Vermont Vortex: When Parts Fail

Failed Alternator

What is that thing, you ask? Why, it’s a completely broken alternator plucked from an ’07 Subaru Outback. (What—you don’t have random car parts on the floor in your mudroom? You should; all the popular people are doing it.) I snapped that photo in the early morning hours on Friday, when one impatient David-the-Chef stood breathing down my neck, waiting for me to finish so he could stuff this heavy hunk of metal inside a paper sack and whisk it off to the car parts store right when they opened (at some silly hour like 7 am, for car parts people, who I suppose are like construction people, who need the home improvement stores to open at silly hours, too).

I tried to make it art, but then decided, nah, it’s a broken car part, and the chef needs to git ‘er done and get to work: I can certainly appreciate that. I’d already messaged my office to tell them I’d be working from home, but this new possibility of an early-morning car fix gave me hope that this day might turn out to be a normal-ish Friday after all.

Thursday afternoon on my way home from work I noticed Yuri (my beloved Subi) acting funny when we were stopped at an intersection. His normally quietish hum got quieter still, and then the fan (which I had set to stun, along with the temperature, because Vermont winter) blew out its deliciously warm air with a bit less vigor. And sure enough, my intuition was correct: something was wrong. The battery warning light on the dash started flashing its angry red rectangle self, with its annoying little plus and minus signs so you know it’s a battery icon, and then the brake light came on. My heart moved into my throat, as it does in these kinds of situations. And of course the traffic signal at the intersection refused to change, because in this dreaded Vermont Vortex everything around me slowed to a crawl, even the people on the sidewalks talking on their cell phones, and the other cars in traffic…they all….slowed…..down. If only we could move forward, went my thinking, the battery will charge a bit…I am just a few blocks from home: don’t die on me now, Yuri!

I flipped on my hazards and crept forward when the light finally, finally turned green, and then about a block or so later the dash warning lights went off and I could feel power coming back into the car. I’m sure I must need a new battery, I thought—I’ve had this one for the six-plus years this car has been mine. It must be a fossil by now.

But safe at home I was still a little concerned, and panic-dialed my boy back in Tennessee, the Car Expert, who merely quipped, You’ve got a bad alternator. No, I insisted, I think I just need a new battery. Probably your alternator, he went on, before changing the subject to something more interesting. While we were still talking I started Googling symptoms left and right. What? he wanted to know, sensing my lack of focus on him. Well I just Googled the car’s symptoms, I said, and that led me to a bunch of Subaru forums. Mmm-hmm, he said, and what do they say?

They say…it’s most likely the…alternator. <sigh> I can see my twenty-something’s handsome young face staring back at me from my laptop (because when we talk it is always a video call), and I can see he is swiveling from side to side in his desk chair a thousand miles away, in his groovy, man-cave-like bedroom, and both his eyebrows go up-up-up, and he smiles out of one corner of his mouth, and says, Ah. Your Alt—Er—Na—Tor.

Meanwhile the chef (to whom I’ve already texted several panic messages by this point) is saying maybe to the alternator theory, but also wants to look at the battery connections when he gets home. Thank the universe for chef boyfriends who also know a bunch about cars.

I embrace the battery theory and go about my business, although by now it is way too late to go to yoga, and anyway, Yuri has no intention of taking me there.

The Vermont Vortex had settled in comfortably much earlier in the week. On Monday I had another session with the gentle practitioner of acupuncture, which damn near killed me: the pain was excruciating, and a couple of times simply intolerable. That hour set me on edge, and got me worrying about the next session, an entire week and a day into the future. I will hone this one to a fine sheen, I am thinking. By next Tuesday I may talk myself out of going back.

Then still more Vortex: a colleague who shares an interest in jazz (and who in fact is a jazz drummer outside of work) brought me a two-CD set to listen to, a classic 1966 recording he had stumbled across recently and thought I might enjoy. After work I installed iTunes on my laptop (reinstalling software on my new laptop has been a pretty low priority). First I had trouble choosing the correct version, and then more trouble getting Apple to recognize me, and then finally, finally it worked, except then Windows decided it wanted to do some kind of features updates, and got hung up on them with the message: Updates 100% Complete—Don’t’ turn off your PC. I tried to stay calm and walked away, and sure enough, about a half hour later everything worked. So now, I am thinking, now I can upload and listen to this great recording.

But wait: my new laptop has no CD drive. How can this possibly be? It has everything else. I dropped a chunk of change on this PC, and I expect it to perform, dammit. But a quick search of Google, again, reveals that the CD drive is going the way of the T-Rex. Who knew? (Not me, obviously.)

I am sure the Vortex finds all of this so entertaining, together with the inexplicably corrupt memory card in my new Big Girl camera, the one my ex-sister-in-law-but-still-my-sister gave me for Christmas. Which is why I shot the alternator photo with my iPhone, which also tells me that iCloud is full and if I want more storage I gotta pay up.

On Thursday morning I called the wonderful veterinary practice where I take Scout, which happens to be upstairs from the doggy day camp where he cavorts with his buddies on Friday afternoons, joyous occasions always. Scout is due for a vaccine, I explain to the nice receptionist, but I’ve lost the reminder card and don’t know which. I’ll look it up for you—hang on, she tells me. Yep! Lyme vaccine is due. Can y’all go downstairs tomorrow and give him the vaccine while he’s at camp, I ask? I will check with one of the vets and let you know, she says. Okay, I tell her: just leave me a voicemail.

By Thursday evening I am thinking there will be no camp for Scoutie on Friday anyway. But on Friday morning, David-the-Chef drops in the new car part in under a half hour <cue the heavenly chorus>, et voilà—Yuri turns right over and hums happily, no warning lights on the dash, just a contented Subi.

We’ve been driving him a bunch this weekend just to be sure, because his idling speed was a tad too low for our liking one day after getting his shiny new part. Oh, and Scout did make it to camp, and he did get his vaccine, but I didn’t get that promised confirmation voicemail until yesterday, a full day after the event (Vortex).

And this morning? This morning I slipped on some ice in the driveway coming inside after I fired up Yuri to get him warmed up and ready to go. I did not hit the ground, but came pretty dang close. If anybody saw what happened, and it is indeed possible somebody did, I am sure they had a good laugh. I reached out to grab the nearby porch railing at just the right moment to save myself and in so doing bent a finger waaaaaay back into an unnatural position, and so now my entire right hand feels like it has been smooshed by something heavy.

You know, like a vortex.

2 thoughts on “Vermont Vortex: When Parts Fail

  1. Gah! At least the vortex hasn’t won. I’m glad the car, the dog, the BF, and the son are all humming along and the worst of it is your poor finger. It is probably your middle finger and it was the vortex trying to prevent you from making obscene gestures in its direction!!

    • Funny you should mention the middle finger…which it is indeed, but as I hammer out these words my entire right hand is in agony. So I am wondering whether the ‘ballet curse’ will apply here. This is the phenomenon whereby you take a ballet class after a break of say, a couple of weeks. Next day you feel okay, maybe a tad sore. But the following day? You just wish somebody would kill you to put you out of your misery. The hand: bad body part to injure when you write professionally. But, yes: we’re all humming along. :-/

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