B and I do not have a particularly romantic relationship. We don’t buy each other cards, we don’t go out on Valentine’s Day, there are no love letters, and I’ve only received flowers once. We are both completely fine with this type of relationship, so it works for us. Even when we were not married, “dates” were not something that we put a lot of effort into outside of the fact that they always involved travelling at least 400 miles because we never lived in the same city. Our last “date” or visit before we got married and moved in together (in the same city!) was our most memorable for all the wrong reasons.
Before our wedding, I was living in Atlanta finishing up my Master’s degree. B was living in Raleigh working full time. Our wedding was going to be in Florida where my family was and his family wanted to vacation. The plan was that when I graduated, I would bring the rest of my belongings up to Raleigh from Atlanta, spend a few days with B, drive down to Atlanta to pick up some wedding things, and finally drive down to Florida the day after to go to my bachelorette party and finalize wedding details. B and his family would then meet me in Florida for the wedding a week or so later.
Well, I presented my Master’s project, packed up the rest of my things, and stuffed them in my 16 year old sedan. As I got on the road, I started having issues with my car. Being the cautious driver that I am, I went to a mechanic on the outskirts of Atlanta – I had only driven about 20 miles at this point. The mechanic spent an hour or so poking around my car and basically determined that I was having an issue with a sensor and my car was safe to drive. So, I drove to Raleigh.
I spent about a week hanging out with B, unpacking my stuff, and organizing our apartment. B spent this week working on my vehicle with the input of his co-workers (all of whom are experienced mechanics). In the process, he burned the side of his face, which fortunately healed without a scar in time for our wedding. Other than the burn and the annoyance of fixing my ancient finicky vehicle which nobody ever has parts for, our time together was pretty uneventful.
Finally, I was ready to get back on the road. I was planning to drive to Atlanta, spend the night in my apartment there, and then make the rest of the trip to Florida the day after. After about three hours on the road, my car died. Completely.
It stopped working, I pulled over on the side of the road, and I couldn’t get it to start again. It smelled like burnt car. A helpful guy stopped and declared it dead for me (I already knew this). I called USAA to get the car towed to the closest mechanic shop. I freaked out.
It was about 7 pm at night. I was on the side of I-85 a few miles from Kings Mountain, NC. If you know anything about Kings Mountain – you probably don’t because there’s nothing there – it is a town with a small “mountain”, a McDonald’s, a Waffle House, three motels and one stoplight.
I called B. He, without even stopping to think, told me that he’d be there in three hours. He called his boss because he was working nights at that time and explained why he was leaving work. He also called the National Guard and asked if he could show up late for work the next day when he was scheduled to work for them. He drove home to get his military gear and drove to me.
In the meantime, I got picked up by a tow truck. I knew when I saw the “mechanic shop” that it was an oil change place and that we would have to move the car the next day, but I decided to not say anything at the time because USAA was only paying the guy to tow the car to the location we had determined on the phone. He was then kind enough to drop me off at McDonald’s.
I sat in McDonald’s with my suitcases surrounding me for almost three hours waiting for B to get there. I tried not to think about what was going to happen to my car. Eventually, the cashier started hovering and explained to me that they were closing at 11 pm. I told her that my ride should be there before then.
B pulled up around 10:40, right as I was wondering if I was going to have to sit in the parking lot waiting for him. We decided to find a place to stay. The only motel in the area that still had a non-smoking room available was the Motel 8. The next closest place to stay was Charlotte which was over an hour away.
The Motel 8 had already closed their lobby. You had to go in through a side door to a little room where you talked to the employee through a glass window. A drunk guy wandered in to buy candy from the machine while we were paying for our room.
We got the key to our non-smoking room and brought all of our belongings up. There was a cigarette butt burn on the side table. The room smelled like smoke. The sheets were stained. We found a bug in the bed. We went to bed with our skin crawling.
We woke up the next morning and ate at Waffle House. We went to the oil and tire place and looked at the car. There was no starting it, and I was correct in my assessment that the guys there didn’t do that level of repairs. We called another tow truck and had it towed to the only mechanic shop in town. They looked at it and declared that it needed a new engine.
Now, my car was so old that you couldn’t buy a new engine because they didn’t make them anymore. We would have been paying for a junkyard engine for a 16 year old car plus all the labor required of putting in a new engine. There was a chance that the guys at the shop were lying to us, but it definitely wouldn’t start and we were very far away from any of the other mechanics we would trust to look at it.
We called our parents for advice, and then we scrapped it. The mechanics were nice enough to give me some cash for it, I took the plate and the registration, and they said they would take it to the junkyard for us.
B and I then came up with a plan with the help of my parents. He delayed his National Guard service and drove me down to Atlanta. We spent the night there, and the next morning he dropped me off at the airport where I got on a plane with a ticket that my dad purchased for me through his rewards program.
B then drove back to Raleigh with the stuff that I had planned to bring to Florida to give to my parents, worked all weekend and then drove all the way down to Florida for our wedding with my stuff in tow.
I landed in Florida just in time for my bachelorette party without a car.