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Small Town Values Are Pretty Damn Cool
By Gloria Diaz
Check out Gloria's Blog — Edge of Gloria!
Fort Wayne Reader
I'm grateful that I don't live in a small town, but there's something to be said for small town values. I had an experience that has me sold on them.
I wanted to go skiing. It was sort of semi-impulsive—I figured the Thursday before starting classes would be the best day to go. Hopefully the weather would cooperate, and it did. I was up before noon (gasp!) and headed out the door.
I chose Bittersweet because it was familiar. It was about two and a half hours away, and I liked the vibe of the place. There's a huge fireplace, a spacious dining area, it's laid back and the staff is friendly. It's right outside the town of Otsego. And Bittersweet is open from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Because I'm not a morning person (boy, there's an understatment!) it meant that I didn't need to leave at the crack of dawn. If I wanted to ski until 10 p.m., I could do that.
But I didn't. I'm not in great shape, and because I didn't bother to train for my day of skiing, I knew better than to push it. But my recent weight loss must have done something to my legs—a few times up the rope tow on the beginner slope, and I was ready for the Sweet Pea run. Rope tows, if you aren't familiar with them, suck. You grab on to the rope, and it pulls you up the hill. If you don't grab hard enough, the rope slips through your hands.
After a half hour, I was ready for the chair lift. I surprised myself by not falling when I got off the lift. I spent a couple hours skiing, then had a snack. I skiied some more, and I didn't fall once. I skied the best I'd ever skied. It was a perfect day.
Until my car blew up. I stopped at the Mobil station at the turn off for Bittersweet. I put gas in the car. I turned the key and POP! I saw the hood go up just a little. Oh God, I thought. I knew I wasn't going to get home that night.
Not sure what to do, I went back into the Mobil station to see if I could find some help. The employee working there said to ask his cousin, who was right outside, to take a look at it. He did, but he wasn't exactly sure what was wrong. He checked the oil, and finding not very much on the dipstick at all, theoried that perhaps I'd run the engine out of Texas Tea. Stupid, I thought. Checking the oil is such a basic thing to do, and it's something I forget to do all the time. It's your own fault, I thought, if the car is toast.
I mulled over my options. I decided to leave the car at the station (I moved it so it wasn't blocking the pump) and thought I'd better get to the one hotel in town. The cousin drove me four miles across town to yet another small town, Plainwell, to a Comfort Inn. I felt sick at paying $90 for a hotel room, but I didn't have any choice, unless I wanted to spend the night at Meijer's in a quiet corner of the store.
The cousin refused to take the money I offered him. I decided since I hadn't had a real vacation since 2006, I might as well enjoy this impromptu overnight trip. After I checked in, I went back out and tromped along a snow-covered highway to a grocery store (Meijer's) and stocked up on goodies. Coke and Cheetos and Snickers Minis. Also some Sominex, because I've been having problems getting to sleep and being convinced that I destroyed my car wasn't going to help me relax. I chatted with the front desk clerk about what had happened to me. I told her everyone was very helpful and kind, and she recommended a taxi service if I had to get anywhere around town..
I watched commercial television, a few episodes of The Big Bang Theory and The Cleveland Show, and took advantage of the free Wifi. I called a couple of friends. I'd have to have a ride back. I'd have to miss work, but whatever.
I woke up early the next morning (early for me, at least) and called a place called Reardon's. I explained the situation, and they worked with the towing service. I called them next, and they were willing to come by the hotel and pick up the key to the Neon. I told them where the car was, and now, all I needed was a ride home, and a friend was on her way.
I felt a bit terrified when I heard that POP, but from now on, I think Bittersweet is going to be the only place in Michigan that I'm going to go skiing. The Mobil station is close by, and so is Reardon's. The Comfort Inn desk clerk gave me a card for a taxi service, so I know that if I need to get somewhere, that I can. Meijer's is a fairly short walk across the overpass from the hotel, and the main drag has plenty of restaurants.
It sucks to have car problems far from home, but it seems like I always have faith that things will work out okay. And this could have been a horrible experience, but it wasn't. It was a little scary, but I had a secure, warm place to sleep, someone to fix the car, someone to give me a ride home, and someone to bring me back to get my car.
Turns out I didn't blow up the car. A spark plug blew. Must have worked its way loose. The bill was less than $250, and that included the tow. I drove back and stopped off at Firekeepers, where I spent $4 on video poker. I decided to stop while I still had money, and continued my trip back to Fort Wayne.
But as cynical as I am about humanity in general, my car and Josh, Amber, Dave, Roger, the Mobil employee and his cousin (John, I think) and the staff of Brock Towing made me realize if you have to be stranded, pick a small town. Otsego, Michigan, specifically. And tell them Gloria sent you.