July 1982

Wally's Service Station - source: retroweb.com

Wally’s Service Station – source: retroweb.com


Lou started going to a karate school near my hotel, since he doesn’t have the Duke club instruction over the summer. We made a deal that I could commute with the MGB instead of my bicycle if I started taking karate classes, too; that’s his way of encouraging me to exercise. He has a summer internship job in Research Triangle Park working in the stock room at IBM. The job isn’t at all what he had in mind, but he is making the most of it, and getting experience for a career in Operations Management.  He came up with a great idea for organizing some of the inventory bins, and submitted it for an improvement award.  Turns out that his supervisor said that change was already in the works, and somehow the supervisor was going to get the credit for it all.  Lou is really upset about the whole thing, and was close to quitting his job.  My dad used to talk about things like that happening at his machine shop job at General Electric.  He was a toolmaker, and constantly came up with all kinds of new ideas and inventions, but complained that the engineers or management always got the credit and the bonuses instead of the blue-collar guys; it was constantly “us versus them.” I don’t know why Lou is so upset, because soon enough, he’ll have his MBA and he’ll be one of “them” getting the better paycheck and all the pats on the back.  Probably half of the time “they” are going to get a knife in the back as well. Anyway, Lou works the night shift, so he drives me to work at 7am, picks me up at 3pm, we drive out to RTP to his job, then I drive back to Durham, go to my karate class, home for a bit, and then pick him up at IBM around midnight.

One Friday night, we decided to head to the beach after I picked him up from work.  I packed up the car with our stuff, and started out well past midnight after he had worked some overtime hours.  It’s only about a three-hour drive to the beach. Normally.  But it wasn’t a normal trip. Somewhere, smack dab in the middle of Nowhere, North Carolina, in the dead of the night, about an hour or so into our trip, the car started running rough and making a distressed noise. We had been enjoying the drive with the car top down, and so we both heard it immediately, and decided it would be better to go back home instead of risking getting stuck at the beach. So we hung a U-turn and headed back westbound, but within minutes, the car simply stopped. Lou was really good with the mechanical repairs on his Grand Prix, but the MGB is completely different, and he had no clue what was wrong.

There were no gas stations, no businesses, no houses, no nothing that we could see or remember seeing recently, and it was pitch black. Finally, an off-duty police officer stopped to help on his way to work, and gave us a ride in to the nearest town. He said he only knew of one repair shop that could possibly work on a foreign car.  Eventually, we got in touch with the garage owner on his home phone, and he, his wife and their kid picked us up; we piled in with the tools in the backseat of his truck and rode out get our car and tow it back to his garage. As daylight broke, the scene shifted from a creepy Stephen King movie into an episode of Mayberry RFD, with us out of town Yankees with our fancy European car stuck at Wally’s garage with Goober’s head under the hood.  Everybody standing around the car was really friendly; they wanted to help, and offered lots of suggestions. Unfortunately, nobody had any experience with an MGB, and none of the things they tried worked out.  At one point, they accidentally got the car running.  We took it for a drive, and gave them our wedding rings as collateral so they knew we would not skip out on the bill.  We didn’t come right back; the car broke down again on the short test run, and we had to hike back to the garage for another tow.  Several hours later, one of the many town-folk bystanders, a quiet black man who had been doing more watching than suggesting over the hours, threw out the idea that maybe it was a bad fuel pump.  Everyone, including Lou thought that was brilliant; luckily there was a fuel pump in a parts store in town that fit.  That was it. We all cheered, and Lou gave the guy $20 for helping. AAA took care of the towing charge. Of course, we had to pay the repair shop a lot more money, but Louie got the owner of the Mom and Pop shop to charge us less than the full day since he thinks they should have been able to figure it out sooner, and without the solution coming from the sidelines. Fortunately, neither the police officer, nor any of the onlookers noticed that we had removed all the expired inspection and registration stickers from the car and our New York plates.

We finally did get back on the road and got to the beach a little before sunset Saturday evening, set up our chairs, and enjoyed some of the sandwiches and snacks I had packed for the weekend. We had been awake since 6am on Friday morning, and fell asleep fast and hard in the tiny MGB parked in the beach lot, but were woken in the dark back into that creepy movie by someone knocking on our car window.  Some girls were partying at the beach, and got stuck in the sand.  We both pushed their vehicle out of its ruts and went back to our car to crash until dawn.

Waking up that Sunday morning at the beach was absolutely wonderful, and the experience was well worth the arduous adventure to get there.  I’ve been to a lot of beautiful places over my years working on cruise ships, and can honestly say this place was spectacular. The beaches are long and wide, and the ocean goes on forever. I can only imagine how great it would be to live in one of the oceanfront houses built up high on sticks. I’m hoping we can go again soon. It just costs gas, so it isn’t a huge expense. Probably the only other thing we do for entertainment is that Lou likes to go to the X-rated drive-in theater.  It doesn’t cost much, especially since I hide away tucked on the floor of the backseat to get in for free. Oh yeah, I do play Ms. PacMan obsessively while I’m waiting for my wash to finish at the laundromat, but that’s about it for entertainment expense.


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