Sunday Sept. 14: As the famed bard Ice Cube would say “today was a good day.” That being said it was not without its tests. I was reminded by my cousin (who by the way has graciously loaned me her home for this retreat) of some trials I faced while on the journey here. She has encouraged me to relate those as well as today’s trials and tribulations. “Can you just have tribulations or do they always have to come with trials?” (Hannibal Buress) She also reminded me that “it’s about the journey.” So here goes…
As I type this I have been waiting for AAA since 3:30 this afternoon. It is now almost 6:00 and the sun is beginning to set. My car is completely dead. The air is a chilly 63 degrees and dropping. Luckily I do have food. I am reminded of the first of the five stages in phase two of Joseph Campbell’s Monomyth or Hero’s Journey; The Road of Trials. The road of trials is a series of tests, tasks, or ordeals that the heroine must undergo to begin her transformation. These trials often show up in threes. Perhaps in today’s modern world these tests can show up as car trouble. Anyhoo today is not the first day of this trouble. Let me take you back to a week and a day ago.
Trial #1: Saturday Sept. 6. I left home in the early hours of the morning and was making very good time (read driving kinda fast) and by 9:00 a.m. was on the New Jersey Turnpike. I’m crusing along in the far left lane when I look up to see a white police SUV right behind me. I immediately slowed down and pulled smoothly over one lane to let the good officer pass. This has happened before and I’ve been relieved when the po po speeds on but this time he stuck right on my bumper. This wasn’t looking good. I maintained my speed and prayed. When the blue and red lights came on I pulled over to the right shoulder immediately and waited. Cars were whizzing by as the officer approached my passenger window. The usual drill; asked for my license and registration. I’m not one to try and beg my way out of tickets but I did throw a little “May I ask you why you stopped me officer?” his way. He said he had “got” me on lazer back at exit 11 going some exhorbitant speed. I thought “I didn’t even see you.” and in my mind’s eye he had been parked on the side of the road in a median and seen me tear past. I made that face that says “Wow! really?! Was I going that fast?” knowing damn well I was.
He asked me if I had any tickets or violations in Maryland. Once I assured him my record was clean he seemed to pause to consider. I think it was at this point that I was supposed to ask for leniency based on my previous good behavior. I just looked at him and him at me before he said. “Where are you headed today?” It was at this point that I should have said something like “To Yonkers to visit my grandma in a hospice and she only has an hour to live.” But instead I casually said “Martha’s Vineyard.” At least I refrained from adding “and I’ve got a ferry to catch so can you hurry it up?” He stared at me for one more minute before saying dryly. “Sit tight I’ll try to get you out of here quickly.”
I turned the engine off to conserve gas while I waited. It actually didn’t take him that long. Returning to my car he handed me a white piece of paper and said. “This is a summons to appear in court, but you don’t have to go because you live in MD but call this number here and they will tell you what to do.” When I tried to ask him how much it was he repeated that I should call the number, told me to “watch my speed” then beat a hasty get away. After he pulled off I unfolded the piece of paper searching for the fine amount. I saw it in tiny print $200?!! No wonder he wouldn’t answer my question and made a quick get away! He wasn’t trying to be there for the freak out. I took a couple breaths to calm myself before taking off again.
Trial #2: I turned the key in the ignition and only heard a clicking sound. NO!! I turned the key to the off position and took another breath. Maybe my energy and moving too quickly messed something up (this has happened before). Another breath, another try..click click click. My second thought was “that policeman sucked the life out of my battery!” After I got a hold of myself I figured out that I had left the lights on during my stop. I called the cavalry a.k.a. AAA. The third trial was a quick shot to the head when the dispatcher informed me that AAA does not service the NJTP. At this my stomach dropped as I saw all the cars zooming past and imagined myself having to flag someone down for help. I was mentally cursing the police out when I heard her say “They have their own service, I will connect you and they honor AAA.” Ok all hope was not lost. I sat waiting anxiously for the NJTP rescue vehicle to arive. My trip that had started out so cheerfuly was taking an ugly turn. I prayed that the guy would come soon so I could make my ferry and that when he did come it would just be the battery and not the alternator.
