The Sound of a Thunder


There ought to be a word for life’s roller coaster. I have never been much for rides and roller coasters are among the worst, but life keeps putting them in front of me.

Today, a wonderful thing happened. So unlikely and unexpected, I spent most of the day in shock and awe. Any of you, my dear readers, who have owned a car know how expensive and terrible their problems are, particularly as they age. My car has been a very good car. I’ve maintained it pretty regularly, and it in turn has required almost nothing from me that’s not what it deserved. Sure, some more expensive things here and there have to be repaired or replaced, but those are routine, as the miles add up. Honestly, I’ve few complaints. It’s a 2011 Kia Optima, and this past weekend I turned 100,000 miles on it. I turned 100,000 miles on the Hyundai I owned before it. They are made by the same manufacturer, and the cars are coming out pretty solid if you ask me. More on that in an article elsewhere, perhaps. The short version is, my regular service shop, which is not the dealership, told me that I needed to get the car in to the dealer immediately during my last visit, before I turned the 100K mile mark, which would put me out of warranty for the power train. There was Something Bad Thing Wrong with the engine, they said.

The dealer wasn’t convinced. With Bad Thing, they said, you get x, y and z, and we don’t see that. Maybe there has been oil leakage because of cheap filters. We’ve documented the problem so you’re covered under warranty no matter what. Drive it 700 miles, bring it back.

So I did, last week. They did some tests, sent some information to Warranty department, sent me away while they waited for a response. I called yesterday to follow up, nervous since I actually clicked over that 100K mark and was understandably nervous. Bring it back in, they said, Warranty wants more tests. Should take 1-1.5 hours. So I went in this morning, first customer. Waited. They want another test, it will take another hour. Ok. Now they want this other test. It will take 1.5 hours or so. Ok, I said. I worked from a tiny corner in the kiddie room in the customer lounge, as that was the only outfit I could find for a long time. It was not comfortable. But then someone moved their chair and I saw another outlet, yay. Meanwhile, I’d had no breakfast, nor lunch, and it was noon. I went up to inquire about possibly getting a lift from the shuttle guy to a lunch place, and they said well, you might want to wait on that, we just heard back from Warranty and I’m going to arrange a rental car for you because WE HAVE TO COMPLETELY REPLACE YOUR ENGINE.

WE HAVE TO REPLACE THE WHOLE ENGINE. THE ENGINE. REPLACE. UNDER WARRANTY. YES, IT’S COVERED. I had to ask her a couple of times to repeat it. I felt excited like I wanted to jump up and down, like I had won the lottery, but that seemed rude, like gloating, so I didn’t do that, but I did say “Holy fuck” because wow, this like NEVER happens. She laughed and said she’d come get me when the Enterprise guy was here to take me to my car.

So then finally the car and it was EIGHTY out and beautiful and sunny and even the parking lot at the shitty car rental place smelled like flowers and I didn’t even care that all they had to offer me was a pickup truck or a shitty little coupe with Texas plates that they had to wash first because it was grimy. And oops I forgot my car seat and had to drive back to the dealer where I was bowing and scraping realizing what they would be doing.

I realized at 1:30 I was starving, and went to a greasy spoon where the counter girl was amazing. She was loud and covered with tattoos and called me “baby” and “honey” and “sweetie.” She called everyone in the place that. Everyone was me, a fifty-something couple doing scratch-off lottery tickets, a cop and a mailman. You can’t make stuff up this good, I’m telling you. Baby Sweetie got me a wonderful greasy burger and fries and I smashed it in my face and told her about the engine, and Lotto Couple was just like “fuck, man, that’s amazing, you’re lucky.” They said I should play the lottery, of course. And I did, because why not.

I managed to get the car seat in the Texas coupe and in a while, went to pick up my kid at school. No matter how late I come to pick him up, he is never happy to see me because he’s having fun and it’s “too early.”

Today, when I got there he was walking towards the door as if he was coming to look for me. He stopped, his face all red from playing outside, and very softly said, “Yay” when he saw me. “What’s wrong?!” I told him, as I could see something was. “I think I have a fever,” he said. He was not playing outside. He didn’t feel good enough. In fact, he hadn’t felt good most of the day and had goosebumps. But he didn’t tell anyone, because I guess they are doing a lot of fun shit since it’s the last week and he doesn’t want to miss anything.

103.4 when we got home, 103.8 before Motrin and bed. And I had to send him to his Dad’s. His Dad had to come pick up that sad, hot little lethargic boy and take him away, because I have a corporate acting gig early in the morning and I can’t miss it, I can’t stay home with him and there’s nobody else to stay with him. Man, that hurts.

Maybe the high comes so you can deal with the low. Or maybe it’s just how things go, and I shouldn’t examine it so. But I can’t help it.


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