I was headed out to pick up dinner. A quick drive about a mile and a half to the Carl’s Jr drive through. Not a sign of trouble on my horizon.
I place the order, talking to the “Charlie Brown’s teacher” voiced machine in the driveway. We’ll see what we actually get.
I’m second in line, waiting my turn. No worries. The guy in front of me leaves and I drive up and stop at the window.
I have to get my wallet out, so just to be safe I put the car in “park,” keep my foot on the brakes. Do the minor league contortionist thing, get out the wallet, fish out the cash.
I get my change, a medium and a large drink, ask which is which. Later we’ll find out that he got it backwards, but maybe that was just a side effect of the timeline shift to the other, less friendly timeline…
It takes a bit because there’s a custom burger being ordered. There are several cars lined up behind me by the time my bag o’ food comes.
I get everything settled, reach over to go home…
…and the car won’t shift out of “park.”
What am I doing wrong?
Foot on the brake, it won’t go unless that’s depressed. No problem there.
I’m pushing the release button on the gear shift, right? Again, no problem. So why can’t I move the shift lever?
The honking starts. I have my food, the folks behind have been waiting a while, let’s go!
Try turning the car off, then back on. No problem. Foot on brake, gear shift button pushed, and … no joy. I’m stuck in “park.”
The guy in the Carl’s Jr wants to know if there’s a problem with my order. Nope, just a problem with my car.
The next five minutes or so are chaotic. There’s a lot of angst. Confusion abounds.
The Carls Jr folks finally send someone out to the parking lot to get the five or six cars stacked up there to back out, drive around to the parking lot, and come in to get their food in the lobby. One of them has an anatomically improbable suggestion for me. Creative, but unlikely.
Folks in the restaurant are coming to the window and trying to give me advice and suggestions. “Make sure that you have your foot on the brake!” Thank you, good one, I know that, learned it early in the ten years and 85,000+ miles I’ve had the car. Have I tried…? Yes, yes I have, but thanks!
It’s time for reinforcements. I can’t even get out of the car, since the driver’s door is up against the little shelf at the pickup window, and the passenger side door doesn’t have much more clearance on the other side, where there’s an automated car wash attached to the Shell station next door. I’m starting to wonder if I’ll have to try to see if I can put the top down (I’m driving a Volvo convertible) without hitting the roof of the drive-thru in order to get out.
Call AAA. They want to send a link to their app to deal with this. Sorry, that’s bullshit, I’m having a moment here and I want to talk to a human who can HELP!
I finally get someone, explain the situation. They’ll send someone. They have a whole list of places where I can be towed where I can get special AAA discounts on service, would I like one of them?
I haven’t had time to spend two seconds thinking about where I want to get towed to. It’s after 18:30 on a Friday night – who would be open? Let’s just get towed home, keep it simple for now, buy time to think about what to do next. Okay, they’ll be here in something like 45 minutes to an hour.
WHAT? Okay, I’m not going anywhere…
And through it all, I keep questioning myself. Why would the car just break like this? It hasn’t been acting up, nothing got spilled into the gear shift lever box, there wasn’t any big, nasty sound. Maybe it’s me just blindly and unconsciously doing something really simple and stupid wrong and I can’t see it?
User error located between the steering wheel and the bucket seats?
Then begins the routine of having the Carl’s Jr folks ask if I’m making any progress, turning the car off and on a few times, pumping the brakes (I know there’s an interlock switch on the brakes, maybe that’s gone flakey), smacking the shift lever a couple of times (percussive maintenance!), getting nowhere, turning off the car, and waiting for the Carl’s Jr folks to come back and ask if I’m making any progress.
What’s that saying about insanity being where you do the same things over and over and keep expecting a different outcome?
After a dozen or two rounds, nine minutes elapsed time according to my phone calls to AAA, no one is more surprised than I am when I start the car smoothly shifts out of park like there was never any problem at all.
There aren’t any of the Carl’s Jr folks at the window, so I’m not going to waste any time waiting for them to come back so that I can say goodbye. (I’m sure they’ll remember me, if not for the stupid broken car, then for the head-to-toe Chiefs clothing.)
I drive home, carefully, waiting for the next shoe to drop, while also desperately trying to call AAA back to wave off the scheduled tow truck. Fortunately, this must be a fairly common experience since there’s a relatively simple way to do this with just a couple of button pushes on the phone.
The mile and a half drive was uneventful. No sign that anything at all was so wrong just seconds ago.
Not for all of the tea in China would I shift out of “drive.”
I get home, park in the driveway, shift the car into “park,” set the brake, and shut down the car.
Out of curiosity, I turn it back on. Foot on the brake. Reach for the gear shift lever.
It’s locked in “park” like it was set in stone.
Whatever. I’ll mess around with it some time on Monday and if it starts, I’ll drive it off to my favorite repair shop. If not, well, I’ve got plenty of time to futz with it without blocking the Carl’s Jr drive-thru lane.
The food is cold.
And the guy did get it wrong. The Dr Pepper is in the small cup, the Diet Coke is in the big one.