Day 14:  How to be a Chump Yank Tourist without even trying.

Nic wanted to check out a jewelry store before we left Skye.  Right outside of Broadford–for a tiny shop, it had a large car park.  I pulled out the key and we entered the shop.

She bought the Celtic rune stud earrings.  She’d lost the back of one of her pearls, and her lobes had felt naked ever since.

I suggest we cross the street to the cafe’.  It’s still raining , and I could use something warm before the last 10 miles to Lochalsh.  Luxury Dark Hot Chocolate and a dried fruit scone.  We cross back to the car, ready to leave the island, eat a leisurely lunch at Lochalsh, and take the train home.

I get in.  Turn the ignition.  Nothing.  We look at each other.  I try again.  Again, nothing.

I go back in the store and ask the guy at Remax if he has any jumper cables.  “Leads,” they’re called here.  Never thought I’d have to learn that one.

“I don’t, but I can call a guy.” He does. “The guy wants to charge £20.”

“That’s okay,” I say.  “Thanks.” The rental car company, among many things, said that if we had any problems to give them a call.  If I can’t find anybody with “leads,” they should do it for free.  Nic calls them, they would, but they can’t right now.  They can send a guy–for £20–if it needs to be soon.  It does.  Our train leaves in under two hours.

I feel like an idiot.  I probably left the light on one too many times.  The lights turn off when the car does, so I assumed it was cool.  Guess I was wrong.

Because here we are, waiting in a parking lot, stranded on Skye, Train clock ticking down.

I can’t sit still, so I pace the parking lot. I try to play the “It Could Always Be Worse” game.  It could’ve happened in Elgol, a more remote part of the island.  I could’ve wrecked the car, like the one we saw last night.  None of this brings comfort.

Two ladies who were in the jewelry store came out and I asked them if they have  jumper cables.  They do!  Great!  They pull beside me, and I pop the hood. Batteries have more protective plastic in the UK, but I manage to squeeze the leads on.  I turn the key.  Everything works, but the engine still does nothing.  I thank them.  They tell me where there’s good coffee up the road while I wait and wish me good luck.

I’ll admit, I’m not the most mechanically inclined person, but I’m baffled.  Nic guesses it’s the alternator. She is dealing with the stress of this better than I am.  She has been checking train times and calling the rental company. More bad news. They now say that since I let someone “uncertified” work on it that I am liable for all the damages.

Now I start playing the “Worst Case Scenario” game.  We’re gonna miss the train.  We’ll have to rebook our overnight to London and find a place to stay in Inverness tonight.  They’re going to tow the car and charge me the full deductible.  Even when Nic calls bullshit on this after reading the rental contract, this sounds like a long protracted battle against a Scottish rental company from 3000 miles away.  I pace. I check my watch.  I stretch.  I walk down to the street to look for the truck.  Nic calls back to remind them that we have a 1:30 train.  They’re not sure why the mechanic hasn’t left, but they say they’ll  double check.

Finally, he arrives.  He gets the battery pack.  He asks for the keys, sticks his head in the door. Makes one click.  Turns the key.  Starts right up.  WHAT THE HELL? Is this some secret Scottish trick?  A racket for local mechanics?  He looks at me dryly and solemnly as he pulls his head out of the car.

“Usually, it has to be in park for it to start.”

I laugh at my own stupidity.  All my worry for a stupid, easy fix.  At home, I do this all the time–try to pull the key out in drive–but my car won’t let me.  Luxury has spoiled my good sense.  I have made the dumbest and most simplest of mistakes.  

“They told me I’m supposed to ask you for £20.”  I sheepishly handed over the quid.  

In playing the “Worst Case Scenario” game, humiliation and being the butt end of a dumb Yank tourist story at the pub never occurred to me.  And while it wins the “It Could’ve Been Worse” game.  It’s still little consolation.

“I’m going to laugh about this at some point, but it sure as hell isn’t now.”

“Too close to my side,” she says.

We make the train with time to spare

But probably more harried than we would like.  The Guiness Amber in my bag goes to good work as soon as I get a cup from the trolley.  I write.  Nic lolls off to sleep.  Here’s to letting someone else take care of the driving.


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