Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Life's Bitter Cup

A sad and unfortunately common epitaph in nineteenth-century New England.  This example is over the grave of four-month-old Caroline Newcomb of New Hampshire:

She tasted Life’s bitter cup
Refused to drink the portion up
But turned her little head aside
Disgusted with the taste and died.

Magna cum Murder was great.  My two panels went well, and I met some truly remarkable authors who are writing remarkable novels.  I shared the panel on locale with the Guest of Honor, Robert Wilson, who writes harsh, dark mysteries set in Portugal, Spain, and West Africa.  A brilliant Englishman with the Brit’s expansive vocabulary, it was kind of intimidating to hear him offer an exotic story of corruption in Africa, when all I had to offer was a needleworking sleuth who lives in an ordinary small town in Minnesota.  Still, it was fun, and I was honored.  And maybe the contrast was telling.

But on the way home we stopped in a little town called El Paso in Illinois for gas, and the car wouldn't start.  As in dead as a doornail, wouldn't even turn over.  Oddly, there was a Ford dealership right across the road from the gas station (I drive a Focus) and though it was closed (Sunday), there was a phone number to call for an emergency.  A man asked us if we wanted a tow, but we wanted first of all to know how much trouble we were in.  He came and thought it might be the alternator.  He gave us a jump start (no charge!) and warned us not to turn the engine off until we were home.  Once started, the car ran fine.  Headlights came on at dusk as usual.  We did have to stop again for gas - but no problem, though I arranged to be in the store while Ellen filled the tank with the engine running.  We arrived safely at home over three hundred miles later.  I tried restarting the engine - still no response at all.  We had to leave our suitcases in the trunk because we didn't open it before turning off the engine and of course the electronic thing-ee wouldn't work - but neither did the inside push knob.  And the trunk does not have a keyed opener.  So Monday morning Ellen gave me a jump and followed me to the Ford dealership and then a ride home.  They called an hour later to say one of the cells in the battery was faulty and had shorted out the whole thing.  Can't recharge it.  It cost a little over $180 for the service and a new battery.

Life in the twenty-first century.


Anonymous said...

There's a future mystery for you in that tale -- I can just feel it!

Betty Hechtman said...

I am glad you made it home without turnng off the engine. I remember stuff like happening when I was a kid. I thought we were past that.

Linda O. Johnston said...

Yikes. That's not a fun way to end an enjoyable conference. Glad you made it home safely despite all the problems and that you hopefully have a solution now.

Monica Ferris said...

It turned out that the battery was at fault. One of its cells failed and shorted out the whole thing. Cost a little over $180 for the diagnosis and a new battery.

And you're right, Betty, when we're young we often drive unreliable cars. At my age, and driving a relatively new car, this isn't supposed to happen.