Pacer Anguish: The Day I Left My Mother by the Side of the Road


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Just a little Pacer story I hope the guys will enjoy.

In 1984 – this was before cellphones – I was headed for Wisconsin from Colorado to my first real job. In my grandmother’s old Pacer. My mother planned to accompany me on the two-day drive. Also in the car were our suitcases, my psychopathic mutt, and a 6-foot tall rubber tree plant. We were on a short deadline because we had to meet the moving van on time or they would hold my stuff hostage for some ridiculous sum of money.

Somewhere in Nebraska on a Sunday, a film developed on my back windshield. I pulled over to check my fluids. Transmission fluid down. I had no transmission fluid with me, but I did have brake fluid. I was pretty sure that brake fluid was not good for transmissions, but on the other hand, it seemed like the transmission was going to have to be replaced anyway, and to get anywhere at all, I figured some lubrication was needed. My bigger problem was the location of the transmission fluid opening. I needed a funnel with a hose. I did not have such a funnel.

I remembered that tampons were fashioned like little pistons. I removed the cotton plug, and then created one long tube by stacking the tubes together, each small end into a big end. A highway patrolman pulled up, eyed the mound of tampons, pointed out that brake fluid was definitely not good for transmissions, and directed us to a repair shop that would be open the next day and a small motel that took pets.

After the repair, about fifty miles out of Omaha, the back window filmed over. A mechanic in a small town repaired the car, but a few miles later, the film came back with a vengeance. At this point, my mother said something. I do not remember what it was. I believe it was completely innocuous. I snapped. I pulled the car over, ordered her out, and drove away.

About five miles down the road I realized that not only had I left behind the only person on this trip who had any money but I had kept the crappy car and abandoned my mommy. I went back, picked her up, did not apologize, and drove on. My mother was understandably somewhat subdued for the duration, and we made our deadline.

I kept that car (I was broke) for three years. One day, I was making a left turn at an intersection and noticed that another Pacer was making a left turn from the opposite side. We waved ruefully at each other. And then – I know you won’t believe this, but it is the truth – both Pacers stalled in the middle of the intersection. I knew from experience that the “computer” had malfunctioned. We each got out, exchanged a few choice remarks about our cars, and then walked away. Big relief.