Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Satan's Sebring

I think that if the devil owned a car it would be the one I drove last weekend. I had to go to Chicago for my nephews wedding and then to Steven's Point, Wisconsin to talk to a friend who wants to get married and wants me to be the officiating minister. (That sounds so much better than the preacher boy.) I noticed that I could rent a car for 50% off over the weekend and get unlimited miles. Well, my Mustang and my Explorer both get about 20mpg on the highway. Not good. So I trotted on over to the local car rental place of national repute and got it from my brother-in-law the car rental guy. Remember Herb Tarlik from WKRP in Cincinnati? He looks just like him. Actually, I think he IS him. Look up and you be the judge. Anyway ...

She was a real beauty. A nice burgundy with a black convertible top. And she got a blessed 34mpg! Score! The gas savings paid for the car and I didn't have to put one mile on my own vehicles. Mission accomplished!

But then ... there were these situations. They make me ... wonder.

Debbie brought the car home on Friday night and parked it in my driveway. On Saturday morning we pulled our luggage outside and the car windows were down and the headlights where on. Why? I don't know why. There was only one key and I had it. Sophie the GPS was stored in the console and she was still there. Nothing was taken or damaged. The windows just opened. And the headlights just turned on.

So we loaded up and began our drive. When we got to the hotel in Schaumburg I noticed that the doors on the car would not lock. The key fob wouldn't lock it. The button inside on the door wouldn't lock it. I could not push the button down or pull it up. This car had decided not to lock.

As a side note, I travel with everything I own of value. I had my Mac laptop Tess, my GPS Sophie, my Ipod ... remind me to name my Ipod... my Treo smart phone. Get the picture? And now my car will not lock. So I drug everything into the hotel. That was all well and good until Sunday morning when I drove Debbie to the airport for her flight home. I dropped her at the curb side check in and went back to the hotel (it was too early to drive far in a possessed car.) I showered, packed, checked-out and loaded the car again. In the rain. As a matter-of-fact the outdoor wedding was held indoors because of the rain. It began raining as we entered northern Illinois and it was still raining. It rained as I left the hotel. It rained as I stopped at the bookstore at Willow Creek. It rained as I got onto the toll way. It rained as I felt my ears go funny because of a sudden pressure change in the car. It rained as I noticed in the rear view mirror that my trunk was open.

My trunk. The protector of Tess, my nameless Ipod, my clothes, Debbie's clothes and perhaps worst of all ... my pillow. And the lid popped open at about 70mph. I pulled over onto the side of the toll way and jumped out into the driving rain. This was not just a driving rain because I was driving in it. It was driving at me too. We are talking about serious RAIN here. Rain that would have made Noah proud. And I got out into it and closed my trunk. It took about 15 SLAMS before it stayed closed. Why? I don't know. There was nothing in the way. And there was no way for me to have opened the trunk while I was driving if I had wanted to. Which, by the way, I didn't.

I got back into Satan's Sebring and prayed that the trunk would not pop open again. I could not leave my stuff in the car if I had to stop and go potty because the car would not lock. And I could not be certain the windows would stay up. And at any moment the trunk might open.

What to do, what to do?

Drive. Faster. Get there. Sooner. It was somewhere around Beloit, Wisconsin when I noticed the new light all gold and pretty, shining on my dashboard. It looked like this ... (!). That's it. An exclamation point in parenthesis. It was right below the "D" on the "P R N D" lights. At first I thought that meant I wasn't just in drive ... I was REALLY in drive. But that would be silly. So as I drove through the blinding rain I decided to get out the owners manual and look this new symbol up. I mean, come on. I could not see past the end of the hood anyway. I might as well read. Ok, it made sense at the time. The light went off. The light came on. The light went off. The light came on. This trend continued for the rest of the trip.

After a few minutes I found the symbol and discovered that it meant my car had some kind of tire monitoring device. It was checking my tires in relentless fashion. It was running checks on my rubber 24/7. While that is a pretty cool feature, what do you do if it lights up? I did what any self-respecting guy would do. I kept driving. And I prayed. And I called Herb. I mean I called my brother-in-law. I don't think he believed me. Actually, I don't think he was convinced until I returned to the Gateway City, to the home of unquenchable grass and crop thirst named St. Louis and he saw the door lock problem for himself. (Did you know that everything north of ... oh ... Bloomington, Illinois looks like the Garden of Eden? It's all green and growing and wet. And everything south of Bloomington looks like the moon with grass. Dead grass but still grass. They were wearing sweatshirts in Stevens Point. In Springfield they were wearing sweat.

Other than that the car was fine. Not really. You see I was really, really sleepy when I left Stevens Point. I stayed up way too late visiting with the daughter's of my friends and then I drove forever with the wipers on super high and I was leaning forward, squinting and trying to see between the raindrops. By the time I got to Rockford I was woozy. The air conditioner was on high and pointed directly at my face. The stereo was turned all of the way up. A voice in my head kept telling me to just go to sleep and let death come painlessly. Then I remembered that applied to victims of extreme cold and not to drivers doing 70 through a flood of biblical proportions. So I did the next best thing. I stopped at this place called "Beef-A-Roo." Yes, really. And I ordered up two Chicago hot dogs, a large fry and a large Coke to go. I got back in the car and navigated to the expressway where I put the steering wheel up as far as it would go, took off my tennis shoes and opened my first hot dog. It promptly exploded. Well, the hot dog didn't. The condiments did. Have you ever seen the neon green relish that goes on a loaded Chicago style dog? It's a thing of beauty. It is the best tasting pickle by-product ever. It is the gold standard of all things stored in vinegar. And I was wearing it. So was Satan's Sebring.

I returned the car later in the day. A small notation was made about the windows opening on their own, the phantom headlights, the unlockable doors and the levitating trunk lid. But I think they wrote a page and a half on the strange relish-like odor permeating the vehicle.

If they had only asked I would have told them.

See. I told you he looks like Herb Tarlik.