Monday, February 27, 2006

Moving: The made-for-TV movie

Thursday, February 16th. 3:30 pm. Our story opens with the 19 Minutes staff pulling out of a coffee shop on the east side of Flagstaff and heading down Interstate 40, the sun glinting off the San Francisco Peaks in our rear-view mirror. It's a feeling of melancholy that accompanies us as we think about all the good friends we're leaving behind, the well-wishes from co-workers and Public Radioland listeners still fresh in our minds.

But we're excited about the trip ahead - good weather awaits, along with a wedding in Colorado and a new house in Wisconsin at the end of the drive.

The ponderosa pines slip away as we descend from 7,000 feet into the somewhat lower elevations of eastern Arizona. My ears plug up from the change in elevation, and the road noise diminishes.

6:15 pm. My ears have cleared, and we stop for gas in Gallup, New Mexico. We're just two hours from Albuquerque, where we have a room reserved and plans to dine at The Frontier, a restaurant directly across the street from the University of New Mexico. The green chile stew and the sweet rolls are unbelievable, and it's my favorite restaurant in the country at this point in time.

6:25 pm. The battery light has come on in our '03 Jetta wagon. This of some concern, because our battery light illuminated three weeks before, and was followed shortly thereafter by dimming dashboard lights, and then an abrupt shutdown of all the electrical accessories in the car, and followed several hours later by the writing of a check for $750 for a new alternator and a new battery.

6:28 pm. The dashboard lights dim. Fortunately, Gallup is just large enough so that we hadn't actually gotten out of town yet, and so we quickly get off the interstate and limp into the parking lot of an auto parts place. We quickly whip out the warranty the Napa Auto Care people have thoughtfully provided and find out that yes, the parts and labor are covered under the warranty, and yes, the warranty service center closes at 6:00 Eastern Standard Time. And a call to AAA reveals there aren't any Napa Auto Care centers in Gallup, anyway.

6:50 pm. The car, somewhat miraculously, starts again, and we're able to limp over to a Hampton Inn a half-mile away where, posing as the Joad family (hey, were even on Route 66), we pitiful our way into getting the government rate on a room, thanks to - it should be said - a tremendously helpful and sympathetic front desk staff. The car will go no further than the fire lane in front of the hotel - which is okay with us, since the worst that could happen is that someone tows the car, which is what we need to happen in the first place.

Friday, February 17th. 5:00 am. I wake up. My right ear has replugged itself. And now it hurts. A lot. Two Tylenol later, I'm back asleep.

8:00 am. At least there's cell service in Gallup, and we spend the next hour-and-a-half on the phone - with Napa, confirming they'll pay to fix the faulty alternator, though it took a while to convince them that the one local Napa Autocare place that showed up in their database was actually 75 miles away; with a local repair shop, which claims it can fix the car, despite Gallup's notoriety for not having a lot of Volkwagen mechanics; and with AAA, which had to tow the thing to whichever repair place I found. As it turned out, when the tow truck guy showed up, he claimed that the repair place I had found was notorious for not actually fixing cars very well, so he towed me to yet another repair shop nearby, at which point my wife reached me on the cell phone to say that Volkswagen of America thought a VW place should have a crack at fixing the car, so they were going to tow it to Albuquerque. It didn't really matter to me whether VW towed it from the repair shop or our hotel, so I had the current tow truck driver leave the car where it was and drive me back to the hotel.

9:30 am. Ear still smarting. I walk the half-mile back to where we left the car so I can meet the next tow truck driver and retrieve the child safety seat from the back seat. It's about 20 degrees, and my ear hurts plenty more by the time I get to the car.

10:30 am. Back at the Western White House, a.k.a. the Temporary 19 Minutes World Media Headquarters, a.k.a. the Gallup Hampton Inn. Back on the phones, trying to figure out how we're going to get to Albuquerque, lest our car dine at The Frontier without us. Amtrak runs from Gallup to Albuquerque. It arrives there at 12:15 pm on Saturday, or 15 minutes after the repair shop closes. Budget rents cars in Gallup. They charge a mere $120 for the one car they have available - a Ford F150 pick-up, plus a modest $129 fee for the one-way rental. Plus tax. We decide this option is only slightly more appealing than hitchhiking a ride with a meth addict driving a rusted out Triumph TR6. We decide I'll take the (really) Greyhound bus, which leaves at 7:00 am and gets in at 10:15, then I'll take a cab to the VW place and pick up the car, then I'll drive back to Gallup to pick up the rest of the 19 Minutes entourage.

5:30 pm. We're at the Applebee's in Gallup, conveniently located two parking lots away from the Western White House a.k.a. (etc., etc.), and my ear is still hurting, but I'm noticing it less, since now the rest of my body is also hurting, and I'm feeling feverish. And dammit, that makes it really hard to enjoy my oriental chicken wrap. Also, I feel like curling up and moaning, which would have been difficult in a packed Applebee's in Gallup, New Mexico. So we track down the only medical professional we can find on the phone - our daughter's pediatrician, who agrees that Sylvi was probably the more likely one to have come down with an ear infection, but also confirms that's what I have. Moreover, she - bless her heart - interviews me over the phone, and calls in a prescription to the local Wal-Mart pharmacy, which is located just one more parking lot away. The rest of the move will take place under the influence of Amoxicillin.

Will the 19 Minutes staff ever get out of the Gallup Hampton Inn? Will Mitch's ear unplug enough that he can listen to all seven hours of David Sedaris's "Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim" on CD? Can Volkswagen manufactur a car that'll make it across a state line - any state line - without a major electrical system malfunction? Tune in tomorrow evening for Part 2 of the 'Tosa Move. Or Tivo it, and enjoy it whenever the heck you want.


Anonymous said...

I want first option on the film rights - but we'll have to change the script somewhat to make it more believeable.
-- Your friends at North Bethesda VW Repair

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