Easter in New Jersey

03/07/2013

So, what can you say about a serpentine belt that broke? Well, it doesn’t mean never having to say you’re sorry. Not even that you’re in a sorry state. That’s all too obvious, especially on a Saturday, when car rental guys are gone, tows are home, and public transport has gone the way of the stage. You can say that it’s seven feet long and you probably don’t have a new one in your trunk. You can bet that you can’t keep going without one, since it turns your a/c, steering, alternator, and water pump among other duties.

That ours broke on I-81 in wild, wonderful West Virginia the day before Easter was no surprise once the dashboard flashed a big red warning: STOP NOW. Do not pass Go. The dash is full of such dire predictions, easy to ignore mostly. But this one seemed to suggest danger well beyond a means to get you to your dealer’s service manager, a personage of evil rank and title. The car was still running well. But steering seemed stiff. No a/c. I suspected a bad alternator. But when we made the mile to the next exit, coasted down the ramp, and – lo and behold – found there an empty ParkRide lot, the heft required to turn into it meant that the power steering was gone, too. The belt must have busted. I found it curled behind the radiator.

The need was obvious – get another car (but no agencies were open), get another belt (where from and who would mount it), or sit there. I called 911. He was cordial and literate. But numbers he gave me, that Barbara wrote down in lipstick, led mainly to DAs and voice mails. All but Ryan’s. Ryan has a weekend job towing, with ancillary activities, such as engine repair. But where in the wilds was he? Well, this patch of WeeVee’s I-81, at Falling Waters, is hardly wild. It blooms with urban sprawl, within which are a couple of auto parts stores. I actually started thinking – maybe....

Ryan arrived in five minutes, took one look, and declared that the belt broke because the pulley that keeps the belt tight would not turn. He dismounted it and showed me its burned out bearings. Now we needed a belt and a pulley, too. He called his cousin. Ryan’s cousin was ten minutes from an auto parts store where he discovered they had both a pulley and a belt on the shelf! Ryan needed cash – no credit cards for him – and drove me to an ATM close by. By the time we returned to ParkRide, cousin was finishing installation of the new pulley. The belt was not far behind. Total delay was ninety minutes.

After making it to Flemington, the belt was no longer a worry. Easter, though eggless, rolled along quite well and on Monday I enjoyed a glorious lunch with an old high school friend in Washington Crossing. The return trip was routine, and I reverentially flashed my brights as we passed Falling Waters.

As a matter of luck, we surely won. Or did we? When we got home, I discovered our hot water heater had rusted out, springing leaks, and shutting itself down.

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