Friday, January 12, 2007

Just Shy of a Miracle

Nearly half the day gone and I'm just getting to work. At home.

By 9:30, I was almost to the office. By 10:30 am? Back home.

Today's ice "storm" was deceptively dangerous. For one, they weren't calling it an "ice storm" exactly. Just a "winter weather advisory." Some "freezing drizzle" in the morning, more after 6:00 pm. Perfect. I'll beat the "freezing rain" ("drizzle" I can handle, or so I thought) to the office and come home before it kicks up a notch after rush hour. As it turns out, we can only drive in freezing "drizzle" as long as nobody needs to stop or slow down. Driving along at 60 mph, thinking the road was fine and I'd be only a little late to the office, I suddenly found myself in need of brakes. A car up ahead, in the middle of 3 lanes (full of traffic), was inexplicably spinning in circles. Though I was forewarned by the weathermen, it still took me by surprise. More surprising was when I went to brake and my brakes immediately locked up. Look, Ma! No brakes!! I could see that others were just discovering this same fact as many around me fishtailed and I saw brake lights on and off, all of us pumping the brakes. And bracing ourselves for the impending, almost unavoidable, impact(s). My heart raced and I shut my eyes a time or two, but kept pumping the brakes. Fortunately, nobody hit anyone. The spinning car eventually found some traction and turned around, headed South again. After that, I immediatly saw three cars sliding off the road into various degrees of ditch, one nearly rolled on a particularly steep embankment. I pulled into the right lane so I could drive on the shoulder grooves if needed, and decided to turn it around and go home. I was so shaken that I could barely punch the numbers on my cell phone to report in to work. On the way back home, there was more evidence that I was not the only one caught by surprise this morning. Altogether, I probably saw about 15 cars in some kind of undesireable predicament. Nothing so bad that anyone got hurt (though I did hear of a serious accident on the other side of town involving the Jaws of Life). Thankfully, I made it back home without incident. And that may not have happened had it not been for what took place yesterday.

Because yesterday, I got new tires. My old tires had 79,971 miles on them, so they were pretty shot. I heartily endorse Michelins for their durability and performance. So I bought 4 new Michelins even though they were not cheap. I could immediately feel the difference last night when I drove home. I'm pretty sure that my bald tires would not have
performed nearly so well this morning. :-)

But that's only part of the miracle.

The other part came in the form of a free catalytic converter. When I took my car into the dealer to have the "check engine" light checked out, they told me that their computer could no longer talk to my car because I had replaced the stock radio and the installer of the new radio had not "pulled out the K wire." Yeah, so what? So there's a "K wire" in there, whatever. Go ahead and pull it if you have to. But I was told that without the special "stereo removal tool," they would not be able to get to the "K wire" without dismantling my entire dash which would be expensive, etc. And without pulling the "K wire," there would be no way for them to check the engine. And believe me, I asked, "So, couldn't you just like check the engine, you know, mechanically, the old fashioned way?" Um, no. No, we cannot. So I said, "Fine, I'll just pick up the car after you do the tires and oil change, and I'll take it back to the installer for K wire removal." Sounds like a very special operation.

About 3 pm, I received a phone call. It was the dealer. Hey, Gwynne, I have good news! That's not something you hear every day from your mechanic. Right, Jim (BTW, the VW dealer is right across the street from Gashland Presbyterian know that church, don't you)? Anyway, he said that they took the car down the street to a stereo shop that was able to remove the radio, pull the K-wire, and then the dealer was able to hook up communications to the engine. Turned out I needed a new catalytic converter. And the best news? VW warranties the catalytic converter up to 80,000 miles. And as I already noted, I was at 79,971 on the odometer. Had I even driven as far as my own stereo shop and returned to have the light checked, the warranty would have expired. Things like this don't usually happen to me. I was prepared to spend a lot of money to get my bug out of hock. As it turned out, all I had to pay for was the tires. What a great day!

Okay, back to work...gosh, I love "working" at home. ;-)

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At 12:48 PM, January 12, 2007, Anonymous jennifer said...

wow. some car angel was looking out for you. 29 miles to spare....that's gotta be some kind of record.

At 2:22 PM, January 12, 2007, Blogger LZ Blogger said...

Gashland Presbyterian Church? One of my old favorites! We are supposed to get 12-18 inches of snow this weekend... so as they say, "IT COULD BE WORSE!" ~ jb///

At 2:53 PM, January 12, 2007, Blogger beth said...

Yikes! Glad you're ok and that no one hit anyone in that mess! Yay for new tires, things under warranty and most especially angels who are very good at braking on ice.

At 4:14 PM, January 12, 2007, Anonymous Jim said...

Not only do I know that church, I know that VW shop! They had my first Cabriolet (back in the early 90's) for a whole week checking out my oil light, which was flashing.

I'm very glad that you're check-engine-light free, and more importantly, that you are safe and unharmed. Your post was frightening!

We're only supposed to get rain here, and not the freezing kind. But I still have to deliver in it.

At 6:25 PM, January 12, 2007, Blogger Gwynne said...

Jennifer, I'm thankful for the angel. And if I was smart, I would have asked them to check for everything else that was still under warranty just in case. ;-)

JB, you know that church also?! Oh, yeah, we've already established that you are stalking me (or I you). ;-) And absolutely, it could be worse. Thank God I'm at home. Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow.

Beth, you ain't kiddin.' Their braking skills are impressive. ;-)

Jim, no kidding? Small world, isn't it? I still have a "check engine" light blinking in my Tahoe though, so not completely "free" yet, but with electrical tape I don't have to look at it. ;-) What do you do when you have to deliver in the ice (at least you have 4X4 for snow...that will prove a real blessing, but ice is nasty!)?

At 7:10 PM, January 12, 2007, Blogger Stephen said...

Goodness. Thank God for miracles!!!

At 8:18 PM, January 12, 2007, Blogger Janie said...

Wow, Gwynne, I'm glad you're okay! And thankful you bought new tires, and also, for your new catalytic converter!!

At 3:01 AM, January 13, 2007, Blogger Rach said...

Glad you are safe Gwynne and that you get to work from home too! God is looking out for you!

At 8:40 AM, January 13, 2007, Blogger Foo said...

One of the things I particularly dislike about Texas is its non-committal attitude toward winter precipitation. Be snowy or be rainy. Just make up your mind. Don't be freezing rainy.

Even that wouldn't be so bad if all the native Texans and native everything-south-of-the-borderans would just stay off the freaking roads. I don't like icy roads, but as my DNA all comes from The North, I at least have the genetic predisposition to gently steer into a slide and to stay off the brakes so I just skate safely across slick overpasses. I'd manage just fine if I didn't have all the Bubbas and Texas prom queens out there playing bumper cars in their monster trucks and Miatas, respectively.

But I digress. I'm glad you made it home safe. I've got the same decision to face on Monday, if we get the freeze that's predicted. Our office doesn't bother to decide whether we'll be open or not until about an hour after I've begun my commute. I always have to roll the dice, because if I don't head out at my usual time, it's going to take me at least two hours to get to work once any icy rush hour has gotten into full swing.

Or spin.

At 8:50 AM, January 15, 2007, Blogger Eric said...

Another testimony to clean living. ;-)

Glad you're safe, and I hope you're staying warm. Looks like this weather's going to be around for a while. We had a windchill of near zero this morning, even down here in "the tropics."


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