In about 30 mins a nice man arrived in a white van. I told him of my plight; the cops, the dead car, the ferry I had to catch. He understood and acted quickly. In no time I was on the road again singing “On the Road Again.” I drove the speed limit and even made the earlier ferry. Things were looking up but I knew my battery was weak and still had to deal with this. On Sunday, once safely in my digs for the week I called AAA again and requested the battery service. They must not have understood me because they instead sent a clown. He was a font of misinformation and as useless as teats on a bull, claimed he couldn’t check the battery as the car was now starting! Told me he didn’t have my battery anyway and since it was starting to call if it stopped. Oh, okay, I guess I will just pray that my car doesn’t die on some remote road on the Vineyard with no cell service.
For a while after this the car was starting fine so I stopped worrying about it but starting a couple of days back it was turning over a bit slowly. This brings us to today. After a good morning of sleeping in and working on my first draft I set out on a few errands. I had to go up-island to get a stash of Chilmark Chocolates, then to Menemsha again to collect some stinky quahog shells (to be cleaned and used for wampum to make jewelry), pick up dinner at Net Result (yes clam chowder!) and get home in time for the Big Broadcast at 7:00 on WAMU. It was a gorgeous sunny day, a little cool but divine. I enjoyed the scenic country roads on the way to Chilmark. Chilmark Chocolates is only open Thurs-Sunday so today was the day. I joined the line on the little open porch and eagerly awaited my turn. I am not a big choco-head but my friend Andrea had told me about this place numerous times so when I was here in July/August I had gone there with Al. I repeat, I am not a big chocolate fan but this chocolate is GOOD, really the best I’ve ever had! (The place also has an intersting story and if you are interested you can read it here.) I left the store happy, one errand down, now on to Menemsha and my shells. I would not stop long because of course you do not want to leave chocolate in a hot car.
When I turned the key the car said “click click click” This time I was not shocked. I just said to myself “Well it lasted this long and I’m far from stranded.” I thought of calling AAA but knowing how long they can take and wanting to get home I asked for a jump which I received from a very nice couple; Claudia and dont’ know her hubby’s name. I got some tips from them on service stations in Vineyard Haven and took off. My first thought was “Don’t stop at Menemsha for shells, just keep driving.” but my second thought was “ah what the hell! Just don’t turn off the car and don’t take too long.” My good parking karma was in effect because I got a space close to the trash heap of shells. Leaving the engine running I grabbed my trusty orange bucket and headed for the pile. I didn’t have time to be super selective and only filled it less than half way, threw the bucket in the trunk and was off again. The scenery was lovely but I couldn’t enjoy it. Damn, I don’t remember the road from Menemsha to Vineyard Haven being so long!
Finally on the edge of town I pulled into the NAPA store, left it running again and went in. Told the big red faced guy behind the counter my story. He tested my battery, told me it was bad and that he had my battery but they don’t install them. I went out to the car to call AAA and ask for the REAL battery service this time. I stressed that to the lady “I want the REAL battery service, not the drunk bastard you sent Monday.” (didn’t actually say that last part) She assured me that the person coming could test my battery, starter, and alternator and give me a new battery if need be. She told me the guy had been dispatched and would be there in 90 mins of less. I took off again. The voice in my head, that sounds a lot like my mom’s, said “Nicky, go straight home and wait for AAA.” The other voice, the little devil voice that sounds just like mine said. “Oh you have time and you need to get dinner in the house in case the battery guy doesn’t come in time or in case it doesn’t work.” My mom’s voice broke in again. “Eat the kippers you brought. There is plenty of food in that house. You aren’t going to starve.” But my voice won with “But you don’t have clam chowder from Net Result.”
That said I raced to Net Result. The gods were with me because I was the only one going through 5 Corners (that never happens). Left car running in NR parking lot and went in. No one in line there either! I saw my Chilmark jumpers Colleen and don’t know his name and was like “Helloooo” They said “How’s the car?” I told them it was outside running but I was working on it. We wished each other well and I was off again.
Back to the present. As I type this the AAA guy has come and gone. I have a new battery and piece of mind that my car will make it the 8-9 hrs home. I’ve had some chowder, listened to my broadcast and am ready to chill! Oh yeah I forgot to mention that I got back home by 4:00 and parked the car to wait for the service truck. So yes today was a good day. I passed the tests on the road of trials and made it home with my boon, or should I say boons? Chocolate, Shells, and Chowder.