Well, the thing that I was dreading for ages and really hoping would wait to happen until I moved to Mérida finally happened: my truck’s clutch went out. I’m sure it’s been giving me signals for a bit, but I didn’t realise anything was wrong until I hit my first red light in Mérida today and had a hell of a time coaxing Moya through the intersection after the light turned green. She was revving hard, but had no power at all.
By the time I made it to the house, there was a burnt smell so I knew something Bad was happening and to not move her another inch. But I had other matters to deal with upon arrival — the electrician was again waiting for me. I can’t believe I’ve met a Mexican more punctual than me. 😀 He got my new ceiling fan in very quickly, leaving quite a mess for me to sweep up when I get a broom. Yes, he would have done it himself, but, again, I haven’t bought a broom yet. I had to reassure him that I would not say that he left the room a mess without taking the blame!
Once he was gone, it was time to deal with the truck. Unfortunately, the mechanic next door was closed. My landlady, the couple across the street with a very nice car, my electrician, and several people on Google recommend him, so that was a shame as I could have at least had a consult. I posted to my Ranger forum and got several replies that I probably just needed to change the gearbox oil.
I headed off to the nearest HSBC to withdraw cash and there just happened to be an Autozone right there. I decided to buy the oil when they said I could return it as long as it wasn’t opened. It was quite strange — they had none in stock (determined after an extensive search) and called another store to check if they had some. I clearly heard the clerk say, “The client will come get it,” when a guy came in from back holding four bottles, as though he’d magicked them out of thin air. I’m still confused about what happened!
On the way home, I stopped at a little lunch counter to buy a decent for $15 chicken and veggie torta. Really, at that kind of a price it’s not worth making my own lunches!
When I got in, the mechanic was there! He dropped everything to come check out Moya and confirm that I was at a worst case scenario. He priced a new clutch and quoted me $5,800 all-in, unless there’s more to the job (which neither of us believes there should be, but this is me we’re talking about and I tend to underestimate how big things are going to end up being). Now, a clutch would not be worth repairing in Canada for about 1,500CAD (what my Kal Tire guy quoted me). For less than 500CAD, though, I had some really hard thinking to do.
The most pressing thing was that I had to get home to Chelem to feed Puppy tonight. The second most pressing thing was that I have tons of work to do by noon tomorrow. So I didn’t have time to be sorting out public transportation to get to Chelem and back — it would take me hours to get home and an untold amount of time to get back to Mérida because I can’t get a bus from the house. A taxi round trip would be about $1,000.
I flirted with the idea of just renting a car for the next couple of weeks and then doing without the truck for a few months, but knew that I’d end up paying for a rental close to if not more than the cost of the repair.
I asked if I could get to Chelem with the truck and then just drop it at the mechanic I met here. My neighbour said yes, but it would be risky and I’d really have to time myself to avoid rush hour and also ideally burn through red lights. That seemed absolutely moronic to me when I had a mechanic right there who said he could do the work for me and have the truck ready for me by tomorrow. So I told him to go ahead, but that $6,000 is the absolute most I could pay right now so to stop if things were worse than we thought.
$6,000 is every peso I’ve got left in the budget for house expenses prior to move in, including possibly a cheap stove and washing machine, paint, moving the desk, and buying all those little things you realise you don’t have until you need them (like a broom). It’s a crushing blow, but at least I have the money to pay for the repair.
It’s like New Orleans all over again and, like in New Orleans, I knew I was racing time to get a rental car for 24 hours, the obvious solution to my transportation needs.
I wasted a bit of time trying to get quotes and a reservation online. I’m slowly learning that solutions are still rarely found online in Mexico — you get much better results in person or on the phone. After a bit of Googling revealed that there was a string of rental offices all in a row on Calle 60 right in Centro, I packed up, locked up, and walked the two blocks to get a bus to downtown that would take me to two blocks of where all the car rental places are.
The first couple of places I checked, including a National, only had premium cars starting at $750 per day. The third place I went to quoted me $500, including insurance, for a small manual car, which was better than anything I’d seen online. We went over the contract, I paid, and then we went into the parking lot to look at the car, a Nissan Tsuru (sorry, forgot to grab a picture). It looks a bit retro and like Moya is no frills with manual windows and locks, but it does have AC (which Moya did have when I got her and which would now be worth fixing!). I took pictures of all the existing damage, the odometre, and the gas gauge. The guy moved the car into position for me to be able to take it out easily and that was that. Super easy. But can you imagine being alone here with no support network and no language skills?! I can because I shopped for a rental car in Bulgaria!
It was then a very long drive north straight up Calle 60. The car is so no frills there isn’t even a tachometer so I had to drive her by ear. I had no trouble. I stopped in at Costco because Puppy’s kibble levels were low and I wasn’t sure how many more days we could go on his existing bag. My favourite Japanese dumplings were on a mega sale, so I treated myself to a bag, and then went to the lunch counter to get a slice of pizza to go. I think it’s a bit scary that one of the cashiers now knows me by name! I’ve been curious about the mango smoothies on the menu and decided that today was the day to try one (spoiler: yum!).
It was then a very long drive back to Chelem. I really don’t know where in my schedule I’m going to find the time to go back tomorrow, but needs must. Needless to say, it’s going to be another late night (currently 6:00 and I need to do at least four hours of typing). I also need to move some money around and plan to stop at both a Scotiabank and an HSBC tomorrow.
I’ve never been particularly superstitious, so I’m enjoying the coincidence of my clutch dying on a Friday the 13th. But read back over my post — that sucked and my moving in budget being trashed sucked even more, but look at how lucky I got in other ways — I have a conveniently located mechanic I can trust, he could take the truck straight away, I have the funds for the repair, and Puppy got his supper on time tonight. The glass is rarely as empty as we think it is.