I was on my way to Michigan, to a Dutch store, when the Jeep finally decided to give me trouble. It was really only a matter of time before something had to go wrong. Today was exceptionally hot, in the high 80’s, and the Jeep decided to throw off it’s serpentine belt like a string of Mardi Gras beads, leaving aside the highway before overheating and dumping some sort of metal wheel from the engine. The steering went whack and the Jeep was no longer functional.
It was a Sunday in mid summer so although AAA was called it would be a more than two hour wait standing aside a cornfield dying of the heat before someone showed up.
He was a big guy and sweating profusely. I was worried he might have a heart attack or something. He looked so uncomfortable! But once he was in the truck he seemed to be doing better. He talked to us and we told him what we were up to. He was sweet enough to call around to find a place that was likely to have the part I needed so I wouldn’t end up stranded for a week. The mechanic that AAA had initially told him to go to wasn’t even open on the weekends. So it was a 30 minute drive to a bigger city. He told me about Notre Dame and pointed out Touch Down Jesus as we drove by. He said he had two kids and that football here was huge. I thanked him as I walked into Sears.
I was set to deal with an old man who had taken the call earlier. He looked gloomily at the engine, three others did the same. They were all quiet, too quiet, and no one would really tell me what was going on. I got the distinct feeling that the Jeep was on some sort of life support and I was about to be asked to pull the plug. Eventually he said that it was an easy fix but he didn’t have the part, and that he couldn’t find anyone who did. He insisted it might be Tuesday or Wednesday before the car was fixed which was not an option I had. I was already just scraping by with the few pennies I had left. I had no money for a hotel or a rental or anything of the sort. Perhaps I’d be sleeping in the park tonight.
Eventually he asked if the guy had tried calling Advanced Auto Parts which we had already driven by. The guy said he did but they weren’t answering and must be closed. He said most of the places around here closed at 2:30. What? I had never heard of such a thing, mechanics having the same hours as a high school… and I grew up in a family of mechanics! All of them stopped working when the sun went down, only because of the dark, otherwise they’d be open even later. One of his coworkers heard the conversation and said, “They should be open! They’re usually open until 8 or 10 PM.” By now it was 4PM. He called again. This time they picked up and he proceeded to order an $85 serpentine belt which I knew should cost $35. He got a cheaper one. In the end it cost $230 and took an hour and a half to fix. I was soon on my way and driving towards Michigan, a state I had no real desire to experience — you see every person I have met in my life from Michigan has been a total bastard, people who are out to just fuck with you for no reason. I have talked to others who said the same thing – everyone they met from Michigan was someone to be avoided like the plague. Now maybe I just had a bum deal and met all the bad apples fleeing the state but I was more concerned I hadn’t and that there was something about Michigan that made the souls of many of its citizens rot at the core.
I ended up in Kalamazoo. I skipped the Dutch store and settled for a gas station where everyone was rude and odd. I left as soon as I could.
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