If you do what you have always done, you will get what you have always had.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Trapped in Terre Haute

The van shuddered and slowed. Alex, behind the wheel, looked at me, not scared but not sure of what was happening. He pulled over to the shoulder and I popped the hood. Fluids were all full; we had a half tank of gas--more than enough to get us to northern Indiana for my usual pitstop. The oil light had been flickering but the oil was full and new, and I was going to visit my on-call mechanic (Stepdad) anyway so I didn't worry about it.

A State Trooper pulled in behind us and called a tow truck. It took about fifteen minutes of intense prayer before it showed up to rescue us from the 18-wheelers flying past us. In short order, the van was loaded, the kids and I crammed into the back seat, and the driver took us on to Terre Haute for the discount price of $50/mile.

Donny at Sycamore Cheverolet was sympathetic; they were booked up until Friday afternoon. He suggested we go across the street to Fuson Pontiac and ask for Fred, so we did. Fred couldn't get me in that day but promised to look it over first thing in the morning, and their shuttle took us to the Knights Inn up the road.

Linda at the front desk had non-smoking rooms available and was kind enough to laugh and cut me a deal when I asked if they offered a 'broke down on the side of the road' discount. It wasn't Taj Mahal, but they had food close by and a safe place for us to spend the night.

I called Fred at 8:00 a.m.; he said it looked like a broken cam shaft. Ouch. I got repair particulars and called Stepdad, who gave me lots of ammo--things to look for, creative ways to trap potential money-hungry cheats, questions to ask about their diagnostics. I'm pleased to report I didn't need to use any of them. By ten we were back to the dealership. I asked Fred if he'd show me what he'd found, and he said, "Sure! C'mon back." Frankly, I was floored. Usually I get furrowed brows and, "Oh, no, you can't go back there; it's restricted."

Sure enough, the cam shaft was broken. My options were limited: Replace the engine ($3,000 for a rebuilt, and they could have it done Tuesday), or trade it in. Long story short, I left home in a paid-for '99 Venture and came back with an '03 Montana and a car payment. Of course, the Montana had just been traded in and hadn't gotten into the garage when I decided to buy it. They knew there were a couple minor things--trim and such--that needed to be fixed, so they got it into the garage while I did paperwork. By 11:30 the deal was sealed, and I took the kids to get some lunch. I decided to scrap the trip and head home; I was sure we wouldn't get to Mom's before midnight if we went on, and we had to head home Sunday anyway.

It was a long afternoon, but in the end they also replaced the alternator, put on new front brake pads and turned the rotors, and fixed something in the fuse box. They took my Excargo off the old van and put it on the new one, even though I told them not to worry about it if the hardware was giving them fits. It was smashed in the last move, and I was only taking to it Mom's to see if Dad and/or Stepdad could fix it.

I have to say that if I could choose one car dealership to transplant here, it would be Fuson Pontiac. Jack suggested trade-in choices within my price range and didn't try to tempt me with others that wouldn't work. Josh helped me narrow my choices from three to one, answered my gazillion questions, and laughed at my bad jokes. Curt made the financing a breeze; the paperwork was painless and done in under half an hour. It was even easier than when we paid cash for our first van back in Virginia. BJ answered my mechanical questions about why the cam shaft broke, and later he saved the day when he ejected the library's CD from the Venture after the battery had been disconnected and the fuse box torn apart. The shuttle drivers took us wherever we needed to go, and William (I think that was his name) even offered to have his wife cook us dinner when we were still there at 5:00. They all stayed overtime to get us back on the road.

I can't say for sure if the guys are like that every day. I'm sure they have off-days like the rest of us, and I'm sure they have their share of mean customers who get under their skin. I managed to stay up-beat and positive through the whole ordeal for three reasons: I prayed a lot, my kids behaved flawlessly, and the guys at Fuson treated me like a human being rather than a stranded, clueless woman. The whole experience was grace under pressure; that's the only way I can describe it.

I'm not shy about giving my opinions. I try to be as zealous (maybe more) with the good ones as I am with the bad. If you are anywhere close to Terre Haute, IN, and need anything car related, go to Fuson. They're going to take good care of you.

Fred, Jack, Josh, Curt, BJ and shuttle guys, thank you so much for helping us out and getting us home.


Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Just had to slide this in!

Crazy Aunt Purl wrote yesterday about a trip she took to British Columbia. She cracks me up anyway, but her last sentence was what got me today. "I do love me some lobster."

Since I'm creating new languages and more importantly, since I failed to learn an existing one so spectacularly, Southern phrases are more funny to me now. Some of them are firmly entrenched in my vocabulary and I don't even notice anymore. People who don't speak English, or Southern, get confounded by them. Try to translate "I do love me some lobster" into any foreign language and you'll see why I was so bad at learning! Learning the words and pronunciation is one thing; stringing them together into a sentence can cause real problems.

When we were getting ready to leave Italy, we stayed in the same hotel we'd staying in when we arrived. We got to know the manager pretty well since we pretty much lived there a total of six weeks. He thanked me for something one afternoon, and I said, "You bet!"

He looked confused and asked me to repeat it, and when I did, he looked more confused and asked, "Is that dialect?" That's when I learned that slang doesn't exist in Italian. They don't even understand the concept. Nice to know as I was leaving.

Now, I have to tell you that Max is a linguist if ever I knew one. He's Italian who speaks all the Italian dialects, English, French, and Spanish fluently, and was learning Swedish. To stump him with two words made me laugh! I explained that it was Southern for "You're welcome" and he was so excited. Apparently they had a family from Texas with reservations at some future point and he was thrilled to have that little phrase in his arsenal!

I'm finding that it's easier to make a language than to learn one. Now I understand how we got Elven and Klingon. (Should it scare me that my spell-checker recognizes Klingon?) Having said that, I don't think I could effectively translate "I do love me some lobster" into Dregl. Maybe Southern Dregl. Somebody stop me--I'll be coming home this weekend with Dregl Redneck jokes.


Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Off-line for a few days

Alex gets out of school tomorrow, so I'm taking the kids to Michigan for a few days to re-appropriate some of Dad's rendezvous gear and get the leaky candle lanterns he fixed for me. Today will be devoted to packing the van and taking care of pre-travel details so I don't expect I'll get much writing in. I've got my time goal met already, although I'm not quite there on word count. I'm not worried about that. When I set the goal, 35,000 words seemed a little steep. I have about 31,000 or so; I'm not going to sweat it if I don't crack 35k. The laptop is staying home--I know I'm not going to get any significant work done at Mom's. I am taking the language folders, though, and hope to get some quiet time on the deck at some point during the weekend. I restructured my goals for June; I'll still have word count and time goals, but I split them up so I can take weekends off. The plan for if (WHEN) I get behind during the week is to work on Saturday, but definitely take off Sunday. We'll see if that helps.

I had an epiphany the other night. I was trying to estimate the amount of time it would take to make all the Dregl words necessary to translate the prophecy in Sword and Scabbard. It's not a long prophecy; only 350 words or so. Many words repeat, so I didn't think, going in, that it would be as big an undertaking as it's been. I realized, though, that I don't have to translate the whole thing, necessarily. A full translation might actually be redundant; the whole Dregl version in one place could constitute info-dump. If I get the whole thing done, it's fine, but at least I have an out now. It's a lot more fun than I thought it would be, that's for sure.

OK, so y'all behave yourselves for a few days and I'll see you when I get back.

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