The Vacation Day the Wasn’t

Oh how I had it planned. Everyone showered and ready to go. Just jump out of bed and we would be off. I needed a road trip – bad. I had even made tea the night before and one of my giant ice cubes in the freezer. We were ready to go ‘ramming.’

I visited and checked a few of the cities we save for road trips and picked the one which would be the coolest – Boone. Yay. I like the ride to Boone and it was going to be one of those cloudless, Carolina blue-sky days with a high temperature of only 80 degrees up there. Friday was scheduled to break records all over the region, so yesterday was the one day this week to wander without being cooked. (photo shared via Creative Commons from Allison’s Flickr stream)

Breakfast was quick. Leftover cold pizza for me – hadn’t had that in ages. A piece of cheese for mom, cold pizza for breakfast grosses her out. By 8:06 we were pulling out of the driveway – one of the few pre-nine-o’clock exits we’ve managed this whole year.

Shucks, had to stop for gas first so that added a bit of time. But, we were off into the wild blue yonder and we were going to the ‘real mountains’ for the day.

We play a bit of chicken with a semi to merge onto 26 and head off towards Asheville and I-40. We’re up to 65, yep, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it, and I hear this strange whistling noise. Figuring a window must be open, I tried closing all of them. Alas, the whistle remained. I opened my window, and the whistle remained unchanged. Closed my window and Mom finally asked what the heck I was doing. Then I told her what no one wants to hear while riding in a car going 65 mph down a major freeway – sounds like something’s wrong with the car. And of course, we were in one of the longest stretches between Hendersonville and Asheville where there’s no exits. The next safest place to pull off the road is the truck weigh station.

As I am frantically looking around to ensure that we, in our little Camry, don’t get run over by an 18 wheeler, I notice a part of my windshield is flapping around in the wind. Don’t look now Ma but the car’s falling apart.

So, not even sure whether or not I would get a ticket for driving in there, I head up the exit and into the weigh station. I pull around the scales and park near a pair of state police vehicles.

I open my door and sure enough the trim around my side of the windshield is coming off. It’s a piece of metal about 30 inches long with a separate piece of foam-like backing. I’m looking at three empty holes where screws or rivets should be and see nothing that would hold the trim in place. It was still slightly held in place by the rubber trim but otherwise it was completely off of the car.

Just about the time we decide to try and call AAA, a state trooper comes out of the little house for the scales to investigate what two women in a Camry are doing in his weigh station. He was very kind and looked over the car. He removed the trim the rest of the way and assured us that we should be fine to go back on the road and no, the windshield was not going to fall out. He reminded us that there was a Toyota dealership up the road towards Asheville and with a beautiful smile wished us well. (Without a doubt, that trooper was a great ambassador for North Carolina. But, Mom and I agreed that the smile hid a fierce and powerful force to be reckoned with. lol)

Again, there was a bit of zigging and zagging to go around the trucks and get back on the freeway. All the while Mom’s fussing, don’t go too fast. Don’t hit any bumps. Don’t zig and zag. After what seems like 30 miles instead of 13 we arrive at the dealership. Little did we know that we had somehow entered a rabbit hole, a Kansas tornado or some other dream-like state.

I purchased my Camry in San Antonio. There are over 1 million people there and the car dealerships were in great competition with each other. Any service, even an oil change, would include a free car wash and vacuum. Haven’t had that kind of service anywhere else. The little Toyota dealership in Hendersonville can usually get me in and out fairly quickly and the folks are quite nice. But, alas, I wasn’t in Hendersonville anymore, I think I was somehow transported to Oz.

As big as the dealerships were in Texas, the one in Asheville would dwarf most of them. Strangely, you have to make a U-turn to go into their parking lot. Then the next challenge is to figure out where the service area is. We go to the first area that says service only to be told, “Oh, no, this is the wrong service area. You have to go the the main service area.” I looked around a lot that looked like a small city and asked where I needed to go. I was told to get on the main road, yep, there’s a two lane road to get from one part of the dealership to the other; and follow it around to the other side of the building.

We pull up and see a fairly long line of cars in front of us. Truly heartsick and thinking that our cool summer day in the mountains was slipping away from us, we waited for the service intake person. She was quite nice. First question was did we have an appointment. Well, gee no. I hadn’t planned for my car to come apart on the freeway at 65 mph this morning. She smiled and when I showed her what happened, she went ooh, ahh, never saw that before, have to ask about whether or not we can fix it. Mom and I thought how could they possibly not know if you they fix it. It’s not like it was a custom modification or something. It’s a standard part of the car.

We waited at least 10 minutes for her to come back. She brings a fellow who may have been her boss. Again, ooh, ahh, never saw this before. You know we don’t do windshields was mentioned several times. You know we don’t do body work was also mentioned a few times. Huh? A factory installed piece of my Toyota falls off of my car while we’re going 65 mph and the Toyota folks don’t know how to put it back???

They suggest having one of the technicians take a look. So after another wait, here comes one of the mechanics. Again we get the ooh, ahh, never saw that before. Gee, he says, looks like the rivets fell out or broke. Golly, I never would have guessed. I just smile and shrug instead of screaming like a banshee. The assumption is that the windshield was recently replaced and those folks broke the rivets. Yep, the windshield was replaced – over 10 years ago. Then the next theory they float out is that someone must have done it on purpose. Oh yes, if I want to damage someone’s car, the first thing I think of doing is breaking the three rivets that hold the windshield trim in place.

