Now Matt bought this car FIVE MINUTES AGO. The money JUST changed hands. No used car breaks that fast. This had to be some kind of cosmic joke.
Meanwhile Matt was following John out of the parking lot- both in other vehicles. I pushed the ignition button again and the car started but the check engine light stayed on. As I pulled out of the parking lot I called Matt on my phone. I was NOT looking forward to this conversation.
“The check engine light came on when I started the car.” Pause for string of profanity in my ear. “What would you like me to do?”
“I have to call John, I will call you back.”
I kept following Matt’s red rental car. I found all the good country stations on the radio. I figured out how sensitive the brake and gas pedals were. I looked around Wilmington, DE at the beautiful old buildings. The car wasn’t driving like anything was wrong with it but the light remained on, mocking me from the dashboard. Finally my phone rang. Matt told me John was going to lead us to a garage so someone could check out the car.
Now I have never been to a chop shop. I have only seen them on television. But if I was a director and needed a garage to represent a chop shop THIS is the place I would use. One tiny door in and out. Not on a main street. A dozen cars inside and not one window. Three guys inside with clothes that had never gotten any oil on them. I still have no idea how legal it all was.
I pulled the car in and jumped out. The mechanic got in with a computer and hooked it up to the car. (Remember when things went wrong with a car and you looked under the hood? Not with a Prius- it’s a computer with wheels.)
At this point I recognized I was pretty useless. The things I knew about that Prius included the fact that it was a car, gold and a hybrid. Meanwhile Matt was peering over the mechanic’s shoulder while using his phone to google the error codes popping up on the computer. I was getting cold again. And hungry. And watching my chance of getting home before the snow hits disappear.
They finally popped the hood and did that thing that men do- they stared. They poked and pointed. They used flashlights and looked deep underneath. And they came to some kind of conclusion that a certain part was probably the issue.
The part would take about an hour to arrive at the garage and then it would take at least another hour to replace the part. So we were looking at a minimum of two hours- likely more. And even if they did fix it there was no guarantee that this is what is causing the issue. We could spend two hours waiting and discover that something else is wrong.
Then the scary Russian guy made the offer I was waiting for. He apologized for the issue and said if Matt would like to walk he would give him all the money back and they could go their separate ways. We had driven four hours to get this car but we could now walk away cash in hand.
FINALLY- this is an area where I could help. So Matt said he and I need to talk about it and we stepped into the “lobby”. (I use the term lobby loosely because it was a big room with four chairs around a coffee table and magazines from 2004. No phone, no computer, no bell on the door.) But instead of talking to me Matt immediately grabbed his phone and headed outside leaving me in the freezing cold lobby looking stupid. He paced back and forth for 10 minutes and came back in to let me know that his backup car for purchase was not available anymore.
So now we had two options. Wait for this car, which he technically already owned and got a good deal on, and see if the part fixes the check engine light. Or head home and begin the car search all over again with no prospects.
After weighing the pros and cons we decided the good deal on the car was worth the two hour wait. I, however, had enough of not being fed. So while John promised to hang around and wait for the part to arrive Matt and I walked to a local sandwich shop to get some food.
When we walked in I was immediately enveloped by one of my favorite feelings in the world- WARMTH. The place was very cute- a nice little neighborhood restaurant with about 5 tables and a giant menu. Matt ordered yummy meatloaf and a twice baked potato (he was nice enough to share bites of each) and I got a great sandwich. There were several people inside planning a trip to Europe and it was exciting just listening to them. I had been cold for over an hour and it was so nice to sit down, take off my jacket and let my feet thaw.
We ordered our food and sat down at a large wooden table inside the restaurant. My sandwich was great but had barely swallowed the last bite when Matt asked if I was ready to go back.
“Really? The part probably isn’t even there yet.”
“Yes, I’d rather be back where the car is.”
So, with my feet having BARELY begun to feel like feet again, we trudged back into the Wilmington snow. When we got to the Chop Shop the part had just arrived. The mechanic told me they had set up a heater in the lobby so I could be warm while we waited. I was super excited until I found it was a diesel heater barely giving off any heat. So my choices were to be warmer with a headache from the diesel smell or be cold and not smell diesel for the next three days. I decided the headache was worth it if I could feel my fingers and toes and sat down with an old GQ magazine to thaw.
I was engrossed in an article about drones when the door opened and in walked The Godfather. Brushing the snow off his long black jacket he walked straight toward me.
Want to read the end? Check out The Journey to Delaware Part III!