The light machine

I’m pretty sure it was a call I got and not an ESP message because a conversation was involved and ESP messages are more one-sided experiences of sensing something – something just happened, someone is about to call, whatever. Say it was a call, and the kid said her car died after reaching Vienna and she left it in a bus lane and got a ride into town.

Being ostensibly the alpha male now, things like cars abandoned in tow-away zones and cat… solids are my purview, so I initiated nervous breakdown proceedings and looked for the car on my way into work. Luckily for her, Beta had taken bridge #2 and not bridge #1, which has no good places to stop when your car breaks down.

Believe me, empirical research etc.

I eventually found her car, and she told me to put a sign on it so they wouldn’t tow it, and told me exactly what to write, I always do best with clear instructions, and I went to the shop across the street and bought some clear tape and some off-brand Saran-wrap stuff because they didn’t have clear plastic things to put your paper don’t-tow-me signs into, and taped all that to the window and went on to work, hoping they wouldn’t tow it and relieved to have that step behind me.

We telephoned some more during the day, and met after work to have a look at it and maybe move it to a better place. The auto club guy had said he would be there some time in the next 6 hours and would call half an hour in advance. As we were looking at her car and trying to start it another car pulled in front of us, also a breakdown.

Beta’s car wouldn’t start, meaning it was, most likely, the alternator, known as the Lichtmaschine in German, meaning light machine. And not the battery, which is a pretty good one, and fairly new.

It wasn’t the fan belt, I didn’t think, because it seemed to be doing proper fan-belt-like things. And it wasn’t, like, moisture in the distributor, because I don’t think diesels have distributors, right, and moisture always seems to involve praying and angels, at least in my experience, and there was none of that.

Then as I was helping the guy who broke down in front of us push his car into a safer position,  Beta got a call that the autoclub guy would be coming soon. We went to my car to look for her gloves, which she had lost and thought she might have left them in my car but didn’t, as it turned out and when we got back the autoclub guy was already parked in the lane next to Beta’s car (I eventually found her gloves in the snow behind her car).

So it took the guy less than 30 minutes to get to her car, and so on. That must be a good job, being an autoclub guy, because everyone is always so happy to see you! Like the opposite of being a dentist. Greeted with open arms and smiles everywhere you go.

Fuck, it was freezing out. This nasty Viennese wet cold that sucks your body heat out through your hands and the soles of your shoes.

The man said it was the alternator. Beta’s car started right up when he gave it a jump, but the battery wasn’t loading when he checked it with his potentiometer or whatever. Some box with two alligator clips and a dial. He got a crowbar and gave the alternator a few whacks but that didn’t help, strangely. I guess that means it wasn’t, like, frozen and was seriously broken or something.

Beta got her car towed to a mechanic, or, rather, the auto club guy organized that.  And the mechanic will fix it. And all will be well.

Beta kept thanking me. I kept saying, I have a lot of car-breakdown karma to work off. Late-night pick-ups, flat tires. Once, before Alpha and I got married, we went for a drive around the Olympic Peninsula and I had my light machine fixed beforehand, rebuilt at relatively great expense, to lower the chances of breakdown out in the middle of nowhere, and as soon as we got to the middle of nowhere, the alternator began to burn. Swiss tourists who gave us a lift to the nearest pay phone, on the side of a hotel at the beach, laughed the whole way. I called my dad and we watched whales for four hours until he showed up and towed me to a supermarket parking lot with a tow rope so amazingly short I felt like Luke Skywalker doing the Death Star, that level of concentration, while my brother, who had accompanied my father, sat in the passenger seat and told me stories so funny that my eyes filled with tears and all I could see was the bumper of my dad’s pickup truck a couple feet in front of my car as we tore down narrow forest roads.

So I told Beta I didn’t mind standing around with her in the snow while the auto club guy made everything right.