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Article: Not Your Ordinary Commute - traffic trouble, car trouble, and too many mechanics that know me... all too well.

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Not Your Ordinary Commute to Work


It’s 26 degrees outside, the wind is howling, and I’m off to work in my old truck. The same truck I’ve owned for over 30 years, the same one that I drive nearly every day. It’s about a 35 mile commute from my country home to the bustling city where my repair shop is located. It’s not a bad drive, mostly main highway. A bit of it is through some heavily wooded areas where deer have a tendency to dart out, and I have to pass through a small sleepy town on my way to a large dam I have to cross just a few miles from my house. Then, I come to the main highway that heads straight into the city with no stop lights for miles.

I take the same route with the same posted speeds and battle the same crazy drivers every day. There’s the makeup lady, the cell phone talkers, and of course the kamikaze daredevils. I still don’t get it why some people feel it’s necessary to drive like it’s the Indianapolis 500 this early in the morning. You know, weaving through traffic, jamming on their brakes as they approach the next car, or ride your rear bumper like they’re going to try some NASCAR sling shot maneuver and zip past you at the next opportunity. There’s always one every morning, who darts through traffic like a jack rabbit and plants their foot on the brakes at least a hundred times every mile. The wear and tear on their cars has got to be tremendous. Can you imagine what those brake pads look like? Let alone what kind of condition those rotors are in? And, you know… sooner or later one of these speed demons is going to mess up and cause an accident. Today was one of those days.

Traffic was backed up for about 5 miles by the time I was gathered up in it. Nobody was going anywhere, and I was content to wait with the rest of the traffic while we slowly inched our way further down the road. The traffic report came on the radio announcing the accidents in the area. Sure enough, I was smack-dab in the middle of the whole thing. There were three separate accidents reported, and they were all less than a mile apart. (No fatalities, thank goodness) All the exit ramps were jammed with people trying to find alternative routes, so I decided to just sit this one out right here on the main highway and wait with the rest of the traffic. This was definitely going to be a long…long commute today.

As I inched past the third mangled wreckage scene, I was commenting to myself about how the steam plumes were so much thicker than at the last two mishaps. That’s when I realized it wasn’t the mangled cars that were smoking… it was me! I better pay attention to the gauges. She’s as hot as a firecracker, the temp gauge was all the way in the red. Apparently, I was so engrossed in the traffic and accidents that I didn’t notice my heater had gone cold too! In an instant most of the water and coolant shot out of the radiator cap and the overflow. If I don’t get onto the shoulder soon, I’m likely to be the next accident reported on the radio. Ok, on goes the turn signal, head for the side of the road, shut er’ down, and turn on the hazards.

By now I was just past the last accident, but not that far away from it. Every commuter with a gas pedal had it buried to the floor trying to make up for lost time as they gunned it back up to highway speeds, while I negotiated the shoulder of the road. People were flying by me as if I was standing still, oh, that’s right… I was still, still spewing steam in the air as I sat there. My little truck rocked back and forth as every car flew by. It was quite some time before I got a chance to take a quick look under the hood. When I did, I wasn’t surprised at what I found. The fan clutch had given up. Needless to say, if the traffic would have kept moving I would have never known there was a problem. Now my problem was… I need a tow truck. There’s no coolant in the radiator, and I’m not close enough to an exit. I’m stuck here.

I called the tow company that does the towing for my shop. Ol’ Steve got a chuckle out of this one. As he told me, “You know, we can recommend a good shop that can take care of that for you.” Yea, fine… rub it in buddy. He laughed and said he would have one of his trucks there in a few. I sat back down in the truck hoping for at least a little wind break and maybe soak up the last bit of the heat in the cab. That’s when I noticed a truck had stopped just in front of me and was slowly backing up towards my truck. It was a mechanic I know from another shop. “Did ya break down, Gonz?” I told him what had happened, and of course he laughed, laughed all the way back to his truck as he headed off to his shop. Not more than a minute or so later, another car does the same thing. It’s another mechanic from another shop who noticed it was me on the side of the road. You know, I might as well start selling tickets to the “Gonzo break down”, seems I’m a rather popular disabled vehicle or something. Because it wasn’t long before a half a dozen mechanics from different shops had all stopped to see what I was up.

You know, it’s one thing to be known in your area by other mechanics, but it’s a whole other thing when the greatest enjoyment for them is not one of my insightful stories or technical articles, but a little side of the road entertainment with coolant dripping onto to the tarmac and steam billowing from under the hood of my truck. I’m never going to live this down. By the time everyone had their chuckle, and of course a few choice photos for their facebook page the tow truck arrived. And, of course, the embarrassment continued. James (the tow driver) just kept repeating the same thing all the way to my shop, “Gonzo, Gonzo, Gonzo. Boy Oh Boy, I would have never guessed I’d be picking you up on the side of the road.”


In the thirty plus years I’ve owned this little truck, I’ve never had it on a tow truck before, and it’s never left me stranded on the side of the road, either. Well, I can’t say that any more. Yep, not your ordinary commute to work! At least everybody had a good laugh to start their morning off, even after being stuck in traffic for so long. Thanks guys… ya made my day.


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