So last weekend (October 3rd-4th), on the way home from a fabulous weekend in Boston to see my brother in law Josh defend his thesis at Harvard, and to celebrate Sukkot with the Buchmans, Matilda, my wonderful Pontiac Vibe who has loyally carried me across the country, died ... Well, death is really too strong a word, as she was still limping along at 25 miles an hour on the side of the highway when we stopped her in Wallingford, but she was ailing pretty badly.
The day had begun ominously, as Matilda would not start in the morning as Aviva and I prepared to pick up Bucky and Tanya to go to breakfast, and we had to get Ted to come by and jump the car on the way to eat. We needed another jump to get started after the meal, and the real problems began soon after we got on the freeway (highway - there aren't freeways on the East Coast, everything costs here ...), as I noticed we were not getting much above 60 mph no matter how hard I stepped on the gas. Over the course of the next two hours and 120 miles, we slowed almost to a crawl several times as we hit hills (I have to say I never before noticed how hilly the ride up to Boston on 84 was) and eventually had to drive on the far right with the emergency lights on. In Wallingford, we pulled into a small shopping center, Aviva and Tanya went to a nearby market and Bucky and I stared at the engine in a manly way, speculating about the cause of the problem until AAA came.
Unfortunately AAA was not much help. The guy was about six, although he still knew more than both Bucky and I put together about cars, and he couldn't take us anywhere because it was Sunday and everything was closed. As a side note, does this not strike you as very dumb. I mean a lot of people drive on Sundays, why would garages have shifts where some people work on Sundays? Anyway, he jumped us again and we basically idled down the last stretch of 91 to New Haven, slugged into the parking lot at Union station (thank god for 1st level parking) and took the train home, us to NY and Tanya and Bucky back to south Jersey ... leaving Matilda in the parking lot.
Update 1, October 6th: We came back up to New Haven yesterday, and spent a good 3 hours waiting for the towing company my warranty hired to find a truck small enough to get into the parking garage. I called the company, American Auto Guardian, earlier that morning to tell them I was going to need a tow, but they could not arrange anything ahead of time, I had to be calling from the car. It would have saved everyone a huge headache to set things up ahead of time, but nope, regulations trump logic every time. The tow truck, along with its driver, who was basically a walking ashtray made of leather named Rick, were able to squeeze into the garage and help me push my car onto the truck, and then drove my car over to Bobs Buick, Pontiac, GMC ... basically a dealership for cars brands which no longer exist.
Update 2, October 14th: Well, it took nine days; and a number of depressing conversations ... and a ton of money, but Matilda is up and running. Bobs was great, they even picked me up from the Milford metro-north stop when I took the train up to pick up my car yesterday. Turns out the clutch was completely shot, probably from the previous owner driving a stick in SF, but could be from me driving a stick in NYC. In addition, and entirely unrelated, the cables attaching my battery to the car were not installed properly when I got a new battery, so they fixed that too. So Matilda is back and running, and the clutch is so sensitive now that I can barely drive her :) This was the first time I have had a car really break down and while it was a pain and quite expensive, I have been through worse .. and on the bright side, it got me very familiar with the Metro-North system in our area. Having said that, I hope I have fulfilled by breakdown quota for the next few years.