There's no noise as the key turns in the ignition, save the heart-dulling click as the engine tries to tell you it wants to turn over but can't. The car is dead, lifeless, and unwilling to be moved when not ten minutes before, it had been merrily chugging along the interstate. We had pulled off to use the restroom and find some candy before carrying on. Not now. And now is a Sunday evening, when all repair shops are closed.
The weather had just turned in the mountains of Virgina, and we were ill-prepared for the chill the air offered. We stood in the parking lot, one of us staring at the engine, the other on the phone with AAA, at times switching roles as we tried to feel useful. Neither the Czechoslovakian or I are equipped with knowledge about the internal workings of an automobile.
A late middle-aged couple stops and offers to give us a jump. The Czech and the Kind Man apply the cables and fidget with the engine while I deduce our location off the interstate and what it is we want AAA to do. (Really, we want them to rescue us and make the car work, but we know that isn't going to happen, so we're at least hoping they can find us.) Thanks to Kind Man's efforts, we are able to deduce that the battery is fine, but that it's more than likely the starter is dead. Meanwhile, the Czech and the kind man's wife get to chatting and find out they are from the same town in Ohio and even graduated from the same high school. Even in Virgina, I get scowled at for being a Michigan fan.
Hiding from the cold and waiting for the tow truck, our phones suddenly began to be bombarded with phone calls and texts from our parents and close friends as they figure out what our predicament really meant; we were going to have to stay the night some place. Me and the Czech, who are unmarried and trying to adhere to the law of chastity. (And we ARE dagnabbit!) Those we love most no longer seem interested in our physical safety or the condition of the car, but rather our moral well-being. There is no end to the laughter as suggestions come rolling in.
The Tow Truck Guy arrived and we knew we were in good hands. A contemporary of ours, he checked out the battery and deduced it's health and vitality before coming to the same diagnosis as ourselves, that the starter was kaput. Whilst emerged in his mechanicness, TTG offered us a winning shot of his boxers, decorated with images of 1940s pin-up girls. If the Czech and I weren't laughing before (which we were, hilariously), these boxers would have sent us into fits (which they did anyway). Fortunately TTG had his head buried in the hood of the car and could not see us convulsing in laughter.
TTG loaded the car onto the bed of the truck and told us we were driving into town and dropping the car off at the shop. I asked about hotels in the vicinity, and he informed us of a nearby venue who had struck a deal with the auto shop for incredible nightly rates. Already grateful and relieved, we were humbled to find that TTG, who had slept a measly four hours the night before, would drop us off at the hotel and retrieve us in the morning when the car was done. The three of us pile into the front seat of the truck and drive away, all the while phones are still going off as loved ones try to keep our virtue in tact. The Nurse and her husband offer to drive three hours up to us in Virgina to pick us up and drive us back and forth until the car is ready so we can have a place to stay. My mum admonishes us to get a room with two beds. “Get two rooms!” chime in his parents. Don't look at each other, rent a car and drive to Columbus and come back later for the car. We'll come and get you so don't do anything stupid. We let TTG in on the banter and he just smirks with delight at how funny we are. In a world where abstinence is rarely considered anymore, we have got to sound like we just walked out of Mayberry. The phone calls continue until we get to the registration desk at the hotel. The Czech is on the phone and I am discussing our situation with the hotel employee. She gives us the same smirk and laugh as TTG but kindly checks us into two rooms. On our own for the night, we head to the rooms, and what do we do? Order pizza from a flighty townie, offer a prayer of gratitude and watch Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. We were both asleep and in our respective rooms by eleven o'clock. Twelve hours later, we were checked out and waiting in the lobby for TTG to come back for us as the car had been repaired. By this point, the three of us are thick as thieves and the Czech and I are convinced that TTG is getting a Christmas card every year. He gives us a tour of the shop yard as we drive through. “This is where we pael all thuh wrecks. Then up here is where all the finished ones go. Where y'all's car is. Ya don't wanna be in thuh wreck pael.” No, no we didn't. The white Honda was sitting there waiting for us, ready to be driven away and actually work. TTG checks us out, gives us all the paperwork, and the Czech and I make our exit. As we're about to climb into the car, TTG comes out of the shop with his smirk plastered all over his face. “Now, y'all better send me uh picture in nine munths when thuh baby comes.” The three of us are laughing uncontrollably at this point. TTG is definitely getting a Christmas card, and a copy of someone else's ultrasound. A rainy, drizzly, day in the mountains of Virginia found us once again on the road and heading north. And still in search of Horehound candy, the elusive treat which had lured us off the interstate in the first place. Nearly eighteen hours later, we finally found the licorice flavored candy in a barrel at a Cracker Barrel store in West Virginia. We bought four bags,nearly cried when the car still worked, and laughed harder than ever as we rolled into Columbus that night as we tasted Horehound for the first time. It was gross, but the day the treasure hunt offered us was one of the best on record.