Giving Thanks After a Broken Alternator

It’s Sunday morning. Originally my wife and I planned to return home today after a long weekend to celebrate her birthday.

Those plans changed unexpectedly, though.

Thursday morning we drove 200 miles to stay in a nice condo overlooking Table Rock Lake in Southern Missouri. After eating dinner in nearby Branson, we were returning to our condo.

And then it happened.

Along a narrow, windy and hilly two-lane road, the car suddenly lost power. Strange! I was unable to accelerate, and the car would move no faster than five miles an hour. In all my years of driving I’d never experienced anything like that.

A guardrail and no shoulder prevented me from pulling over, so I crept along as a string of cars behind grew impatient with my snail-paced driving speed. After a couple hundred yards, the guardrail ended, yet a steep drop off with no shoulder prevented me from steering the car completely off the road.

Then the engine stopped and would not restart. Only the hazard lights worked.

I felt so helpless and vulnerable. Carol and I prayed for safety as we sat there partially blocking the narrow road. Cars were coming over the hill and around the corner much too fast.

To complicate things, the sun set about the time our car broke down, and I quickly realized that “country darkness” is much blacker than the city nights I’m used to.

We called AAA, yet it took nearly an hour for a tow truck to arrive. The driver dropped us off at our condo and then transported our wounded vehicle to the nearest Nissan dealer 50 miles away.

Early Friday morning, the repair shop called. The alternator had gone out. The good news was that everything would be covered under warranty. The bad news was they did not have a replacement in stock. The good news was that an alternator was being shipped by overnight express. The bad news was that “overnight” on a Friday meant it would be delivered on Monday morning. The good news is that our vacation was prolonged by an extra day.

So I’m writing this in the comfort of our condo as the sun rises above the lake below. I’ve had a couple of days to reflect on the whole experience. Even in the midst of my problems, I’ve found many reasons to be thankful, including the following:

  1. Safety. Carol and I were in dangerous circumstances, but other drivers somehow avoided hitting us as we blocked their road.
  2. Law enforcement. A very helpful police officer arrived about 30 minutes into our ordeal. He turned on his flashers and then stood along the road directing traffic.
  3. Roadside assistance. The 50-mile tow cost us nothing because we had previously purchased AAA-Plus, a premium roadside assistance package.
  4. Helpful mechanics. I have yet to meet the people in the dealer’s service department, but I am impressed with their customer service. They even went out of their way to make special arrangements for us get a rental car near our condo.
  5. Car warranties. I have no idea how much an installed alternator costs, but I don’t need to know because our car is still under warranty.
  6. A luxury condo. When we checked in at the condo, we learned that construction work was underway in the building we were scheduled to stay in. So, the management upgraded us (at our original price) and moved us into a larger, more luxurious unit. We were impressed with the new accommodations. I’m not used to having a separate thermostat to warm the tiles on the bathroom floor.
  7. A nice condo manager. When we explained the situation about our car repairs, the gentleman at the front desk allowed us to extend our stay while only charging us the deeply discounted rate we originally paid.
  8. Flexible colleagues. Staying here an extra day meant I had to reschedule three different people scheduled on my Monday calendar. They were very understanding, however.
  9. An accommodating CEO. When I asked my boss for permission to extend my vacation, he sent an email that said, “Not a problem and sorry to hear about the car problems.”
  10. A beautiful wife. Hey, if I have to be “stuck” in a luxury condo for an extra day while my car is being repaired, I’m glad it’s with someone I love. I’m also glad we were able to spend another vacation day together.

One final comment. Carol just proofread this post and found a couple of typos. Her main question, however, was why I listed her last on this list. Very simple answer: In my book, she’s a perfect 10, so it’s only appropriate that she would be given that number on the list of things I’m thankful for.



2 Responses to Giving Thanks After a Broken Alternator

  1. Tina says:

    Duane – You are such a gifted writer….I was right there with you the whole time! Thanks for sharing your gift with us!

    • Duane Hallock says:

      Tina, you are such a gifted reader. Thanks for “being there with us” during the harrowing experience, and also for adding your comment here.

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