Sunday, August 24, 2008

Dodging a Bullet

So night before last I'm in an overpriced motel in Pasadena, about 30 miles from LAX, and I have a 6:40 AM plane to catch. (Plus the following week is going to be stressful for reasons I won't relate here.) I figure I ought to practice returning the car the night before. I set out at 7:45, hoping to make it back to Pasadena within an hour, maybe an hour and change.

Sure enough, I take several wrong turns on the way to the airport. The rental car return
is abysmally marked, with a few haphazard signs but no clear path, and I'm driving around in circles on Sepulveda and Century and suchlike looking for Avis when I realize I have a desperate need to relieve myself. Thinking Avis would not be appreciative if I were to piss their car, (well sort fo a car, it is a rather worthless largish beast called an HHR or such that they have foisted upon me as "midsized") I begin an urgent search for a back street with a tree I can water.

Taking the road less traveled three or four times works smoothly enough. I find a deserted out of the way street which is unlikely to have any evening traffic and proceed to fertilize a handy eucalyptus. Or so I thought. In retrospect it was something of a dyscalyptus.

Much relieved, I pull a U and am surprised to see another car waiting at the light. So I'm behind this car at a bit of an angle. Perhaps my lights are not visible in the mirror of the nice lady in the other car. In any case, she suddenly takes into her head to go into reverse. I see the reverse lights come on and start leaning on my horn to no avail. She guns it and gives me a good solid thwok in the side.

Well, suddenly I am facing a sleepless night with accident reports, something which I can ill afford at the moment. I am furious. But when we go to look, there isn't any sign of damage on either car! Not a scratch!

"We dodged a bullet" I say to the nice lady, and let her go on her way and me on mine.

I find the Avis lot at last and head back to Sepulveda to find the 105 eastbound ramp. Something glitches in my brain, and when I pass the 105 ramp I think I see "405" and keep going. I am wondering if the car is a bit misaligned. Of course, I groan, she must have hit the tire. I stupidly think nothing of it, wondering if I will have to report this to Avis after all. When I am sure I have missed my ramp, I turn right onto a quiet little cul-de-sac on 30th street to do a 3-point turn and go back, but when I shift into reverse, essentially the wheel breaks off along with a bit of the axle, loosely remaining attached to the car at a jaunty angle.

I did dodge a bullet after all. Had I found the 105 ramp, this a axle-breaking trick would likely have happened at speed on an elevated expressway. Who knows what would have become of me.

Since my phone battery was dead, I was lucky to find myself right by a Domino's pizza to make a couple of calls. The tow came, Avis in total indifference swapped out the car, with no mention of the 45 degree angle that one of the wheels was dangling at. This gave me enough time to get back to Pasadena, sleep for two hours, collect my luggage and (with some trepidation) haul myself back to LAX where the plane to Austin was on time. Irene was kindly waiting at Bergstrom, and I came home and collapsed into bed.

One moral of the story is that what appears to be good luck can be bad luck and what appears to be bad luck can be good. I slept through my all too brief weekend, but intact, intact.

The other moral is that if someone backs really hard into your tire, file the accident report anyway. I guess. I don't know. I really wouldn't have thought of it, and maybe the cop wouldn't have either.

I suppose Avis will be bothering me this week as if I didn't have enough troubles. But all of that is better than getting onto the 105 elevated expressway with a wheel that is about to break off, something I had every intention of doing,