Saturday, August 6, 2011

Tavern Hospitality

When it rains, it pours, they say.

David and I didn't have a chance to celebrate our anniversary, as I was in Provo trying not to be sick and Dave was back in Phoenix trying to get his work done.  So last night, we decided to go out for a belated anniversary dinner.  We had a coupon to Teakwoods Tavern and Grill, which we had looked up online and judged by the cartoon moose heads in their logo to be more grill than tavern.  We drove to somewhere mid-Chandler - a good 20 minutes from home.  We opened the door and saw immediately that we had been wrong; this was clearly more tavern than grill, and the place was packed and very loud!  We crunched our way over the discarded peanut shells on the floor to our table and ordered our meat-heavy food.  Talking was difficult because of the noise around us, but the food was good.  Their Reuben sandwich was delicious, though I only nibbled through about half of one of the giant sandwich halves they put in front of me.  The waiter looked incredulous when he saw how little I'd eaten at the end of the meal.  How to explain that I'd just been released from the hospital for a blocked intestine?  (I ate the rest of the sandwich half for lunch this afternoon and am very glad to have another whole sandwich half for dinner tonight or lunch again tomorrow.  Who says you have to eat your whole dinner in one go?)  An hour later we were back in our car, ready to head someplace where we could hear ourselves think.  Unfortunately, instead of our engine, we heard only a series of sickening clicks.  Our car was dead.

It didn't sound like a battery problem.  I was praying that somehow it would start miraculously.  We really didn't need to do any math.  Hospital bills + dead car = lots and lots of money, regardless of the actual sum.  We were out in the middle of nowhere-that-we-knew, with no friends within a half-hour drive (and even then, friends and acquaintances are painfully few and far between here).  We tried calling every family member with a computer, trying to get a number for a towing company or auto-repair shop nearby.  Unsurprisingly, but still frustratingly, no one was at home on a Friday night.  We finally got in touch with David's sister and brother-in-law, who were at a friend's house for the evening.  They were able to use their friend's internet to find us a few numbers, but none of the towing companies were available for at least two hours, and we were neither anxious to wait for a tow or pay nighttime fees.  We decided to try to find a ride home and leave our car overnight.

Mercifully, David's home teaching companion from church answered his phone.  Despite the fact that he and his wife had just arrived at a restaurant for their own evening out, he agreed to come pick us up.  They would order their dinner to go and come as soon as their food arrived.  We decided to move our car in the meantime, so it wouldn't be sitting right in front of the bar's front door.

By this time, it was late enough in the evening for some of the tavern customers to start eating outside.  We put our car in neutral and started rolling it out of the spot, but four of the diners outside started calling out to us and asking if we were having car trouble.  They'd noticed us sitting there earlier and now wanted to help.  To be completely honest, neither Dave nor I were very excited to let a bunch of somewhere-between-buzzed-and-drunk guys start poking around under our hood.  But they were insistent, so we popped the hood and first two, then four, then seven or eight guys and girls were gathered around offering their car-fix suggestions.  I think they took pity on us because of our Utah license plate.  "Not from here!" it screamed.  "Ignorant of Arizona summer car care!"  "Uncomfortable at a bar!"  I think our new friends gathered all of this, and suddenly we were engulfed in tavern hospitality.

Two of the guys seemed to be some kind of mechanic or electrician.  They started examining our battery, looking at the fuel cells and searching for corrosion.  We got especially nervous when one of them picked up the wooden pole we use to prop up the hood and started banging the top of the battery, trying to jiggle it into action.  I was having visions of exploding car parts...

While one group of people found the bar manager for permission to keep our dead car in front of their premises, another guy drove his massive white pickup into the handicapped space next to us and his wife started hooking up our jumper cables.  After a few minutes of revving the engine, our battery did turn once or twice before clicking again.  The quick roar gave everyone hope that a changed battery could fix the problem, though, and suddenly we were being handed not only our battery, which someone had lifted out of the car, but also a set of keys.  "You have money?" someone asked, ready to pass the hat around for donations if we didn't.  Dave and I were in shock, trying to figure out how to respond to this sudden burst of charity and helpfulness.  We started feeling ashamed for our initial judgments, recognizing that these people were willing to do much more for us than we would have done for them.  Our ride had still not arrived, so we got bashfully into our borrowed car and set off two miles down the road to the nearest AutoZone.

Unfortunately, we found out there that our battery was good.  We were so hoping that it was a dead battery so we could pay $70 for a new one and be on our way.  We at least hoped that the free five minute charge we'd been given would get us started again, so we made our way back to the restaurant, where we were waved in by our waiting friends.  They bolted our battery back in for us and we tried the key one more time.  This time: success!  We received "well done" handshakes all around and, with lots of waving goodbye and thank yous, set off home, not having spent a single cent.

Unfortunately, after starting successfully one more time this morning, our car died again this afternoon.  This time no amount of hospitality from friendly Arizonans could get our car started and we are currently waiting for the tow truck to wheel us into a shop.  The bill will still hurt, but thanks to our bewildering success last night, we are holding slightly more cheerful than we would have done otherwise.    


Tyler said...

You Fishers really are scrambling! struggs!

Dave said...

In my defense, I did promise to make up for the anniversary dinner. I realize it wasn't the best 'nice' spot to take her to, even before we felt the peanut shells crunching underfoot...

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