Close Calls: Part 3 of 3

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Feeling a tad handy after skimming the repair manual that day, I dipped down to take a look at the underside for signs of leakage. My eyes widened when I saw a puddle about two feet wide and a steady drip coming from the undercarriage.

Hmm, that doesn’t seem right, I thought. I checked the other side and found another puddle, then sat in the van and thought for awhile.

I left the van at the pump and walked to the side of the gas station where I relieved myself into the brickwall and darkness. I tried to imagine how much gas might make up those puddles by watching how much of a puddle I was making.

Maybe it wasn’t so much gas after all, I said to myself. Maybe I’d just overfilled it and the excess fuel came out an air valve or something?

I got back in, started her gingerly and drove until I found a good place to park for the night. It was one AM when I pulled the radiator fuse out again and went to bed.

The next morning I met my German friend Desiree at the train station and we went to the garage together. The mechanics spoke Dutch and a little English and could understand some German. Desiree can speak English and understand some Dutch. I showed the guys a picture of my van hanging on the cliff then played with my cards while they talked. After an hour they had my switch fixed for $60.

“Hey, why don’t you ask them to take a look at the gas tank before we leave?” I asked Desiree. “There were some pretty big puddles after I filled up last night.”

She talked with them some more, the van went up on a rack and we went back to the waiting room. We didn’t wait long.

“Your gas tank is leaking. Very dangerous,” said the mechanic.

“Hmm…so I can’t drive it?” I asked to make sure.

“No, no, no!” he said shaking his head and glancing back to the other mechanic to see his head shaking as well.

It was going to take at least a day or two to locate a new tank, so I packed up my stuff and we started back for Amsterdam.

That night I stayed at Desiree’s friend Jonathan’s flat in Amsterdam. Johnathan is a tall, blond German, who’s found an admirable balance between being relaxed and productive. He’s a DJ, psychology student and stand up comedy enthusiast and about as chill you’d ever want someone to be. Maybe it’s the weed. He also speaks Dutch, so he called the garage to check on the van for me.

Two days later no tank was to be found and now the mechanics were saying that since the hole was on the top of the tank, it should be ok to drive if I kept it below ten gallons.

We bid thanks to Johnathan and headed back for the garage. Seeing as Volkswagens are made in Germany and Desiree would be able to communicate for me there, we picked the van up and drove for the border.

During the three hour drive, I feathered the breaks when stopping and imagined the sloshing fuel reaching for daylight. I watched for cigarette butts being flung out of car windows and thought about the mechanics use of the word “should” concerning the safety of my leaking gas tank. When the van was up on the rack, I had noticed the metal that held the tank up to be bent from the cliffhanging. When bouncing over bumps in the road, I gripped harder on the shifter and wheel picturing the tank dropping, sparking and exploding. I wondered what the heat would feel like coming through the floor. I thought about the tunnel in Boston and knife near my neck and I was happy to be traveling.

We made it to Bochum, Germany uncharred. Now the van’s in Desiree’s Aunt’s friend’s garage getting the leak repaired, some new brake pads put on and a missing stabilizer bar replaced. While the van was up on the rack, the mechanics here were nice enough to notice these other safety items that were somehow overlooked during my safety inspection done by Donna’s mechanic friend. They even pointed them out to me. The missing stabilizer bar is a piece of steel about a foot long that keeps the van from flipping over and the “plenty of life” brake pads looked to have about 10 minutes of stopping left in them.

In the meantime I’ll be here making some websites to help pay for all this. I’ll also do some shopping for a fire extinguisher, jumper cables, a new duffle bag and a bigger first aid kit. You know…just in case.

3 Thoughts on “Close Calls: Part 3 of 3”

  1. kevin Says:

    Glad to see you made it there safely. If the sites you build are art/photography based or the likes…send the links. Hope all is well.

  2. suzy Says:



  3. Cheryl Says:

    Happy to hear you’re safe! Do close calls come in 3’s also? If so, you should be all set for a while.

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