Breakdowns come and breakdowns go

(so what are you going to do about it, that’s what I’d like to know…)

“I only crave this stuff when I’m pregnant,” declared AJ, as she swigs on another bottle of (my) root beer. On my first visit to Wholefoods, shortly after my arrival here, I decided to buy a 4-pack of Virgil’s to see what all the fuss was about. Wiseman was always going on about the stuff (he does go on about things sometimes), to the point where I reckon he might have considered moving to the US just to have it on tap. However, he wouldn’t want to be moving in with Alyn and AJ, for several reasons I suspect, but principally because every time he came home he would find the refrigerator ransacked and his supply of rather fine root beer decimated.

Well, purely speculatively, that’s what I suggest might happen. Fortunately this week at the School has been entitled “Healing Life’s Hurts” and I’m here to tell you it couldn’t have come at a better time. Alyn & AJ have not only been teaching this at the School, but helping me work it out in practice, bless them.

This morning was spent back at the DMV, taking my driving theory test. Being of a certain age, I never had to take a theory test in the UK, and so this was a new, and largely unwelcome experience. Although some of the questions did at least provide some humour, like 

Continuous hard braking on snow and ice often:

(a) helps you stop sooner
(b) heats up your brake pads and stops them freezing

I forget what (c) was now but I went for it. Anyway, the theory successfully negotiated, I booked myself a road test for tomorrow. My wheels for this auspicious occasion have been loaned to me by the very kind Charlene, who is able to lend me her car since she is currently driving a car belonging to a rock’n’roll friend who is currently away on tour. Ah, Nashville. Now, Charlene, I mean no disrespect, and I am enormously grateful for the generous loan, but it does rattle a bit, this car. I’m not entirely sure that the shock absorbers are currently absorbing anything. Had I been driving it in and out of pot-holes in Edinburgh, as one is wont to do there, I would have booked myself into the dentist by now. But apart from that it’s a fine car, if you don’t mind the deer-shaped void where the front grille used to be, and the cable tie keeping an undefined part of the engine attached to the chassis. 

And lo, did her car not break down this very afternoon, even while I was in Starbucks (I knew that judgement was coming). Shifting the stick into Reverse or Drive was simply not enough to persuade the transmission to engage. 

The nice Tow Truck Guy that appeared after a short wait drawled that there was nothing with the transmission (buddy), and with a reckless disregard for the consequences, detached the cable tie from the engine part and attached it to another engine part. Having checked that the transmission now engaged successfully, he drove off and left me shortly before the car broke down again. Distance travelled: 12 feet. A quick phone call to Charlene saved the day and helped me open the hood/bonnet (not as straightforward as you might think), whereupon I reattached the thing back to the thing, minus the cable tie, which had fallen off, and hoped I would not be repeating the process every 12 feet for the 3 mile trip to the garage.

Tomorrow’s test will now be taken in Alyn & AJ’s minivan. Maximum credibility awaits.

Starbucks drive-thru fail

Decided to try out the Starbucks drive-thru this morning. Was on my way to the DMV (American DVLA) to ascertain how I might perchance obtain a Tennessee driver’s licence. Having been warned by Alyn that this could take some time, I realised that skipping my coffee this morning at breakfast might not have been such a good plan, and resolved to visit Starbucks.

Now, a word here about Starbucks, since earlier in these pages I have been, um, forthright in my condemnation thereof. I am still not a fan as such, but have now had three Starbucks coffees in the States, and they have all been OK. Not outstanding, but definitely ok.

But Starbucks is on the way to the DMV, and they have a drive-thru, and getting out of one’s vehicle for anything other an emergency is frowned upon here.

And so it was that I arrived at the window, where the nice lady asked me for $4.32. I did wonder if she might be prophetic, as I hadn’t ordered anything yet. And it transpired that somehow I had managed to avoid ordering anything at the intercom-thing earlier in the drive-thru queue and she was charging me for somebody else’s venti iced triple shot pumpkin latte extra soy decaf. I am conscious that I was listening to WSM country music radio, but not *that* loud. This basic inability to use a drive-thru was kind of mortifying. It’s not as if we don’t have drive-thrus in the UK. Anyhow, the rest of the exchange went like this.

“Not a problem, so what can I get you?”

“Black Americano, small please”

“Where are you from?”

“Uh, Ireland”

At this point she screwed up her face and banged her hands on the counter, exclaiming “DARN YOU!”

I looked appropriately puzzled. She apologised for darning me.

“It’s only my favourite place!” she explained.

“Oh,” I said, “Have you been?”


I love this.

“But it’s top of the list!”

I warned her to lower her expectations.

She gave me the Americano on the house, because “it’s not every day we get someone from Ireland in here.” I might have pointed out that I will be in there every day for the next 9 months if they keep giving me free coffee, Starbucks or no…

Decision Time

Westin O’Hare Hotel

15 September, 6am CDT

I know objectively that this life change I’ve undertaken is a big decision, but when people point that out to me, while acknowledging that it’s true (it must be), I’ve felt like shrugging and smiling.

This has been one of the easier decisions I’ve had to make in my life. I’ve had more stress trying to work out what to do with a free Saturday morning (ok, I need to get this, this and this done…would make more sense to have breakfast at home, save time and money…BUT I would really like to have brunch at Indigo Yard…but that’s going to take up a bit of time, agh, agh AGH!) than I have making the decision to sell most of my worldly assets and head to the States.

This decision has been signposted by God to me through various means since the beginning, and he has smoothed the way all along. It has taken faith, but my experience has always been, and never more so than now, that he rewards you for stepping out in faith for him.

This morning I am faced with another big decision. My bag didn’t make it to Chicago (never mind Nashville) last night, and in my carry-on luggage I have a number of life’s necessities (such as a baseball mitt) but no underwear.

So, yesterday’s pants or go commando? Uncomfortable grottiness or the risk of being deported for indecent exposure at airport security when I have to take my belt off and my trousers fail to stay up..?


Chicago O’Hare Airport

15 September, 8am CDT

Now in O’Hare having a breakfast burrito and Pepsi. I feel it’s important to try to embrace American culture early on.

It’s tempting to say everything went wrong on yesterday’s journey, but the reality is that all the important things went right. That is, they let me in the country. And so two delayed flights and one missed flight, a missing bag with all my clothes and an important chocolate consignment for chez Jones in it, don’t seem so bad after all. And I got an overnight in a Westin hotel, which Alyn informs me is an upmarket Sheraton, and certainly felt like it, courtesy of AA. American Airlines, that is, just for clarification.

They also supplied me with a voucher for breakfast, which upon arrival at the hotel restaurant, I realised totalled $7. 

“What can I get for $7?” I asked my server.

“Uh, a coffee is $5.50, more like $6 including tax.


I had to resort to the Starbucks outlet in the lobby. The day can only improve from here 🙂