Sunday, December 25, 2005

Stuff: Christmas Disasters

Once is happenstance, twice is tradition.

Several years ago, we were driving down to my parents' places on Christmas Eve for the family Christmas get-together (a two-hour drive) with our two cats -- and a friend who was also visiting family down there -- and ended up stranded halfway there at 11pm with a ruined alternator. I'm going to skip the details here, but suffice it to say that it took both the CAA and my mother coming up to find us so we could get the car and ourselves to town. That was the first time we'd agreed to drive someone down with us on Christmas Eve.

This year was the second time did so, and our apparent tradition of the car not cooperating manifested itself again.

Christmas Eve, we set out to deliver gifts to my aunt's before driving down to the parents' places. We got in the car, started it up, and GRRND GRRND GRRND GRRND -- not a good sound. The engine started ok, but something was grinding against something in there.

So I got out, and Lori backed the car up a bit so we could pop the hood. First clue as to what went wrong: a large rat leaps out of the wheel well of the car and disappears down a fresh hole under the garage wall.

Second clue: a small pool of a thick red liquid under where the car engine had been.

So we opened the hood and had a look. The third clue: a mass of paper, lint, and fur wedged under the manifold -- apparently, a nest. Also, some of the insulation was chewed off a wire.

Removing the nest didn't fix the problem, so it was time to phone the CAA (to get a tow), the dealership (which was closed), my aunt (to say we wouldn't be delivering the presents just yet), and four or five car rental places. Unfortunately, this was all at about 12:50pm, and all but two of the rental places withing walking distance were closing at 1:00. And one of the two that were open to four had no cars to rent us anyway.

Soon, the CAA guy showed up and got the car hoisted on his truck, at which point we found the source of the red liquid: a second rat wedged quite securely behind the bumper. He towed the car to the dealership, where it will stay until Tuesday when they open again. So we made our way on foot to the Budget Car Rentals that said they had a vehicle.

The vehicle they had was a little intimidating, though. Lori's car is a PT Cruiser. Nice and roomy, but overall pretty small -- it's quite short for it's storage volume. The car we got was a Dodge Grand Caravan, over five meters long. The Cruiser is only four and a quarter meters. We've taken to calling the Caravan "The Queen Mary".

We paced it off -- the Caravan was only 20cm shorter than the inside of our garage. Even if we got it in there, there'd be no way we could use the door, short of climbing over the hood. And, of course, City Hall was closed, so we couldn't get an on-street parking permit.

But we did get the presents delivered. And we did get down to the family Christmas gathering. And back again, through sleet and snow and dark of night.

But we want the little cruiser back!

Fresh Disasters


Ferdzy said...

What is it with freakin' enormous rental vehicles? We had a very similar experience last time we rented.

ps. I was reading your comments at "we move to canada".

James said...

I think rental places prefer larger vehicles because they can get away with charging more for them without the customers feeling like they're being taken advantage of (even if they are). Though we got a very good rate at Budget.