Somehow, this was not quite how I imagined spending New Years when I set out from Orlando to go to a party in Dallas. It’s 9:38pm, new years eve 2001, and I’m sitting in my car at a gas station. Quite thankfully, I got in touch with Karen Black, who lives not far from where I’m stranded in Tyler, Texas.

As I was somewhere in Mississippi today, I was thinking about the possibility of my alternator dying. I only thought about it because someone had just discussed the demise of the alternator in her ’91 miata with about the same mileage as mine. I decided that 150,000 miles was just not a typical lifespan of an alternator. I figured I’d wait until at LEAST 200,000 miles before I would replace it as a preventative measure.

So imagine my thoughts when the charge light popped on dashboard when I was about 50 miles east of Shreveport, LA. It felt like a problem related to quantum mechanics. The alternator is both alive and dead until I think it. Then it’s dead. I sighed, rolled my eyes at God, and sat about trying to figure out how to get out of this one.

I immediately stopped at a gas station where I learned that the nearest auto parts store was 20 miles away. I eventually found an Autozone which even though they were closing, was nice enough to test my alternator and announce that it was kaput. I had assumed as much, but since I can change an alternator in an hour or two, I wasn’t very upset until they told me they didn’t have one for a Miata in stock. “We can order it?” the guy asked sheepishly. I sighed, and got another idea. I bought a used battery for $30, which they promised I could return within 90 days. I swapped the largish “new” battery with mine, and decided to drive until it quit. For all I knew, it would get me to Dallas. And, if it only got me 20 miles, I’d know about how long I could expect to get out of my battery.

My headlights started getting very dim about 20 miles from longview. Then the tachometer started going bezerk and the engine started missing. I pulled into a convienently placed “picnic area” and swapped the batteries.

Car started right up, and I headed for the nearest telephone, which is here. After a waiting quite some time for my mother, who happened to be enjoying her evening at Universal Studios, to find the number for me I called Karen and Bob. Man I was glad to hear him answer the phone.

Bob said it would be about 30-45min…. So here I wait. Nice that I had a laptop along to type at, makes the time go faster, even though there’s not really enough room between me and the steering wheel to type, so I’m sort of at an angle. And my fingers are so cold, that they’re getting numb, which is making typing a bit more difficult.

I sometimes wonder about the cruelty of humanity, but I’ve encountered several different people so far who went out of their way to try to help me out. First, the people at the autozone (though after much bitching, because they wanted to go home–who could blame them?), then the guy was closing this gas station and came out to see what the deal was with me. He offered to drive me to a motel room, for which I thanked him.

Got the same offer a bit later from a rough looking woman smoking a cigarette, who had stopped to use the phones. She asked for a quarter for two dimes and a nickel, which I provided. She told me how neat looking my car is, for which I thanked her and said that I generally agree, but wished that it was working properly. She hung around for awhile to make sure I got in touch with Karen and Bob, which was quite nice of her. I have my doubts that she was sober.

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