A Wave of Compassion
Long story short... on the way back from Michigan our longtime friend and minivan had a breakdown and decided to end its life in East Dundee, Illinois.
In one aspect, we were lucky. We had just exited the tollway to get gas and a bite to eat and had given the keys to our newly-christened 16 year-old driver so he could take over and get some more interstate driving experience. However, before he ever got the chance to hit the highway, the power steering went out and we had him pull into the Walmart parking lot so I could check it out.
We can only thank God that this didn't happen while he was driving 70 mph in Chicago area traffic. (thankyouthankyouthankyouthankyouthankyou!)
Anyway, bottom line - blown head gasket. Bottom line of the estimate? Too much. Especially for a 1995 with 150,000 miles on it.
Now we were in a pickle. Here we were 450 miles from home and no way to get there.
Rental cars for a one-way trip were running $600 because of the "drop" fees. Plus, we would have had to hire a taxi to first take us back to O'Hare. Fortunately, this exit was right smack in the middle of a new and used car mecca. But here's where the "wave of compassion" kicked in.
When I first went into the Walmart I asked Mary, the customer service manager, if she knew of any local mechanics who could look at my car. Not only did she offer her sympathy for our situation but she also recommended an excellent shop just a few blocks away. Then she called 411, dialed the number and handed me the phone. I know it's too bad that I have to be surprised by this random act of kindness and good service, but unfortunately it's all too true these days. Fortunately, this wonderful woman was the start of more good will to follow.
The shop she recommended, Casey Automotive in East Dundee, was unbelievably helpful and compassionate toward us and our problem. More on them in a minute.
Next, the car dealer we ended up buying our new/used car from (Al Piemonte Chevrolet) couldn't have been any nicer. Or generous. After hearing our predicament, John, the manager, essentially cut the price of his least expensive used car in half to the point we could afford - so we had a safe and reliable car to get home with. We were going to simply sell it when we got back home but because it's such a nice car we're actually going to keep it long term and use it as our boys' first vehicle.
Now back to Casey Automotive. Not only did the owner Jim spend close to an hour checking out our disabled van, but he also gave this new car a full inspection as well as a diagnostic computer scan (which alone carried a price tag of $79.99) before he gave it the thumbs up and told us the dealer was giving us a killer deal. The price he charged us for everything? Only $29.95.
So that's what I mean by a "wave of compassion." Three separate people independently showing concern for our situation and going above and beyond their call of duty to help out complete strangers just passing through and trying to get home. I don't know if this is specific to East Dundee or if we were just fortunate that day. Either way, we were very pleased and grateful for how it all turned out.
The only disappointment we had about this whole potentially disastrous experience was the fact that before the van broke down - we had just filled up the tank.
Now that hurts.