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Rapidly Caught in the Rapids


So…we dropped off the Stealth on Monday to give the shock guys time to install the “top hats” on top of the front springs. On Friday as scheduled, they called and said it was ready. Not only ready, but…and you should remember the part about the sagging springs…when they installed the new top hats in place of the cracked rubber ones, the car righted itself! Turns out it was NOT weak saggy springs but the cracked rubber bushings in the top hat. With the new ones in place, the sag was gone and alignment went just fine. Too bad they can’t fix my sags with a new top hat or two.


Now between Monday and Friday when I dropped the car and returned to pick it up, a little thing called “Winter Weather” moved in. So the once dry roads were covered with a light coating of snow and ice. Coletta and I were both in Morgantown, 45 minutes due north of Oakland visiting a friend in the hospital, so the plan was to pick it up on the way back south. We left around 4:00 pm and made it to Oakland around 5:00 since snowy roads made going a bit slower. Coletta dropped me at the garage and the first thing we noticed, that instead of being INside the garage, it was OUTside. Not only that, it was covered with snow! Two inches of the white stuff covered the hood, windshield, roof, rear hatch and down the sides. This was my classic sports car mind you, and never been out in the snow so…I was a bit upset and told the owners, “Uh, I didn’t expect my car to be left outside in the weather.” And showing him my light jacket and no gloves (or brush or scraper for the iced windshield) “You can see I am ill-equipped to deal with this. Do you have a snow brush (a set of plastic bristles on a wooden or plastic handle) or scraper?” Now this job deals in tires and shocks and springs and everything UNDER a car, not much for scented pine trees to hang on your rearview, so no scrapers.


He hollered for the dude in back to grab a broom as he made up my bill which was a lot LESS than I assumed -they cut me some slack for the earlier mis-diagnosis-so I thanked him and made my way out back where my car was parked just in time to see this big lout with what looked like a garden rake removing snow from my four-thousand dollar paint job! Aghast I thanked HIM and told him I would take it from there. I got in and started her up. As figured, the ice and snow on the windshield was such that front vision was completely obscured. I would have to wait for the engine to warm up and the defroster to melt the snow and ice. This belied the owner’s claim that they just moved it out there a “…little while ago.” They had called me at 1:00 so it was out there at least four hours in the snow, ice and 27 degree temperatures. That is if they called me when it was finished.

With 1/3 of the windshield beginning to melt I made my way up the steep ramp to the street. Remember this is a front wheel drive, not four wheel and the tires were not all season. It pulled and spun but made it up the ramp and onto the main highway through Oakland. I still had snow on the side windows and rear hatch not to mention the hood and most likely the roof so…I decided to pull into an automatic car wash to clear the car of the snow. I figured that even at 27 degrees, the water in the carwash had to be liquid otherwise it would be shooting ice cubes. Hard on the machinery.


I pulled up to the Kiosk, pressed LOW CAR, pressed SUPER WASH ($10.00) and inserted my credit card in the lower slot. Remember…it’s now 5:30 and it’s dark. A red light lit up and I realized that my credit car had been placed in the WRONG SLOT. The one for the cash. I had to open my window and door and lean in to grab it. About an eighth (1/8”) inch was all that was sticking out, so it took me a bit, but I managed to ease it out of the money hole and into the credit card hole. Another red light. This time because I had inserted it CHIP OUT instead of CHIP IN. That was quickly remedied such that the plastic door to the wash bay opened and lights flashed MOVE FORWARD ENTER THE WASH. Here is where the fun began. The part you’ve all been waiting for:


The Stealth is an old girl, and has lots of electronics under the hood, ignition, spark, distributor, battery power and more. It does not like to get wet. One time I foamed and washed the engine…took me an hour to dry it out to start. So…as I entered the wash bay, and that first blast of water from BELOW the car hit the engine from underneath in 27 degree weather I proceeded (according to directions to MOVE FORWARD MOVE FORWARD) about five feet when all the lights on my dashboard lit up RED. Did I stall it? No the water did. It was dead. I cranked and cranked listening to that sound of the ignition catching over the ROARING OF THE WATER spraying from below now even with my front seats. Nothing. I was stuck, I could not move forward or back or anywhere while that Niagra Falls attacked from all sides with the green lights urging me to…you know…move forward.


I was trapped. I could not move, and I certainly wasn’t about to open the door and get the inside of my car and me blasted by those laser beams of water. Call 911? And tell them what? “What’s your emergency?” I’m trapped in a car wash and my car won’t start. “ (Laughter) Love to see that story in the local paper. Finally…and thank God for my Stealth it clicked, and whirred and yes…yes…yes it IGNITED and the tach ran up and I eased the clutch out and moved FORWARD ever so slowly until the lights turned RED telling me to STOP. Which I did. I kept her running the whole time and she never missed a beat through soap cycles and rinse cycles and STILL there was snow in the corner of the windshield and behind the side mirrors where even the demon waters feared to tread. It wasn’t until the EXIT- BLOWERS sign came on that the remnants of snow blew off as I pulled out of the wash bay and out to the main road.


The ride home is another whole story involving ice and snow on the road, blinding headlights, glare and never once seeing a double yellow line or white side line in the hour it took to find my way home with a front wheel drive vehicle not designed or meant to be out in this GD weather. Boy was I glad to get home and stuck her in the garage.


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