Monday, December 17, 2012


Saturday morning, Miki and I planned to do some holiday shopping and errands. The day was bright and sunny, and with the top up and the windows 85% rolled up on the Ghia, it promised to be a not-too-chilly jaunt.

Our first stop was to pop over to the business partner's place and pick up/drop off some things. Everything was going great - light traffic, glorious curves of St. Asaph's leading into Conshohocken State Road, the radio turned up loud enough to cover the noise of too-cheap brakes (hey, it passed inspection AND no longer loses brake fluid). As I prepared to smoothly turn off of 23, I downshifted, and when I tried to press the accelerator, I got nothing.

Miki sensed a problem instantly and asked what was wrong. "I lost my gas pedal!" I said. He asked, "What do you mean you lost your gas pedal?"* And, since I had little other option, I guided the vehicle to the side of the road, and coasted as far as the lingering forward motion would allow.

Not-so-quietly started to freak out a little, I demonstrated to Miki how the gas pedal was gone - not working - over and done with - fish out of water - and he said, "Turn off the car. Turn it off." Because let's face it, when faced with any dilemma in my personal life, I freeze. And my husband? He generally remains calm - until after the worst has passed. He's the one that immediately jumps into action whenever there's an accident on our corner (far too frequently), while I duck and cover, and get a severe case of anal chill (you know what I'm talking about).

There we are, roadside in one of the moderately swank suburbs of Philadelphia, rear deck lid ajar, and the sinking realization that what we've just experienced is a snapped throttle cable. Now, the car is 38 years old, and it's most likely the original throttle cable and, in case you didn't know this, shit breaks in the cold (that's the wisdom of the mountains). After some electronic head-scratching, we determine the closest hardware store is a 30 minute walk away, and Miki headed off on an unexpected trek. I stayed with the car because, hey, what if I was doing something illegal by parking my semi-primer'ed jalopy at the curb? Also, what if some sort of automotive miracle happened, and the right part appeared out of nowhere? Fat chance, right?

Not long after Miki left on foot, the first of several well-intentioned rubber-neckers slowed their roll as they drove (ahem) past. Some gave an approving toot-too, others just a thumb's up. Then, a gentleman that lives on the street stopped and after hearing my wee tale of 'wagen woe offered us use of his tools. His neighbor came by 10 minutes later, offering use of his phone to call a tow truck. A dude with an MG stopped just to commiserate that he'd totally been where I was and then chuckled as he said, "Yeah, that doesn't really help much, does it?"

I pulled up various VW forum posts on my phone, looking for any words of wisdom from other airheads. I read the entirety of's Membership page (but didn't join - I don't know why). I browsed Facebook, composed a couple of to-do lists, and drank my coffee in record time (I can nurse my 20oz travel mug all day). I silently chastised myself for not bringing any knitting along (even though had things gone as planned I'd have not had any chance to knit a stitch), and I talked to passing squirrels.

I was peering off in the direction Miki walked when a guy in a Mazda passed by slowly, braked, and then parked. I'd been waiting for 40 minutes by now, and while not pleased that the car was immobile, generally I was in a good mood. Yeah, this was a bit of an inconvenience, but there are so many worse things that could've happened.

So, this young guy gets out of his car, and asks if he can be of any help. "Not unless you've got a spare throttle cable for a '74 Ghia laying around..." I say, good-naturedly. And this guy replies, "Actually, I might." I look at him in utter disbelief. Turns out he also has an old VW (or two) and had this same situation happen to him once. He runs home, grabs the cable, and returns. He pokes around in the engine, and then under the gas pedal, and then offers advice on how to get home in 1st gear (if all else fails). I thank him profusely, and he leaves just as Miki appears 3 or so blocks in the distance.

"You're not going to believe this," I say to Miki as he walks up, and then tell him what just happened. He expresses, as only Miki can, his genuine amazement at the situation, and questions me on the details until I've essentially told the tale in reverse. Since we know the throttle cable replacement is an involved task (the instructions include removing one wheel and reaching around the transaxle, we opt to try the on the fly MacGuyvering: needle nose pliers and mirror-hanging wire (turns out the True Value is now a five and dime). It works and we happily go home, our plans completely disturbed and but our day not ruined.

*A while back, during one of our brewing adventures, there was a small, and I mean, tiny, incident with the car, and it led to Mike clearly stating, "It's on fire," and my not-so-calmly asking, "What do you mean, 'It's on fire'?" Yes, the car was on fire, but after standing by with a hopefully-charged fire extinguisher, things ended well, and we should probably get a new wiring harness for the ignition. No big deal....


NJStacie said...

Hooray! Sometimes people are awesome, you know? And I feel like you have one SUPER awesome tale like this around this time every year :)

RE: AAA - we've got betterworldclub and they're great! They're like AAA but better politics :)

Robin said...

I love how you can turn a crummy situation into an experience and love that you took time to talk to the passing squirrels!