Avis wasn’t renting that week.
By Bill Scheller
As the ferry pulled away from the New Brunswick mainland, we looked ahead towards the craggy shores of Grand Manan and enjoyed that wonderful sensation of leaving all our troubles behind, even if only for four days. Unfortunately, we had brought one of them along. It had more than 100,000 miles on it.
“Let’s take the Pontiac and give the Mercury a rest,” my wife Kay and I had decided. We were forgetting a cardinal rule of motoring: use the new car for vacation, and the old one for going to the post office.
After we had settled into our motel on the island, I decided to take our son, Dave, to a history slide show down at the town hall – always a dicey proposition with a seven-year-old, but I wanted to work up gradually to the really exciting stuff, like a visit to the kelp sheds. A mile down the road, the Pontiac lurched and died – right in front of a garage.
The garage owner was there, but the mechanic had gone home for the day.
“Leave it here,” the owner said. “We’ll have Lyle look at it in the morning.”
Another customer, an older gent with that classic Canadian mustache you see on Mounties and retired colonels, offered to drive us home and added, “Lyle’ll take good care of you. Big, tall fellow.” Good, I thought. I like tall mechanics. He also volunteered that it might take time to get parts. “It’s an island, you know.”
I called around and found that nobody had any cars to rent, although our hopes were momentarily raised when the motel manager said that “maybe Avis might have something.” Avis! Why hadn’t anyone mentioned Avis? “Avis Green, she’s our taxi driver. She has two cars.” But Avis wasn’t renting that week.
I called the garage in the morning and got Lyle himself. “She started right up,” Lyle reported in his big, tall voice.
“Well, what was the matter?
I decided to go over to the GM dealer on the mainland and find out just what was wrong. Kay and David would still have their vacation among the cliffs and meadows and fog-shrouded lighthouses of Grand Manan, even if mine was going to spent in a showroom reading back issues of Motor Trend. The motel lady loaned us her old Buick, and Kay followed me to the ferry, just in case. Good thing. The Pontiac died again, three miles up the road. We drove back to the garage and asked about a tow.
“Wade Dakin has a tow truck,” we were told, “but he’s helping his dad set herring weirs this week. You can call his mom and leave word.”
While I was waiting for Wade, I came up with my own diagnosis. A year earlier the same thing had happened when the car’s computer failed. I knew I was taking a hundred-dollar risk, since electronic parts are non-returnable, but I called the dealer and ordered one.
The computer took two days to get out to Grand Manan. Then, when it arrived at the garage, the courier wouldn’t let go of it because Lyle’s boss didn’t have enough cash around to pay for it. So the next morning, just four hours before we were to leave on the ferry, I began tracking down the owner of the courier service.
“Call his brother,” the garage owner’s wife suggested. “He usually knows where he is.” I pictured myself rowing out to the herring weirs.
I finally got the courier on the phone, and he said I could drop off the check at the bank, where his wife worked as a teller. Easily done. And just as easily Lyle slid out the old computer and popped in the new one. I turned the key in the ignition. The Pontiac made nary a sound.
Nothing left now but to call Wade and have him tow us onto the ferry. There was someone on the mainland who would be all too happy to tow us off, for another hundred dollars. But Wade wasn’t around.
“He’s out on the herring weirs,” his mother told me. “But he’ll be back in time for your ferry, don’t worry.”
And indeed he was. He turned up just as we finished transferring our baggage from the borrowed Buick to the Pontiac, and everything went smoothly from there. Back on the mainland, I learned that the culprit was something called the crank sensor, which I would have thought was a device that knew when I was in the car.
By five that afternoon we were on our way.