Details of a Bad Day

I just found the below, which I wrote in 1999.

A Bad Day

At work, I open a newly-refilled prescription of pain pills (for recent throat surgery) to discover that the pills in this bottle are different in size, shape, and identifying letters.

Phone pharmacy (Rite Aid), to find out that they had indeed given me the wrong medication, and they ask me to bring it back in. As I am at work, I hunt around and find some regular Tylenol.

Receive phone call from wife, who is in her broken down car at a rest stop on I-75 between Bay City and Saginaw. She has both of our sons with her (4 months, and 4 years). I leave work to assist.

Arrive at rest stop. Wife, due to being flustered by barely-working car, has parked in the “truck” side instead of the “car” side. She says that a giant  tractor-trailer pulled up behind her and honked until she told the brute her car was broken. So he stopped honking, and just parked behind her. I attempt to jump-start the car. The noise of the surrounding semis idling (does it really take that much work to shut these down and start them up again?) is of such intensity that I cannot hear if the car is starting, but must watch the timid flicker of the dash lights to know that it is not even turning over.

Discard first set of cheap jumper cables from wife's car, get slightly less cheap set out of my trunk. Several truckers and RV-drivers attempt to help, but succeed only in pinching everything under the hood into sharp little metal furrows. Perhaps the brand name of the jumper cables should have tipped me off: Death-Pinch Yet Slippy Non-Conductors ™. Still won’t turn over, even after we let it sit for a while whilst hooked up.

Send wife and kids packing in my car to finish errands, while I phone the motor club for a tow.

11 hours later (1:30 pm, actually)
Tow truck arrives, and he hooks on his Meaty Claws of Superconductance ™ (note to self: buy those jumper cables), and in the time it takes to fill out the paperwork (about two weeks), I've enough electricity to start the car, as judged by happy dash lights, and activity from tailpipe (the car, not the tow-truck driver). The tow truck driver’s a friendly fellow, and follows me back to Bay City, letting me use the sacred Emergency Vehicles Only passage from southbound to northbound I-75 (flashing lights and all). I notice looks of admiration from one-direction-only drivers. Car runs poorly, but makes it.

Arrive at Gary’s All-Car Care, my usual mechanic. The throw on a tester (my fourth set of clampy things so far in the day, I’m gonna have some bad dreams), and announce that the alternator is bad.  Cost: $258, will be done in a couple of hours. I walk home, having no car, nor even enough money for public transportation. On my way I kill a grizzly bear, fashion a wide-brim hat out of tumbleweeds, and learn to drink water from a cactus. Just kidding, it only takes me 15 minutes.

Walk in front door to find phone ringing. Publisher’s Clearinghouse Sweepstakes Winner Notification Board?  Nope. Wife. My car has broken down in Saginaw. In the middle lane of Tittabawassee Road in the heart of the shopping district. She called the motor club again, and waited an hour in that lane. With giant hunks of screaming metal whizzing by constantly. Tittabawassee Road is not for the faint of heart. In fact, Tittabawassee actually means “Long strip of land where many die”. It was not specified whether that was from an accident, or from old age while waiting to make a left. And of course our four month old decided it was a jolly time to move his bowels, and ask for a snack. Nobody stopped to help her for the first 50 minutes, a scathing indictment of our society, or else maybe there was a really good sale at Circuit City. When the wrecker finally arrived, it took her, having no idea where to go, to the Goodyear tire and repair shop a few blocks down, and never was there a more wretched hive of scum and villainy. Anyway, she says frantically “you've got to come pick me up, I’m out of formula and diapers!” (she had packed for only a one hour tour, not foreseeing she’d end up trying to build a rescue beacon out of a coconut). I assured her I would be there as soon as possible, reviewing our fridge door list of People To Call and obtaining from it the much, much shorter list of People You Can Call In An Emergency. None of them are home. As I stand there, imagining Karen using old oily garage rags as a makeshift diaper for Ben while feeding him a creamer and water paste, my mother-in-law drops in for a visit. Yes Pat! I briefly explain the situation, and we’re off. She uses the excuse to drive like a coke addict with diarrhea.

The Goodyear garage guys inform me that I need a new alternator. I should have ordered some in bulk. They want $260-some dollars to do the job, plus they say that I need a new battery as well, as the old one has been discharged too greatly to be reliable. Another $70. I’m surprised they don’t also say I need to have the air in my tires rotated. I ask them if I can think it over, and they say I can leave the car there for 24 hours. I've so far only racked up $17.50 in evaluation charges. We head home, and I get dropped off at the garage where the wife’s car is now fixed and purring like a big white V-6 kitten. I price out the alternator job for my car, and even with $45 in towing to get it from there to hear, I’d still save $50, and feel a lot better about who did the job. I arrange that (by asking my garage to arrange the tow), and drive the wife's car home. I immediately call Goodyear, and tell them my car will be picked up within the hour, and as such I’d like to settle up for the $17.50 over the phone. They take my credit card number and promise to run it through.

I decide to take care of the medication issue, so I drive over to the drugstore (Rite Aid on Midland Street, Bay City, MI). They have my actual medication ready, and just switch it like nothing was wrong. I comment (very politely, that being my nature) that I hoped this sort of thing wouldn't happen again, and the pharmacist completely blows me off, actually saying something along the lines of “everyone makes mistakes” as I am walking away. I stop short, bedazzled by this lack of concern. I step back (still very polite) and talk to him about the danger of what just happened, and the broken trust between pharmacy and client, and how it would seem that in such an important role there would be safeguards in place to prevent “everyone making a mistake” from turning into a fatality. He said that is usually the case, but that on Sundays, when I had the refill done, there was no one to perform the backup verification. He was obviously very bored with his job, and with the rest of the human race in general. I informed him that it wouldn't be a problem in the future, as I would never buy anything from there again. I didn't see him shrug, but I knew he was thinking one. On the way out I calmly detailed the entire scenario to the manager on duty, who either cared deeply or was a good actress.

Arrive home to discover that Goodyear had called back because my charge was rejected. I called the bank, who referred me to the fraud detection company because there was a stop flag on my account, and they said it was because the Goodyear people swiped my card 4 times (for 2 different amounts varying by 20 cents)(??!!), and this set of an automated process of fraud-stoppage that locks the account until someone tells the computer to release the choke hold. I call Goodyear back, to find out they won’t release my car until I pay  that massive $17.50, so the tow truck driver from my garage takes off without my car.

Drive back to Saginaw to pay the $17.50 and wave to my car. I act cheerful and thankful to the staff so they won't punk my car, and it is the hardest front I've ever put up. So many nice pointy things within reach. I have to force them to take my car key so the doors can be locked overnight (note to self: be sure to look for valuables in unlocked cars at service stations after hours).

5:00 pm
Come back home and call the tow truck place and set up another attempt tomorrow.  Have to tell them a ridiculous amount of the day’s story just so I won’t seem like a loon (and it happens anyway).

5:05 pm
Consider taking a double dose of pain med to stop the twitching in my eye and the thoughts of weaponry, but am unsure if the prescription is now a pain med, or, say, menopause hormones, and decide to hold off.

The End (and all true).