Sunday, July 24, 2011

Dinner and...?

Friday, July 22, was my loving wife Val's birthday, and the financial difficulties we are experiencing almost prevented me from taking her out to dinner. Fortunately, the day before, a freelance check arrived and I could at least afford to take Val somewhere.
We decided to go to Dug's Dive, a waterfront spot Val enjoys the food and scenery at, but when we got there, using Val's car, we were told that we had a choice of at least a half-hour wait for indoor seating, or we could immediately sit out in the sun. With the temperature still about 90 degrees and Val's MS causing further hardship in extreme heat and humidity, we decided to go elsewhere.
Our next try was Old Man River's on River Road in Tonawanda, and things went much better there. The crowd was not too bad, we were able to order right away and Val really enjoyed her order of steamed clams. My food was pretty good as well, and the scenery, breeze and cover from the sun made for a fine eating/lounging environment.
We eventually headed for home, at about 7:15-7:30 p.m., and that is where the real, um, fun, began. We drove south on Route 190 for a bit, and we were between the Scajaquada Expressway interchange and the Peace Bridge exit (our exit) when our car started to feel weird, and then would not accelerate, despite my depressing the accelerator repeatedly, both firmly and pumping it. The car did not lose power, but was obviously losing speed, and I pulled over in the area that used to be the old toll area, a little more than a mile before the Peace Bridge exit. The car's battery was working, and we were able to use the warning lights, but the car would make little more than a "whirring" sound when I tried to start it, after turning off the engine after we got off the 190.
As if this wasn't bad enough, we forgot to bring our cell phone with us and I hadn't renewed our AAA membership when it recently expired, because it was too expensive. We had recently changed auto insurance companies, and while I had planned to add the 24-hour roadside assistance plan (very affordable), I hadn't done that yet. So, with Val reasonably safe in the car off the road, I set off walking down the 190 to the Peace Bridge exit, and possibly a nearby friends' house.
After briskly walking the more-than mile to the exit, I then walked the quarter-mile or more to where it hit Porter Avenue, and went left toward where Porter bends and heads toward Symphony Circle and Richmond Avenue. At this point, I realized that I had not brought my house key or car key off my key chain with me, and hoped I could somehow climb in the house. Of course, no one was home at our friends' house on Porter, so I kept going, turned left at Jersey, which ran on a diagonal to Richmond Avenue and cut out some time and distance, and eventually walked the rest of the way home.
This estimated 3.25-3.5-mile walk took about an hour, maybe less (no watch, either), and when I got home, I checked to see if our neighbors were home; sadly, they weren't, so I checked our windows, found one I could get through if I could find a ladder to reach it, and went into the garage. I found a painting ladder and moved way too much crap off it so I could carry it around and try to get in the window I could access. I had no idea of this would work.
As I came around the corner of the house, I saw my neighbor, Jim Whitford, carrying his standup bass up his stairs; he had just gotten home with his wife, Lynn O'Meara, from playing a gig. Thankfully, he had a key to our house, and let me inside; I immediately grabbed Val's key chain, which has her house key, but none for my car. Whitford offered to drive me back if needed.
I next needed to call for a tow truck and then get back to Val; I called our auto insurance agent and added the 24-hour roadside service to our plan; sadly, it would not start, by company rules, until the next day. It was about 8:45 p.m. at this stage. I told the person at our insurance company this, and she said she could contact a tower and put me in touch and arrange for it at our expense; as she was doing so, she realized that the 190 is a restricted state thoroughfare, and that I would have to talk to the New York State Police. She connected me to the State Police, who took down the information and said they would dispatch a truck, at our expense, to get Val's car off the 190.
I headed out the door and approached another moment of truth; I hadn't had to start up my car with the new keys I got made during the winter, and hoped that they would work so that I would not have to bother Jim. Lo and behold, the first key I tried worked on the first try, and I was off, with a water bottle, to get Val. She was rather happy to see me, both for security sake and because she was figuring out how she would be able to, um, relieve her bladder if I was gone much longer.
The tow truck pulled up a minute after I got there, and in a matter of a moments Val's truck was on its bed and the driver followed me to our house, where the car is right now. It will be towed to the place we plan to get the repair work done tomorrow morning, and we hope and plead that it will not cost too much money, since we are at the end of our financial margin.
A final note to this problem/comedy of errors: My passenger-side front door will not open all of the way, so Val is really enjoying having to climb over my gear shifter and other parts of the interior to her seat while she has to ride in my car.


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