Every once in a while I notice something different. I react to situations differently than I used to. Instead of seeing the worst in people and what’s wrong with the world, what pops into my head are the silver linings. Sure, I have “oh shit” or “oh crap” moments, but they tend to pass fairly quickly these days.
A few weeks back I went out running errands. My list was pretty short, so I expected to pick up some groceries at one store, pick up a few other things from the local drug store, and zip home. We live in the country so I expected to be gone for about an hour and a half. Just before I turned off the boulevard by the grocery store, sitting in the center turn lane I smelled something wrong. It smelled like oil that had leaked and was burning on a hot engine. You know, the smell of an old beater that you have to add oil to every now and then. I assumed it was the ancient van in front of me.
I’d been having trouble with my rear window wiper blade wiping away the light rain as I drove down the highway, so once I parked at the grocery store I took some paper napkins and wiped off the blade. I thought it was weird that the window seemed oily, but that’s as far as those thoughts went. Walking up past the front of my car I noticed the smell emanating from the front of my car. Burning oil.
Crap. I needed to check under the hood but decided to get my groceries first. Stashing the few bags behind my seat, I popped open the hood, smelled the smell even stronger and then I saw it. Way down on an engine mount crossbar there was something puddled and shiny. I knew it wasn’t water. It had to be oil.
Ok. No big deal, my dealership was about a mile away or less, so I headed there. But as I drove, this time with the radio off, the engine began to sound funny. And when I stepped on the brakes there was an odd sound. Not the squealing sound of worn-out brakes, but an odd pulsing sound. My mind raced as I pondered if I’d lost engine oil or brake fluid, so I watched the engine temperature. As I sat at one light and crept down the boulevard in moderately heavy traffic, I saw the temperature gauge slowly rise. Not good. This meant engine oil. Then a red light of an oilcan lit up briefly and went out. Not good.
I remembered back in driver’s ed when they told us if you drove a car without oil in the engine the temperature would increase so quickly that the engine block would melt in less than a mile. The funny sound of the engine was getting worse, as were the sounds when I braked. Thankfully the brakes were working fine.
Could I make it to the dealership? Should I just turn into a store parking lot? I’ll take it light by light.
I passed one parking lot with a mile to go and by the time I went through a few more lights and was nearing my destination I stopped for a red light. The engine was sounding really scary and the flickering red low oil warning light was now almost steadily on. I gauged how long it would take to go the last half mile, with 2 more traffic lights, a three-way stop, and a fair bit of traffic, saw that the lane to my right was empty, and made a last-minute decision to pull over. There was a Park and Ride parking lot right beside me and I pulled in shutting off the car.
Phew. I wouldn’t melt the engine.
My husband was home, so I called him to let him know I was about to call for a tow truck to take me the half mile to my dealership. We have an auto club membership so the tow was free, and all I had to do was sit safely in my car and wait.
While I sat, I realized I hadn’t even checked the car’s various fluids to make absolutely certain it was engine oil that was leaking, so I went to the back of my vehicle to grab some paper towels only to discover the handle to open the hatch door was very oily. Oh! That’s why the rear window wiper wasn’t clearing the windshield! It’s oily. That makes sense now.
Once I had the paper towels I wiped the handle of the rear door and then popped the hood. Wiper fluid was fine, brake fluid was fine, radiator fluid was fine, and then I pulled the dipstick for the engine oil. There was no oil on it. I gave it a wipe, shoved it all the way back in, and checked again. It was dry. Yup. That’s the culprit. No oil. So glad I stopped when I did!
After calling for the tow I found out the wait might be as long as three hours. But the response time was usually closer to 45 minutes. No biggie. It’s a Friday with lots of people out and about, so it made sense they were busy. At least I’m parked in a safe spot and my engine is off. Besides, we switched phone carriers about a month ago and our new plan has unlimited data. I’d been watching a YouTube video before I left home and was able to watch the rest of it as I waited. Sweet!
This happened around lunchtime, and when I began to get a little bit hungry and needed a restroom, there was a plaza of stores next to where I’d parked, including a sandwich shop. Perfect! I grabbed some food, walked back to the car, and ate. Even though it was raining, it was a light rain and much needed at that.
After a few hours, I checked in with my sweetie who was home puttering around. He was standing by to come get me as soon as the tow truck arrived. Passing the time, I suddenly remembered I’d bought ice cream. Shit! And a second later I remembered the blanket I keep in my car that’s a great insulator. I’ve kept cold food cold and hot food hot. So I wrapped the ice cream. Besides, I thought, if it melts badly, the top is sealed and I can pop it in the freezer and refreeze it.
Passing the time, I realized we’d hit the three-hour mark and then some. When I’d originally called for the tow, the lovely customer service woman told me that if I hadn’t seen the truck by then I should call back, which I did.
Calling back, a man who helped me was also great and checked in with dispatch who let us know the truck was just leaving the call prior to mine and he’d be on the way soon. A moment later I got a text with a link showing me a map of the truck telling me it was twenty-four minutes out. It was so cool to be able to see the tow truck in real-time on a map as it came to me.
Knowing the dealership would be closing around the time the tow arrived, I called them to ask if they could still take my car if they were closed. Absolutely! Yes. I was assured the tow truck driver knew where to put my car and that there was a little station outside with envelopes and a key drop for my key. Great!
Right about the time I was starting to get chilly, I knew it wouldn’t be long until the tow arrived. I let my sweetie know he could leave home, and he arrived at the dealership just as my car was being offloaded from the tow truck. Grateful everything had finally worked out, I rode home, only slightly damp from the rain with my car in good hands.
The next day I got a call to find out that I’d stopped the car in time and there was no engine damage. The part that failed was a hose, which was straightforward to replace. And after making the repair they cleaned around the engine compartment and under my car to take care of the oil splatter, and put the car through the carwash to take care of the oil that splattered all over the back.
I picked up my beauty and drove her home as the engine purred.
Several years ago I would have gotten angry that I’d lost all the oil from my car less than 200 miles after an oil change. What a waste. I would have been irritated and impatient with the several-hour-long wait for the tow. I would have looked for someone or something to blame and would have complained about the cost of the repair. And I may have even driven the last half mile to the dealership, possibly becoming stranded in the middle of a busy road when the engine quit, risking fire and major damage.
But with every step along the way, I was thankful and grateful. Thankful this happened when and where it happened; not in the middle of the night, miles from civilization with no cell service. Thankful I was able to get a tow truck and that my husband was home and able to pick me up. Thankful the repair was done quickly and properly. And thankful we could easily afford it.
And it’s also not lost on me that I recently picked up a small fire extinguisher for my car fairly impulsively (or perhaps intuitively?). I carried one in my first car for well over a decade and after discharging it because it was years beyond its expiration date, had never replaced it or bought one when I got my current vehicle that I’ve had for thirteen years. (cue Twilight Zone music).
With all the healing I’ve done, there was a sense of peace. The lens I saw through was gratitude. All I can say is healing works.
*As I’m reviewing and writing my last edits, I just realized this happened only ten days before an unexpected drive across the state, around 5.5 hours each way, crossing mountains, and having no cell service in the pass. If this had gone down on our way home while we were in the mountain pass with no cell service, we could have really been screwed especially because they had scheduled a road closure due to weather, and we made it past the closure gate with three hours to spare. But the hose blew before the drive and happened in the most uneventful way possible. Thank you, Universe!!