I christened my new car today. No, not like that! Get your mind out of the gutter. I mean I had my first breakdown. One of my wheels was pointing straight ahead and the other wheel was pointing off to the right. This was one of those breakdowns where you’re blocking a bunch of traffic, so that was kind of stressful.
It happened in Saint John right at the end of Rothesay Avenue at the overpass, you know when you’re heading out of town, and there’s the stop sign and then you have to scoot across the offramp? Well, I stepped on the gas, and my car wasn’t scooting. It did this slightly-forward sideways sliding thing.
A guy drove past in a truck and yelled, “Blown tie-rod end, buddy!” Thank you sir for that helpful diagnosis! I’m not even being sarcastic.
In the rear-view mirror I saw a lineup of cars growing behind me. I swore a bunch and immediately turned to my grandmother in the passenger’s seat to apologize.
“It’s all right if it’s a prayer,” she said.
Finally I just jammed on the gas, and the car skidded and fishtailed across the ramp until I was able to pull it over by the roadside just before the train bridge. I got out and looked at the wheels and then I got back in the car and phoned CAA to come and rescue me and phoned my parents to come and rescue grandma.
CAA sent a tow truck and it towed me all the way across the street to the Superior garage on Rothesay Avenue. They were able to get it up on the hoist right away. The mechanics barely acknowledged my presence; they just got right to work.
I was thinking “Why is he looking there under the hood? Isn’t the tie-rod end over by the wheel?” and then the mechanic said, “Your day just got a whole lot worse.”
I looked and had a glimpse of sheared-off metal and a loose bolt and a metal rod floating free, free, free.
But in the end it turned out to be not so bad. A small tab had broken off at the inner tie rod, and a bolt had come undone from the rack. All he really had to do was screw the bolt back in and reset the tabs.
If that bolt had come out two minutes later grandma and I would’ve been on Route 1 and we would’ve had, as the mechanic put it, “a pretty big problem.” I’m not sure what the effect would be of a tie rod popping loose and the front wheel suddenly twisting off to one side at 100km/h. I have this mental image of the whole car flipping end over end.
While the mechanic was working I went for a stroll around Glen Falls. This is the neighbourhood where Elsie Wayne got her start in politics, with the Glen Falls Flood Committee. I found a small bridge with some graffiti that said “GO TO HELL BICTH’S.” It pleased me greatly as “bicthes” is my favourite misspelling in the whole world right now. In fact I want to start a band called “The Bicthes.”
On the walk back I met an enormous old man on the sidewalk, wearing a red shirt and a cowboy hat and walking a teeny tiny grey poodle.
“Nice night for walking,” he said.
I said, “It sure is.”