soon, how is your trip going?" I could hem and haw but this is like a band aid, you just got to rip it off fast and without thinking about it. I blab out the whole of the morning and the costs, so far, including the car rental. There was silence. "Who's card did this go on?" he softly asks. "I could tell you Kaden's but I don't think you'd go for that," I reply. The phone sighs, and sighs again and then again.

"Wait a minute and let me check to see if those prices are right." He calls back five minutes later. "Those prices for the parts and labor sound pretty close to what we would pay down here plus you'll have it done tonight, we'd have to wait about a week down here. Have it done." I thank him and my lucky stars. Call up the auto center and they start working on my dad's Jimmy.

An hour later cousin comes down without a passport. A child support debt that was supposedly all cleared up still has a stop order on his passport. No passport, even if he can possibly get a court document by next Monday showing that support is current, the passport office needs 10 days to clear. Cousin's non-refundable, non-transferable ticket is for the following Wednesday, five days from now. My head starts throbbing.

We leave downtown Seattle, headed south, at 4 pm. Uh-huh, 4 pm on a Friday! We reach Lakewood at 5:45 pm. My knuckles are white, lips pinched, jaws clenched, new lines etched into my forehead. Are we having fun yet???

The Jimmy is ready when we get to it and is running great. We leave the rental there and I am DONE being in traffic. My cousin sees a steak house and we all decide we are hungry for steak. That was, literally, another 40 minute adventure as we tried circling that blankity-blank-blank block in the traffic, to find the right lane to get us into the parking lot and once there to find a parking space because it was connected to a cacino. USUALLY when an eatery is connected to a casino the meals are moderately priced. HAHAHA! I wanted to leave when we got our menus. My YOUNG cousin was too embarassed, my mom too hungry and grandson was NOT getting back in a vehicle without a good stretch for atleast an hour. We paid $135 for dinner, plus tip. SOB, sob, sob.

Finally, we leave Lakewood at 8:15 and only had two more stops for leg stretches, rest stops and gas. We got home at about 11:55 pm after witnessing two cars try to run one another off the road in the worst case of road rage I have ever been an eye witnesses to and had another car erupt in a black cloud of smoke right next to us. I dragged myself into the house and stared at the emails which had piled up during the last 12 hours.

Story after story waiting to be written. Next week's appointments nicely falling into place (yeah, some real nice luncheons with great people) and a few yeses for interviews. But all I can really think about is how much money I spent on this "quick jaunt" to Seatte for something that I wasn't even supposedly a part of. Sigh, I hate vehicles, and cell phones, but see computer, nothing nasty about you! I love you! You are a wonderful and reliable computer. Be nice to mama! Be nice!

Man, don't I have a great husband?