In the eighties and nineties, in spite of spending a lot of time on the road going back and forth to Quebec and doing weekend antique shows all the time, I never had auto club coverage. It’s not that I’m against auto clubs. I’m sure they give many peace of mind, and before the days of google map they would plan a nice trip for you. But I inherently have faith, I guess you can call it, that things will generally go well, and should trouble arise I can handle it. This may stem from being influenced as a young person when I watched a t.v. interview with Orson Bean, who was a political commentator and popular comedian at the time. He argued that he doesn’t believe in the value of insurance. He proposed that if you saved all the money that you spend trying to insure yourself against every eventuality, you would have plenty of money to cover yourself should anything actually occur. Of course this was before the days of multi-million dollar liability settlements. But I took his point, and have avoided buying any insurance other than car and house which I consider essential, and it’s worked pretty well so far.
Here’s how I deal with a breakdown. The first thing is to get the vehicle out of harm’s way. Then relax, take a deep breath, and realize that the plan has changed. When I become comfortable with this fact I then go about finding and contacting the nearest garage. If possible I seek out local input. Because I am not afraid to make contact with strangers, if someone is around and looks reasonably normal my first move is to explain my situation to that person, and ask if they might direct me. Gratefully, breakdowns have been rare, and touch wood, my luck has held. Here’s an example.
It was the mid-nineties and I was heading solo to North Hatley, Quebec to participate in the mid-summer show there. The truck was tightly packed and I remember there was an almost full size folk art moose tied to the front rack. At a passing glance, it looked like I was hunting and got lucky. So, I was bombing along happily, East-bound on the 401 near Gananoque, Ontario when the engine started to sputter and choke. There was an exit right ahead so I took it, hoping I could make it to a garage or at least a parking lot. I just made it up the ramp and it started to die out, so all I could do was to pull over as far as I could on the shoulder and it shut down. I was distressed in that it was late in the day and although I had planned to stop soon for the night, I was counting on getting up early and driving straight to North Hatley so that I would have time to set up before the seven o’clock opening. If it took all morning or longer to repair the truck I would not make it in time.
At first I just sat there, and took stock. It was a beautiful late afternoon. That time of day when you get the wonderful clear horizontal light as the sun slowly sets. Around me were green fields and a couple of small houses nearby. As the motor stopped I could hear the sound of a lawn mower. Excellent, there’s my first move. I hopped out, crossed the road and waited until the man on the riding lawn mower turned the corner and was headed back towards me. Putting on my best non-threatening smile and waving, he saw me and waved back. He drove right up to me and killed the engine. “Beautiful evening. I don’t mean to trouble you, but that’s my truck over there. I’ve just broken down and I need to phone a garage. Could you suggest anyone?”. We exchanged names. “Well, I work for the Canadian Tire in town so we could fix it tomorrow sometime, but I’ve got a buddie who’s got a country shop just down the road and he may be able to get you going faster. He’s cheaper and better too” I appreciated his honesty. “Sounds great. Can we give him a call?” “ Sure can. He’ll probably still be working at the shop” . A half hour later the truck was hooked up to his tow truck and we were headed the few kilometers to his shop. He was a great guy. Right away he offered to stay and work that evening to get me going first thing in the morning. He figured correctly that it was the fuel pump and he had a rebuilt replacement on hand. When I asked him about a place nearby that I might spend the night, he suggested that his sister had a bed and breakfast, and he could take me there and pick me up in the morning. How Ideal is that?
His sister and her husband also turned out to be really nice people, and offered me a beer and some sandwiches when they realized I had not had dinner. After a good night’s sleep, and seven o’clock breakfast I was ready to be picked up at eight. The truck was repaired, the bill was reasonable, and I was on right on schedule to arrive in North Hatley for set up. Thank you kind people, and here’s to serendipity.
But as fate would have it, this was not the only “test” I would experience on this particular trip. I will continue the story in next Friday’s blog. Stay tuned, as they used to say.