This has been a very interesting couple of weeks. I graduated from college two weeks ago this coming Saturday, I graduated from college. Everyone tells me that this is an incredibly amazing thing, but I really don't feel any different. I mostly just feel tired and ready to be home. Um, yeah, about that…
Like a good driver, I took my car into the shop to get it looked over a few days before leaving on a major road trip. This was made more urgent by the fact that something had started rattling in the back the day before. We were going on a short side trip, and then coming back through a few days later, so they had plenty of time to work on it.
When they looked at it, they said that the rattling was coming from the inside of the muffler, which had several broken pieces. In particular, he said it was entirely possible that the exhaust system would leak carbon monoxide into the interior of the car. So that most certainly needed to be fixed.
So they replaced three parts of the exhaust system, and they checked everything else. They noted that parts of the underbody were pretty rusted, and they said they might recommend looking at new cars once I get home. But they said that it should be fine to make the drive home. They...don't appear to have checked certain other parts. Like the battery. Or the alternator.
Then the day before yesterday happened. We were driving across Kansas. The middle of nowhere. Fortunately, NOT raining, for once that day. Suddenly, I noticed that my “battery” light was flashing. “Flickering” might be a better word, actually. So I pulled over. My family, in the car behind me, pulled over too, to see what was going on. My dad was a little frustrated that I turned off the car, because if it was a battery problem, then it might not have enough charge to start again. It did...that time. I got a little farther down the road, and my windshield wipers started shuddering, because they were losing power. And another couple of lights started flickering. And then I lost my spedometer, because the battery was trying to keep enough energy to keep going down the road.
So I pulled over again. This time, it wouldn't turn back on. So Dad jumped my car using the van. He said there were two options: either the battery had somehow lost charge, or it wasn't being recharged by the alternator. He said to try going again, and see if the alternator would keep the battery running for the remaining thirty miles or so left until we got to Salina, where we had a hotel reserved.
It didn't. I managed to get up to about 55 miles an hour. I think that's how fast I got; I only had my spedometer for about 30 seconds. Then it couldn't maintain 55 anymore, so it dropped to 45 or so. Then 35. At that point, I realized that there was no way I was getting to Salina. So I pulled over again. I thought it was only about a half mile, but Dad says it was more like three miles. Still a lot less than I had been hoping for.
Mom took my sisters on to Salina in the van, while Dad and I called AAA. They sent a truck out, and we got towed to a shop in Salina. They were closed by that point, of course, but they had a key drop, so we used that. Mom picked us up from the shop, and we got dinner and came back to the hotel.
The next morning, the shop called us. “Your alternator is definitely bad. We want to test your battery as well, but it's completely dead, so we'll have to charge it for an hour or so before we can check it. If it's older than two or three years old, chances are that it will need to be replaced anyways.”
Dad pointed out that the battery has not been replaced in the five or so years that we've had that car. He still wanted them to test the battery before committing to the replacement. They tested it. It was bad.
So they replaced the battery too, and told us we were good to go. There was one odd sound as we started, but it did not continue, so we kept going. So here we are; at our cousins' house. Half of us went home today, but Mom and one sister and I are staying for another few days.
I have now spent several hundred dollars more than I was expecting to spend on this trip, and spent rather more time waiting on my car to be repaired than I would have liked to have. And yet…
Yesterday morning, when I was sitting and waiting for the battery to be replaced, tacking an extra $150 onto the repair cost, I was looking at Facebook, and I saw the start of one of Human's of New York's stories. In particular, this story was a photo of a mother talking about her young daughter's struggle with stage four neuroblastoma. And I realized: there are quite a number of things that are worse than car problems, even when they end up costing multiple hundreds of dollars.
When we get home, we're going to take my car in to the shop we usually use. The mechanics in Mississippi had said that we might need to get a new car pretty soon. If that happens, we will have spent several hundred dollars on parts that were only used to drive halfway across the country once. They can be sold as almost-new parts, but we'll probably still lose about half of the cost, or more. But I don't have the struggle of having a child (or other family member) with neuroblastoma. If I have to get a new car, I will be very frustrated, but I won't be having to make heart-wrenching treatment choices.
I don't know what is going to happen with my car, but I do know this: there are far worse things that can happen than car trouble. I think this is another lesson in trusting God in the middle of uncertainty. I'm sure that it was not an accident that I saw that post, and had everything put into perspective for me. I don't know what will happen, but I am learning to be content waiting.