Let me tell you something about learning experiences. On the surface: they suck. Underneath…well, at least you’ve learned something new! …Right?
Buckle your seat belts. It’s quite an involved story…
Some background: On Sunday, I woke up to find that my car battery was dead. Swollen, dead. That’s a whole different story, let me tell you – suffice to say, my mom came to the rescue. And I met John, the guy who doesn’t actually work for Autozone but does various minor repairs for Autozone customers. Very interesting character. Anyways, I replaced my battery. And I drove away, oblivious to the impending troubles involving my car…
Tuesday, 8am. North Decatur Road. What is going on with my radio?
The first sign of disaster as it strikes is my radio. It flickers on and off, and I feel my stomach drop – because as I push the power button to the radio on and off again, my car begins to slow. It’s gradual at first, just barely not accelerating as I pass through a flat stretch. But as I start up a small hill, the slowing is more obvious, and I realize that no matter how much I push the gas, my car will not speed up. I try to calm my breathing as I put on my flashers and pull to the side, just in time for my car to roll to a stop.
I put on my flashers. Only one works, and just barely – and then it dies. It’s 8am, and the morning traffic is rushing by on North Decatur Road. My car has stalled.
My Crazy-Ass Roommate and the Fearless Israeli Tow-Truck-Driver named Ronnie.
Stranded on the side of the road, I call my roommate, Shelby, in the hopes that miracles really do happen and maybe, if she jumps it, everything will be magically fixed. She races towards me and defies a few traffic laws to pull up in front of me. But…the car would not start. Surprised? Not so much. So, I call a tow truck.
An hour later, Ronnie pulls up. He is short, rotund, and greying at the temples…but he is fearless. He runs out into traffic and opens my door to shift the car in neutral, roll it up to his truck, and attach it to the wheel lifts – all in the face of morning traffic, with cars swerving out of the way and honking angrily as they pass.
Hometown Mechanics and a multitude of Judge Judy Shows.
At Five Star One (the auto repair shop), there is news: it’s the alternator! And, of course, the alternator has drained my brand new battery. The men at the repair shop explain that the battery is shot, and that one of the cells is probably damaged. I protest – I’ve just bought this battery! But they insist that the battery is bad, and that I will need to replace it. Never fear, though – they will loan me a battery to drive to Autozone to replace my (brand new) destroyed battery, which shouldn’t cost me anything since the battery is under warranty and it’s only two days old. I just have to get the alternator fixed first: a repair which will cost a grand total of $500.
This is when I call my hometown mechanic, Matt. What would we do without Matt? I explain the situation and what the mechanics have said, and he does a price check on the cost of the alternator repair. Everything seems fine, so I sit down to wait.
And boy, do I wait. First, I watch some Judge Judy knock-off shows. Then, I finish the novel Falling Man by Don DeLillo. Then I watch some more Judge Judy knock-off shows.
Then, I call into my second job and let Knight-in-Eternally-Shining-Armor-Andy(not the dog) know that I won’t be making it in to work. Of course, as a Knight-in-Eternatlly-Shining-Armor, he volunteers to skip class to cover for me. He also offers his truck in case I need it, but I dismiss the offer – secure that my car will soon be fixed. A little overconfident, maybe.
And then…I watch some more Judge Judy knock-off shows! By the time the alternator is fixed and I’m ready to go to Autozone, I’ve watched more TV than I’ve watched in the past month. And let me tell you…it was some bad TV.
Autozone – wait, what?
I drive down to Autozone and bring my battery in; when I explain that I want a replacement, however, they explain that company policy requires them to test the battery. And when they test the battery, the Spiffy Little Computer tells them to just charge the battery and put it back in. I protest slightly – but they insist that it is company policy, and so I agree. Moreover, they offer to test my alternator with their spiffy little computer to make sure it works – and seeing as I’ve been through the ringer with cars and auto repairmen before, I agree. A test would be nice.
So, they charge my battery, replace it, and test my alternator. And they tell me that my alternator is damaged.
That’s right. My alternator is damaged. You know — that one I just replaced? Which cost $500? And my entire morning?
