NOTE: No dogs, husbands, or French people were harmed in the making of this blog post. (Although there were a few REALLY good candidates…)
Remember that great idea I had to drive home from Spain to Scotland? Those who know me at all would know the chances of that working are on the slim side of none.
But at first, it really seemed possible. We said emotional goodbyes to Francisco and Emilia, our wonderful Spanish landlords. They had already had the entire summer to experience the wonder and mystery that was the Hub’s beloved Classic, a quarter century of automotive history under its hood. So of course they begged us to let them know
when how if we made it home.
The first day’s drive took us through the stunning scenery and incomprehensible signage of Basque country (which clearly must have been written during a big sale on letters X, Z, and T because most words have a distinct shortage of vowels).
We stopped for the night in the insomnia-themed decor of the Ibis hotel in Saint-Médard-en-Jalles near Bordeaux. But all was forgiven when we got to the breakfast bar with its fabulous fresh-squeeze orange juicer, trays of croissants and pain au chocolat, and cappuccino. So far, so good.
Giddy with success, OJ, caffeine, and chocolate, we headed north for Paris.
Me: Wouldn’t it be better if we didn’t drive right up the middle of Paris?
Hub: That makes sense.
SatNav: Center of Paris it is.
The Classic: Seriously? Well, check out my oil light.
Hub: I think we’ll just take a little break here in Paris.
Me: Crap. Well, at least I can blog this.
Back on the road again, we’d gone about a kilometer.
The Classic: I don’t feel so great. [proceeds to vomit its engine across the Boulevard Périphérique]
Me: [let’s pretend I said something profound that didn’t involve four-letter words. Lots of them…] But I can blog this.
So we called our insurance company, which is based in the US but has an office in London, which has a subsidiary affiliate in Germany, which called a tow truck. It was a Saturday evening, blazing hot, in the middle of August. France was, of course, on vacation. But eventually, the various insurance entities (not one of which, it soon developed, spoke any French), chartered a tow truck. A few hours later, an amazingly modern truck pulled up.
As veterans of The Classic’s medical needs, I’ve become something of a tow-truck connoisseur, and I can tell you that this was one Rolls Royce of tows. It had remote-controlled ramps and pulleys that soon had The Classic resting comfortably high above the street, my little dog peering pathetically down at us. The driver was not a dog man, and refused her admittance into his cab. We soon saw why as we were invited to step into his air-conditioned luxury. The cab had two seats in the front, and in the rear were two more, with a lovely little fold-down table separating us.
We pulled out, went one block, and pulled over. The driver, who apparently spoke no English, explained in all-too-clear French that he would be needing another 470-euros to go any farther. We attempted to remind him that he’d already accepted a princely sum from our insurance company, but our brief spurt of communication was over. Apparently the only other words of English he had to offer were “Credit card. Visa?”
Hub: I’m calling the insurance company again.
Me: I’m so going to blog this.
Driver/Extortionist: Credit card. Visa?
So there we sat, while our insurance contact in Germany called the office in London who called the office in the US who attempted to call the towing company. The driver wasn’t too concerned. He had us, the Classic, and the dog.
Me/Pollyanna: At least I can blog this.
Hub/In Shock: How much is that in dollars?
Driver/Extortionist: Credit card. Visa?
We were experienced, sophisticated travellers. We knew extortion when we saw it. Did we threaten to call the police, his bosses, the American Embassy? Did we use our rusty high school French (I only remember the naughtier nouns) to attempt to reason? Did we then haul out the “Credit card. Visa” and fork it over? Of course we did.
Me: I can…
Hub: Stop saying that.
Soon we arrived at a bustling garage. Despite the fact that it was late on a Saturday evening, the place was hopping. Our tow truck extortioner unloaded the Classic, pocketed the credit card slip, and was on his way to commit larceny on other stranded foreigners. The garage mechanics were very kind. They showed us to a waiting room, and went out to triage the Classic.
Surprisingly soon, they were back with their professional diagnosis. I believe their technical term was “kaput.” Apparently, in the last hour, the Classic had gone from mostly dead to all dead.
All that was left was for us to go through the seats and look for loose change. And unload about a metric ton of stuff we’d packed because the Classic was big enough to host its own zip code, so why not bring everything?
We took the bare minimum, called a taxi, and headed for a hotel. Funeral services could wait. We were going to be in Paris for a while.So how about you? When a trip goes wrong, what do you do?