I normally don’t take vacations in the summer. I don’t like hot weather and don’t feel particularly needful to travel. Besides, if I did, my kids are homeschooled and can go to school everywhere, even on the road. So if I want to travel, it will be late Autumn or early winter, when I’m happiest with the weather and season.
Nevertheless, sometimes I have to take a vacation day in summer. Or late spring, I suppose. Like yesterday.
As many of you know, this past weekend was the Memorial Day weekend. I had, as I mentioned on Friday, every intent to simply edit my WIP and make great progress toward completing the writing and moving on to creating the cover for it. But, as is often the case in my life, I got thrown a curveball.
Friday night, the parking situation around here was terrible. The complex is seal-coating the parking lot in blocks. Our block was early last week. This past weekend, a block was done which made a lot of idiots decide they should park in our parking lot instead of on the street like all the other, decent people did. When I left to go grocery shopping – at my wife’s insistence, by the bye – there were a handful of spots left around our apartment.
Not so much when I got back. The upstairs neighbors, whom, for the sake of this post we’ll call “Pooheads”, took my parking space. In fairness, we don’t have reserved or assigned parking. So it’s first-come, first-served. I got punished for leaving. Rather than lug groceries from the next nearest spot (there was only one left, about three spaces down and across the parking lot, which is farther than it sounds, trust me), I put the car in park and popped the flashers on. I blocked the Pooheads in and we unloaded our groceries. Unfortunately, it wasn’t a mammoth, epic shopping trip which requires half an hour to unload, but still. So that finished, I had to park the car.
I did, and noticed the brake pedal was very unresponsive and “mushy.” It took a lot of pressure to engage the brakes. The brake light stayed on even when I released the parking brake and feather-tapping the pedal didn’t seem to do much. (More on this in a moment.)
The next day, I noticed the Pooheads vacated my parking spot, so I went out to move the car. I noticed a wide, brownish, almost muddy trail running from under the car to the curb. I figure the heavy thunderstorms we had did something, knocked rust loose, maybe even caused the brake issue by doing so. Hey, the car’s sixteen years old, and has issues. Not too far-fetched to think some of it’s held together by rust. Or something.
But, there’s a tiny puddle under the car, and when I dip my finger (ick!) into it, it’s a rusty-brownish color. I don’t know what it is, but I wondered if it might be brake fluid. I figured, hey, maybe it’s a slow leak, and I can fill up the fluid and hold off having to find and repair the leak (which will cost money and time) for a while. So, with my nerves jangled and ravaged – hey, brake work on my car, with almost no stopping power? yeah, I started to get worried – I made a slow and very defensive trip to Wally-World for brake fluid.
In the parking lot, I found an empty spot far in the corner and opened my bright yellow container of new, DOT-3 brake fluid. I bought the big one because it was cheaper by the ounce, but also because I didn’t know how much I’d have to fill. The brakes were very sluggish and hard to engage. I had to really step on the pedal to work them.
When I opened the container, huzzah! The fluid is clear! That brownish goo I saw must’ve been something else. Rusty something else, but something else for sure.
So I topped off the reservoir. I still had about half a bottle of brake fluid left after. So, with it all filled up and stuff I get in and feather the pedal again to bring the pressure up. Or something.
And I hear a horrible gushing sound.
I get out and check that spot under the car, where the teensy little puddle forms in the parking spot at home. And I see a huge one, surrounded by spatter marks of what looks like water.
Or, you know, clear brake fluid.
With my head hanging out of the truck – no mean feat for a fat man, let me tell you – I mash the brake pedal. A jet of water like you’d use to wash your car from one of those pistol-shaped nozzles comes shooting out of my car’s underside.
Oh, perfect. Just perfect.
So I limp slow and defensive back home. I park. I explain what I see to my wife. And then I call my boss. It’s five o’clock on Saturday on a holiday weekend. He doesn’t want to hear from me, but he does. So I explain, and tell him I won’t be in Tuesday because nothing is open on Saturday night after five (the car repair place closest to me closed at four), and I can’t see driving without brakes. I’m not sure but I think the state frowns on that. So with nothing I can do until Tuesday, I just…sat and worried for a couple of days.
Monday, I did do some editing. I got three chapters done. Then, Tuesday morning, I got up and dressed at my usual time and made an appointment to have the car looked at. I also called a lot of other car places to see if they could look at the car. No one had a same-day appointment after a holiday weekend, but my usual place would see me, and try to fit me in between appointments.
Six hours and hundreds of dollars later, the brakes work. I missed all day at work, because they didn’t finish until 4:15PM. I got back here just in time to call my boss and let him know it was done, and I’d be in on Wednesday.
And the Pooheads, who got my parking space on Friday night, caused all of that. If I hadn’t had to park in a weird spot, had I just been able to park in my usual place and they’d taken the farther one, none of this would have happened.