Travel inevitably changes your perspective.
For example, minor inconveniences can seem like major disasters when you are hundreds of miles from home. At least that’s how I felt when my wife and I recently traveled to visit family in Kansas City, Kansas.
We have prepared wisely for this long journey. We serviced our car and bought a set of new tyres. None of this will make a difference.
The trouble started on our second day in the heart of America. I was bent down to pick up something when I felt a strange “click” from my glasses. Moments later, one of the nose pads fell off my glasses.
At home, this will only be a minor inconvenience. I will simply go to our local glasses place and our glasses lady will quickly fix my specs.
Not so when you are in an unfamiliar city far from the farm. I searched Google for “glasses repair” on my smartphone and chose the nearest eyeglass store. Will it be open on weekends? And what are the odds of them getting a nose pad that fits my glasses?
I send my smartphone and my wife through a maze of highways and bustling city streets. We only got lost once when we turned into the wrong parking lot, but soon found the optician’s place.
I showed the owner my glasses and she said yes, “Oh, you just need a new nose pad!” She was able to fix my glasses in just a few minutes.
In a stressful situation like this, there are no sweeter words than, “Oh, you just need…” This phrase will later prove elusive.
Confrontation with rodents of extraordinary intelligence
The number of squirrels per acre in the Kansas City metro area can be measured in metric tons. There are a lot of small furry rodents that form bands.
Our car was parked in a residential neighborhood where squirrel gangsters rule the streets, completely unimpeded by local law enforcement. One day I saw a squirrel lounging near our car. He wore an expression that seemed to say, “Nice car, I’ve come here. It would be a shame to chew on its wires.”
I told the annoying little pest to get lost. Fatal error.
The next day, my wife and I headed to a local supermarket. We noticed that the air conditioning in our car was not working, which is annoying enough when the outside air temperature is 85 degrees Fahrenheit. Most alarming was that the check engine light was on.
In my experience, a check engine light can mean the car is saying anything from, “Oops, I just burped!” to “I’m about to cough up a press!”
What might have been a minor annoyance at home seemed like a major disaster in the big city.
I called the nearest dealer and was told that it would take three days before they could even start thinking about the process of possibly looking at our car. We were due to leave in a couple of days, so I called the next nearest agent and was told they could do the diagnosis in the morning. yes!
In the service department, a man named Max said they would be in our car as soon as possible. Minutes after I left the dealership, I received an automated text confirming our car was in good hands as well as a link to a website chronicling the repair process and a video feed of our car. I love modern technology!
That was the last I heard from Max. The website showed no progress, nor did it show any video of our car while it was being repaired.
I called Max several times the next day and got his voicemail. I finally called the public number for the service department, spoke to a real person, and was told Max has taken the day off. Thanks a lot Max!
But I also knew that our car was fixed. The problem was – yes! – Some wires are chewed up.
When I paid the staggeringly expensive repair bill, it occurred to me that the squirrels were cooperating with the car dealerships. This would fit perfectly into the model of organized crime in major cities.
Our experience in the automotive industry is not over yet. As we drove home, the car suddenly announced that one of its tires had low air pressure. Worried about the overspeed, we whipped up at a gas station and refilled the injured tire. Its pressure has held steady ever since, probably because we left the squirrel gangland’s territory.
My glasses and our car are now working perfectly. But someone has to report the little furry gangsters to the federal authorities. Because it would be a shame for them to get away with this.
If you would like to contact Jerry Nelson for some public speaking, or just to record your comments, you can email him at [email protected] His book “Dear County Agent Guy” is available at Workman.com and at booksellers everywhere.