I drive back to Five Star One.
It’s the Battery! No, the Alternator! No, the TV!
Five Star One explains that Autozone is crazy. And to prove their point, they show me a voltage meter — they show me the voltage reading of my battery (in the red zone), and the voltage reading of a new battery (in the green zone).
In short: the Spiffy Little Computer was wrong.
Moreover, the damaged battery has now actually damaged my new alternator. So, while the new alternator was not damaged when I drove it down to Autozone to replace the battery, the very act of testing the alternator using the old battery (which Autozone volunteered to do to check on the validity of the replacement alternator) has destroyed my new alternator.
Incredulous, I call Matt (trusty local small-town mechanic!), and he confirms that the story does not sound fishy and is, in fact, a likely chain of events. My new alternator is damaged. And I’m back to square one.
I sit down in the lobby to wait on the second replacement alternator. Meanwhile, a TV repair man from Comcast has come to test the receiver, which seems to not work on the upper channels. He claims, however, that the TV is bad, and not the receiver box. The owner of the auto repair shop, however, insists that the TV is fine and it must be the receiver. Do I hear an echo? Wait, we were talking about my alternator, right?
Moose. The Tow-Truck-Driving one.
It is now 3:30pm, and I am in danger of missing my third (and final) shift of work for the day, so I call Autozone in an attempt to ensure that when I arrive again, they will merely hand me a (new) battery and take my old one, no argument. Five Star One, being made of stand-up citizens, has lied to the parts provider to get a second alternator for free – but I doubt they’d be so kind a second time if I returned with a twice-damaged alternator. However, Autozone insists on following the same protocol as the first time, and when I protest…they hang up on me.
Enter Moose. Not the dancer/DJ moose whom we all know and love, and not a furry creature with large antlers. No, this is the Tow-Truck-Driving Moose from northeast Georgia who has a serious penchant for “pritty” girls (no shit, that’s how he spelled it).
Moose spends the next hour and a half posing as my husband and fighting with Autozone about my alternator and battery. And over the course of this hour and a half, he manages to convince Autozone to not only replace my battery without question, but to pay for the replacement of my second alternator. But, if you remember, Five Star One already got that for me for free…so Moose has, effectively, scored me a free alternator.
But wait! There’s still a Gay Bar!
By 4:45pm, the (second) new alternator still had not arrived. Closing was in 15 minutes. And I was without a car. So, I call the Andy (also known as the Stupidly-Fantastic-Knight-In-Shining-Armor-who-Should-Learn-to-Have-Flaws), and I try not to bite my tongue as I ask him to not only loan me the truck he offered, but also to pick me up because I am stranded.
He googles a nearby bar and tells me he’ll meet me there as soon as his roommate is out of class. So I grab my purse and my coat, and I walk down the road.
I walk into Tripps and order a coke. The bartender looks at me –
Just a coke?
Yeah. Just a coke. It’s been a shitty day.
Wouldn’t that mean you want alcohol, if it’s been a shitty day?
I don’t drink.
Why are you in a bar, then?
Car is dead, sitting in the auto repair shop. Waiting for my friend to pick me up.
You do know this is a gay bar, right?
…Well, that explains a lot.
By 6pm, Andy and his roommate Josh finally show up to the rescue. I take them to the Rusty Nail, get a good hug from Don Crawley, and buy dinner for the two awesome guys who rescued me. We then drive back to Andy’s place, and he hands me the keys to his truck.
Learning experiences suck. But look at the adventure I’ve had today! Still – regardless of the overall positive end to my long stressful day, I think I’ve had enough learning experiences for now…
A special thanks to DJ Moose, John from Autozone, Israeli Tow-Truck-Driving Ronnie, Stephanie, Johnny from Five Star One, small-town-mechanic Matt, Tow-Truck Moose, and SFKiSA Andy. They have all been beyond nice and helpful and awesome, despite the fact that none of them were ever obligated to go out of their way for me. And an especially grand special thanks to my Mom and Shelby, who also went above and beyond, just because they love me…and because I called in a panic.