By Pravin Trivedi
We had lived for two years in Springfield, MA. We did not know anyone when we moved to Massachusetts as it was my first job after emigrating to the USA. We bought a ten-year-old Plymouth Valiant that was burning and leaking oil. I knew so little about cars. We could not afford a second car, so we had to use this oil bucket for everything, my work, my wife’s college, taking our child to the doctor’s.
Then the brakes died one day. Being an engineer, I thought how difficult can it be to repair brakes! I had a Lambretta 80 cc scooter and a bicycle, and always fixed them. So, I went to local auto parts store and bought everything the technician recommended. It being the only family car I had to repair it in a short time when we least needed it . So the next Monday evening my wife had school from 7 p.m. till 9:30 and I thought that would give me enough time to take her to school, go home, fix the brakes and go back and get her when school finishes.
Little did I know things that can go wrong!! The wheels had rusted on their rims to the car. It took me an hour to hit them loose with a 10 pound sledge hammer. I also did not know that I knew that many swear words. I was not careful that my three-year-old son was within listening distance. Looking at the watch, I had to hurry now. I quickly put on the new brake shoe pads on and rushed to lower the car. The jack slipped and scraped my knuckles. More cursing, change of clothes and quick trip to the school.
She was waiting for me, got in the car and off we go home. There was a traffic light and a left turn to be made out of the school. I made the light and the turn when the light turned red. I tried to stop the car but some how the brake pedal went all the way to the bottom. The car did not stop. Fortunately, the car had slowed down going around the turn, but it did not stop. On he other hand, the car in front of me had stopped just after the turn. When the front bumper of my car found the now stationary rear bumper of the car in front, both cars came to a grinding halt with a slow screeching noise.
I turned off the engine and with hung head waited the inevitable. I saw the door of the car I had hit open slowly. I opened my car door and slowly got out. I could see ahead a yelling from him, a call to the police, exchange of license and insurance information, etc. The person that got out of the car was more than six foot tall and he tried to direct the traffic away from us. He slowly walked towards me and looked beyond. He looked behind my car and that is the first time I noticed a pool of liquid on the road. He touched the liquid and said, “Brakes?” “Yes, I just fixed them” I said. “Looks like you did not quite,” he said. For a guy who had just been hit in the rear, he was vey calm. I went to the passenger door of my car and looked in the glove compartment.
“What are you looking for?” he asked. “Did you bleed the brakes after you replaced the cylinder bushings? Did you get the rotors ground?”
He saw the answer on my face. I had not.
“My insurance papers,” I said.
“We don’t need those,” he said, still calmly.
“We need to get our cars out of the traffic, or someone will hit us again.” He opened the trunk of his car.
“But I cannot move my car,” I said.
“I can see that, but we can, where do you live?”
“Sixteen acres,” I said.
“Oh, that is where I live,” he said.
It was when there were no cell phones, so we would have to wait for the neighborhood patrol cars to arrive. He took a wide fabric belt in his hand and wrapped it around his rear bumper. He took the other end of it and wrapped it to my front bumper.
“Now I will drive very slowly. You keep your hand on the emergency brake and do not brake hard if you feel me stopping.”
“But, but,” I was mumbling.
“Do you have any better ideas?” he said and got in his car.
I got in my car and the two cars slowly started moving jerkily forwards. We were fortunate, there was very little traffic and apart from a couple of bumps, we did not do any further damage.
I also made up my mind that I will not tackle such a big job without working with a friend! I also did not think nice people like that man existed anymore.