Thursday, August 1, 2013

Techno-fun, Except Not

You can curse Bill Gates, you can blame yourself for your dependency, you can bang your head against the wall--but when your computer just stops, just won't go, no form of self-expression, no matter how powerful you may think it, will accomplish anything.  You are in Job's position.  You can't look up anybody's phone number.  You can't email anybody for advice.  If, as I was, you're on your way that morning to Yellowstone National Park to have lunch with two old friends and colleagues from the Greater Yellowstone Coalition, thereafter to a meeting with the head of the Yellowstone wolf project--a meeting essential to the book you're just finishing--and thereafter to dinner in Livingston with other dear friends, you cannot Google "computer repair livingston montana" and find out instantly where to drop off the accursed laptop on your way to the park.  All you have is a four-year-old Yellow Pages that shows Bozeman well supplied with computer repair people and Livingston with none.  You don't have time to do anything but jump in the car with your dead computer and hope for the best.

Well, there's a Radio Shack on the way, so I stop off there, and guess what, there's a computer-fixer guy on-premises, and sure, he'll have a go at it, and they're open till six, and I'll be back from the park before that.  Beautiful.

Except not.  Come five-thirty, he's stymied, stuck, nowhere.  I have to go home to Outer Greater Metropolitan Melville that night to feed Cat Isabel and then next morning drive--the opposite direction--to Billings for another important interview for the last little crucial dramatic bits of the ending of The Killing of Wolf Number Ten, with one of my favorite characters ever, the swashbuckling undercover investigator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Tim Eicher, who singlehandedly nailed the killer of Wolf Number Ten.  Luckily my friend Lexi is going to be driving to Big Timber the next morning, and so she can bring me my repaired computer, and all I'll have to do to get it is the ordinary bagatelle of the fifty-six-mile round trip to town.

Except not.  The Radio Shack guy still hasn't been able to fix the damned thing.  However, that same night I do a little talk to a book club whose members are all singing the praises of a computer repair guy in Livingston named Bob Sigal, and so I ask Lexi to bring the computer not to Big Timber but just across town in Livingston to Sigal.  By the end of the day, he reports that after wiping the hard drive clean and reinstalling all the major software--the equivalent of a brain transplant, were it a human being--my computer is humming with life.  The hundred-mile round trip to Livingston, with P. G. Wodehouse playing on the trusty iPod, is, under these circumstances, sheer joy.

Except.  It is now time to start packing.  I'm leaving Montana early this year.  I pack and send my books.  Isabel takes me on her Special Walk every day, usually about eight in the evening,

and I am wrapped in the sweet melancholy of leaving this place I love so much.

Trying to keep shipping costs down, I fill the good old BMW M3 ("Techno-Violet" in color) to Beverly Hillbillies condition, and on Tuesday, July 23, with Isabel in her carrying case unhappily but stoically wedged between two great cardboard boxes, off we go, with ghastly Twin Falls, Idaho, in our sights for the evening.

Except.  We don't make it that far.  While idling outside a Stinkers convenience store in Blackfoot, Idaho, in midafternoon, the BMW's engine starts shooting steam from under the hood in hideous billows.  The temperature gauge sweeps rapidly to the top and the emergency red light starts flashing.  A pool of coolant spreads beneath the car, and it is immediately undeniable that this car is skee-rewed.  Once more I am cast in the role of Job, v.2013.

One bit of apparent good fortune is that we are only thirty miles from Idaho Falls, which actually has a BMW dealer.  A call to AAA brings--slowly--a flatbed truck.  Every place of lodging in that city is booked, so the truck driver kindly delivers Isabel and me to a Best Western in Blackfoot, and the car to BMW of Idaho Falls, which by the time he arrives is closed for the day.

Morning brings a phone call from the service department informing me that the coolant overflow reservoir is cracked and a new one must be ordered, to arrive overnight.  They kindly send a driver to bring Isabel and me to a much nicer Best Western (which now has a room) overlooking the actual falls of Idaho Falls.  I dine in one of  the worst restaurants I have ever known, unsurprised.  Isabel's patience with motel life is growing thin.

By ten-thirty the next day, the new part has arrived, and Micah the mechanic goes to work.  By two o'clock he declares the car returned to health.  A driver picks up Isabel and me, I pile our stuff back into the car, and off we go.  We make it about three hundred yards when hot air comes blasting out of the air conditioner vents and the temperature gauge begins rising fast.  A quick U-turn and a desperate dash bring me back to the dealer before damage sets in.  The car is not fixed.  Not even close, Micah.  Well, I did test-drive it.  Well, it's not fixed, Micah, is it?  Like--I want to say, but refrain--quod erat demonstrandum, Micah?

I return to the Best Western and take another room.  At three-forty-five the service person calls and says the car needs a new thermostat, water pump, and some sort of housing, and the deadline for ordering those was three-thirty.  He has placed the order anyway, and "thinks" the order will "probably" come tomorrow.

Now, "tomorrow" is Friday.  If the parts don't arrive, I will be staying on in Idaho Falls for Friday night, Saturday night, and Sunday night, and since the installation of these particular parts is time-consuming, I may well have to stay Monday night as well--meaning that I will leave Idaho Falls exactly one week after I left Montana.  Idaho Falls, by the way, is usually considered about a four-hour drive from my starting point.

I call Elizabeth in San Francisco--where it is an hour earlier--and ask her to rush to BMW of San Francisco and buy the parts and then race to the central Fed Ex shipping facility and see if they can't still be overnighted to Idaho Falls.  She does it all brilliantly.  And at ten-thirty that Friday morning, both shipments arrive.

Except.  The order placed by the Idaho Falls dealer contains a thermostat and a housing, but no water pump.  Elizabeth's order contains a water pump and four housings, but no thermostat.

Put them together, however, and you have enough parts to make the car go.

Except.  It turns out that San Francisco has sent the wrong water pump.  Then a miracle.  Somewhere, somehow, Micah the mechanic finds an after-market water pump.  My desire to torture him with Latin evaporates.  And at 3:00 p.m. on Friday, July 26, 2013 (anno domini, Micah), Isabel and I are on our way to a filthy motel in Winnemucca, Nevada, and the car just simply...runs.  The next day, it continues to run, and come Saturday night, we are home.

1 comment:

Tiffany said...

This is fantastic!