Saturday, March 24, 2012

Having a Village

Trantens' Too, Kingfield, Maine
On Tuesday my truck died in the parking lot of Tranten’s Too. I was on my way to work. I stopped to get a newspaper, a sausage biscuit and a Diet Mt. Dew (‘diet’ to offset the sausage, you see…) and when I came back outside and hopped into the truck, it wouldn’t start.

Just like that.

Vince was presiding over the Porch Crowd.

“Sounds like the fuel pump,” he proclaimed.

That’s what it sounded like to me, too

It takes the better part of a village to get a truck repaired when you live in Lexington and work in Kingfield. I called the Credit Union and Amy zipped down to pick me up and haul me the last half-mile to work since my skirt and heels weren’t conducive to hoofing it along the gravel ditches of Rt. 27. Once there, I called Poulin’s Garage, and Rick immediately drove up to town. After briefly playing with my truck, he called to tell me that he thought it was the fuel pump.
My Dodge...210,000 miles and every one of them is mine!
I was inclined to agree.

Rick said he couldn’t tackle my truck repairs immediately and that he understood if I took the Dodge elsewhere. What a guy! What a family! I called Hight’s Dodge dealership in Skowhegan to see what they could do for me. They said they couldn’t repair it for a day or two, either… but they COULD give me a loaner car to get me to and from work. That clinched the deal.

I called another Poulin man for his rescue services. Chris told me he’d send someone down from The Mountain as soon as possible with a tow truck to take my pick-up to Hight’s. My truck was in good hands.

Now, to get myself situated!

I tried to call my folks to bum a ride to Lexington after work that afternoon, but they weren’t home. I’m a fortunate woman, however. Like small-town folks all across Maine—I have a Village. Amy offered to take me to my mother-in-law’s house in New Portland—halfway home--and mother-in-law Celia said she would be happy to take me the rest of the way to The F.A.R.M.

That afternoon Mike, Hight’s service manager, called me.

“We think it’s your fuel pump, Ma’am,” said Mike, who has called me “Ma’am” every single time we’ve spoken over the course of the last 6 years. Whether we’re comparing notes about butchering hogs, discussing our teenagers’ driving habits, or hashing over the price of fuel pumps, Mike calls me “Ma’am”. I can’t talk him out of it.

“It’s your fuel pump, Ma’am…”

I tended to lean toward the same conclusion. I asked the polite young whippersnapper to order the part, to put the truck on his repair schedule and to please leave a loaner available for me.

When my mother finally returned home and listened to the message I’d left on her answering machine, she called me. She agreed to pick me up at seven a.m. the following morning and transport me to Skowhegan so I could pick up that loaner car…so that I could get to work on time…so that I could earn the money to pay for the fuel pump, and the repairs, and the towing.

The loaner car was a Chevy. It was gold. A sedan from 2004 with 4 doors…and electric everything.

I’ve never done the “electric everything” bit.

The first characteristic to strike me was the fact that the car’s under-carriage clearance was in the neighborhood of six inches. Maybe seven. That’s the depth of a small rut on the Back Road…and a wrinkle on the Spruce Pond Road. This could get interesting.

I unlocked the driver’s side door and lowered myself into the rig. The key Mike had given me fit into the ignition…but it wouldn’t turn. Nope. Not at all. Until I finally inserted it upside down, there was no starting that gold-colored car.

Once I got it started, I fiddled with the bells and whistles. I wanted to know where the wiper controls were, the front and rear defrosts, the headlights. The vehicle even had “cruise control”. Later, as I tried out that option, I managed to toot the horn a half-dozen times in a half-mile while having no control whatsoever of my cruise.…)

At last, I felt comfortable enough in the strange automobile to drive it from Skowhegan to Kingfield. It wasn’t until I was at the top of “Dump Hill” that I realized the loaner was running on fumes…and wishes…and a prayer or two, as well. I coasted to Tranten’s Too and parked in front of the store once more. I would have gone directly to the pumps, but I’d looked out each side mirror for an indication of which side the fill-up spout was on—and hadn’t seen it. So I figured I’d take a gander from the outside.

But I couldn’t get ‘outside’. Little did I realize… the car Mike had fobbed off on me was a Chevy reincarnation of “Christine”, that haunted and possessed Plymouth made famous by Stephen King.

Even with the key removed from the ignition, the radio continued to play. Seriously… the key was OUT. The car was OFF. There was no juice to the radio, but it played. And… the door wouldn’t open.

I pulled on the handle—and the whole lever mechanism threatened to fall out of the door. It would not open. At all. I was stuck.

I experimented. I played with the locks. I locked the doors. Unlocked them. It appeared that the passenger door might open, but that would mean I’d have to crawl over the console. In a skirt. In front of Tranten’s Too… one of the busiest and most populated little locations in downtown Kingfield.

I tried the window controls. I could open the drivers’ side window from the driver’s side controls—but I could only open the passenger side window from the passenger side door. It wouldn’t close from the same controls, though. The passenger-side window could only be closed from the controls on the driver’s side door. Would it be more acceptable (or graceful) for me to climb out of a car window (meaning I’d have to climb back in that same way) or over a console?

I didn’t have to make that crucial decision. By pressing the lever which locked ALL FOUR of the car’s doors, I could open mine! And by taking the key with me, I could unlock it from the outside to get back in, too.

I made it to work in the demon Chevy, and I made it home again. I learned how to placate the car so it wouldn’t lock me in while torturing me with endless Taylor Swift music. Mike eventually called me from the garage and told me “It was the fuel pump, Ma’am.”

Just like I’d figured.

From the breakdown of my pick-up to its picking up, a dozen people helped me. From Vince, with his sage words of wisdom, to the Trantens Too crew for letting me leave the truck parked in a prime spot for half a day. From Rick Poulin, who jumped to my assistance and then was such a gentleman when I didn’t hire him to do the repairs, to Chris Poulin and crew for promptly delivering my truck to the garage in Skowtown. Amy, Celia and Mum carted me here and there. Mike and the Hight’s crew did a great job with the repairs and loaned me the (evil) car free of charge, and Bobby Baker re-attached the rear-view mirror for me when I opened the truck door and found it lying on the front seat.

Yep, I’m lucky to have a Village, because that’s what it took to get my truck repaired.

That, and $640.00.

Plus the cost of towing.


  1. I'm no expert, but I reckon it was your fuel pump.

  2. might not be an expert, but you were right on the money with your diagnosis. :o)

    Hey there, CP. It's lovely to see you here.

    Don't be a stranger.

  3. Small towns are the best. Not sure if this will work but your post reminds me of this photo I took in Stratton a while back.

  4. Hi Crystal!

    Yes, small towns ARE the best. And I could access that photo link from my email. Thank you. I graduated from high school with the owner of the Looney Moose Cafe, and that type of benefit is just like something she would do. And Stratton/Eustis is one of the most caring, connected, family friendly towns I know.

    How lucky we are.

    I hope you are well.