After much hemming and hawing, they say they could take a look but couldn’t guarantee anything. I suggested we call Toyota. The fellow took that as a great personal insult. “Why would we do that, it’s not Toyota’s fault here?”

I quickly respond with, “Well, perhaps it’s something they have actually encountered before and they might know how to fix it?” I can feel the hrrumph even though he says nothing in response to that. Again, I firmly affix a smile on my face instead of launching into a full raving lunatic meltdown.

So, the fellow reminds me that they are crazy busy and that I don’t have an appointment. Well, gee, I say again, “I didn’t plan on my car flying apart at 65mph.”

We walk over to his station and he shows me the daily appointment list. We’ve got all these people with appointments ahead of you. You don’t have an appointment, he reminds me again. So, I finally ask him for the bottom line, when do they think they could get someone to try and fix my car. He shuffles the papers, glances at the computer screen and says oh, it couldn’t possibly be before 2:30. It was 9:30 by this time. Over 5 hours to sit in the dealership and wait for a maybe we would have time and maybe we could figure out how to fix it? So not cool. Everyone had been nice but they were really making it hard for me to refrain from giving them a reason to call the state trooper to come a drag me away.

So I ask him if we could call the dealership in Hendersonville. Again, he must have seen this as a personal insult to his abilities. Then he tells me that I can call them if I want. I tell him that I don’t have a phone – I truly don’t have one. I thought he should call. After all don’t the two dealerships ever work together on parts and repairs? He calls them. They’re not slammed. They say to come on in.

So, after we manage to find our way out of Toyota city of Asheville, we head back towards home. At this point I am almost maudlin over the death of our Boone adventure and the idea of having to spend hundreds of dollars and maybe buy a new windshield to get my car fixed.

Again, once we get up to speed on 26, Mom’s fussing, “Oh go slow, don’t hit the bumps too hard. Be careful!” While it does seem like the windshield wasn’t going to just pop out, we keep looking at it waiting for it to fall off anyway. At this point, we’re not even sure if it can be fixed. And, we’re also beginning to realize just how horrific things could have become. If that 3 foot long piece of metal had flown off of my car at top speed, we could have killed someone or several someones.

So, familiar faces come to the car when we arrive in the Hendersonville Toyota dealership. Again, we get, ooh, ahh, never saw this before. I found the one of the broken rivets. The mechanic immediately states it’s way too small for the holes in the trim. With a whole lot less fussing and mussing, we’re told that they will try to fix it and get us back on the road.

Off we go to the waiting area. Just in time to see a bat fall from the roof of a cave to the ground below, only to be immediately attacked and eaten by millions of cockroaches. OK, so it could be worse. We could be the lucky cameraman who got to film that and walk among all of those creepy crawlies in a dark cave. But, my car fell apart and I can’t go to Boone. Picture a grown woman with her bottom lip stuck out like a petulant child and you’ve got a pretty good idea what I must have looked like sitting there in that waiting room.

So, we settle in for what could be a several hours-long wait. At this point we don’t even know if they can put my car back together.

After about an hour, I hear my name called by a fellow holding my keys and the service slip. Well, they either fixed it or have given up. I walk up to him and see the charge for the day in a big circle. Damn, they gave up, no way they fixed it for that. He says, “All done.”

I said, “What? You fixed it? Really?”

He laughs and says, “Yep” and then apologizes for having to charge me for half an hour of labor.

No new windshield. No having to take half the car apart. And no multi-hundred dollar bill. $41 plus tax. OMG, surely not. I started laughing and he thought I had gone loony-tunes on him. I’m not a happy camper that my car fell apart while zooming down the freeway, and I’m broken-hearted that our vacation day is toast but woo-hoo, they put my car back together for only $41!

We get back into the car and sigh about the horrors that could have been and the loss of what might be the last cool and sunny day until fall. It’s after 11 now. Way too late to resume our trip.

We head off to Greenville, SC. Stop at a pair of thrift stores, have lunch at our favorite place – the cafeteria by Bob Jones University and make one more stop. A fabric store that has on their sign that they’re having a huge $1 remnant sale. I need a little piece of upholstery fabric and since that’s what they specialize in, we stop. The girl asks us what we’re looking for and well, I just blurt out that I need a little piece of fabric to cover a stool and asked her where the $1 pile was. She informs us where the pile is and warns us that we have to buy whatever’s left on the bolt. Some have only a yard or so but others have 5 or 6. My turn to go hrrummph.

We wander over to the pile anyway and see an assortment of the dreariest, darkest, boringest fabric we’ve seen in ages. Mom is not happy. I’m not happy. Feeling like a bit of bait and switch went on, we decide to leave. On the way out we see the absolute perfect fabric. Still angry over the ugly “huge $1 fabric remnant sale” that wasn’t, we check the price. $28 a yard. Uhm, no. And double no after being lured into the store for what we saw was a bit of deceptive marketing.

We pull in our driveway and count the day as a success. The car was put back together for a relatively small amount of money. We met some special people. We had a nice lunch. We didn’t kill anyone with flying windshield trim and I didn’t try to wrap that piece of trim around anyone’s neck.

Oh well, Boone will just have to wait for another day.

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