Expat bloopers are my fortè. Trouble seems to hang over me, just like the cloud following PigPen in the Charlie Brown cartoons.
My friend, Geoffrey, used to be the one who always came to my rescue. Since his phone now switches to voicemail when I call, my safety net has expanded. For example, remember Christian? The friend who saved me from sleeping on the curb when I didn’t have my keys when I returned to Uzes in June? Since Christian and the episode with the keys, I’ve stayed out of trouble… until last week.
This time it was a real doosey.
It was Thursday. I’d spent the morning picking grapes at a vineyard near Castillon-du-Gard for the small winery, La Gramière.
After a most-delicious “vendange” luncheon — and perhaps too much La Gramière rosé wine — I headed for home, stopping first to buy gas for the car, “Lucy.”
When I parked “Lucy” in front of the pump, the lovely lady who owns the station came out to speak with me. Because of my bad French, we awkwardly passed pleasantries back and forth as I fumbled to put the fuel nozzle into Lucy’s tank. My concentration was on putting together a few coherent statements in French.
The next day, Lucy and I set out for the vineyard to help again with the grape picking. When we left the underground garage in Uzes, Lucy started puttering. She has always run like a top, so I ignored her “hiccups.” Until we were down the road. A flash of heat came over me.
All the warning voices came back to me that I had heard when I bought Lucy: “Don’t put petrol in Lucy’s diesel engine. It’ll be a catastrophe!”
“A catastrophe?” I said to myself, “Ahh… Lucy’s just got something stuck in her pipes.” Then I hit the gas pedal so Lucy could blow whatever was in there out of there.
Speeding out of town, Lucy responded well but then choked and slowed down. I kept on pushing her, sure the choking sounds would go away. We reached the meeting place of the grape pickers at Castillon-du-Gard, then panic set in. “It’s Friday!” I shrieked in my head. “If Lucy’s in real trouble, we’ll be stuck!”
“Got to get back to Uzes right now,” I told Amy, apologizing for dropping out of the work crew.
“Good luck!” she said.
Back on the road, I picked up the phone and called Geoffrey. Twice. The calls went directly to voicemail.
Lucy was really hurting now. As we were chugging along, we passed the turnoff to a small village I’d visited before.
“Paschal!” I shouted to myself.
Pachal is a friend of Geoffrey’s who designs swimming pools … and … he’s a master mechanic!
“Bonjour? This is Deborah,” I told his wife, who answered the phone. “You won’t believe what I’ve done,” I exclaimed. Going over the gas saga and recalling that I had used the “green” pump to fill Lucy’s tank, I waited on the side of the road with Lucy to hear back from Paschal.
“The green pump is not diesel,” Paschal’s wife said, calling back for her husband. “Paschal says drive it over here very slowly, and he’ll look at it when he gets home.”
“Drive slowly!” I laughed, “I’ve been speeding Lucy around for the last hour!”
What a car!
Lucy coughed to Paschal’s house, where she took her last breath. I left her for a diagnosis and, hopefully, a cure.
“It may take several days to fix the problem,” said Paschal’s wife when she called the next day. “You know this isn’t easy. You ran petrol through the whole system.”
Sunday morning, I received a call that Paschal would meet me at a cafe in Uzes to hand over Lucy’s key. She was OK! And the cost for her repair was very reasonable …. including a full tank of DIESEL! Yea, Paschal!!!
Now I no longer worry about putting petrol in Lucy’s diesel engine.
I’ve already done that!