The tow truck driver dropped it at an independent VW garage and I locked it, dropped the key through the little hole in the front of the building and added a note. They called me the next day and said they had found my note, but it really hadn't been necessary. They were pretty much able to see the problem when they walked up.
That afternoon I had someone drop me off. The mechanic came out and looked at the car with me and said, "So, it surprises me that this happened."
"Really?" I said. "It surprised me too."
We both stood beside the new wheel and nodded our heads. It was a nice, shared moment, but then he ruined it. "Yeah, because usually you have a little warning."
My eyes lifted and I focused on the building across the driveway. "Oh? How long of a warning?"
He folded his arms and stared up at the sky, calculating in his head. "I guess about six months."
"Hummm," I said and knitted my brows. "What kind of a warning?"
"A humming sound. You never heard it?"
I have a six-CD changer and front and rear speakers, for crying out loud. If there was an off-note tone, I simply edged the volume up. "I did once, when they had just repaved. I thought it was the new pavement."
His lips thinned and he sucked in air. "Let me tell you all the things that could have happened by ignoring this." The next ten minutes I nodded and made little noises meant to sound like I agreed with him. When he finished his diatribe he jammed his hand into his pocket and yanked out a little cup shaped thing. I backed up a step. "And here is another thing," he jeered. "Do you see the little copper wire down in the bottom of this?" He shoved it next to my jaw.
I squinted into the cup, but could not see the wire. I'm not a car person and this was obviously a car part. My jaw rose in challenge. "No I don't."
"That is because there isn't one." He held it up in front of my eyes. "But there should be." He marched over to the hood and hauled it open. "Someone put a cheap imitation part on this car instead of a genuine VW part," he accused, "and the car is not going to run as well without it." He pointed to a new part shining in beams of sunlight and birds chirped all around us.
That was about seven years ago. Last week he came out from the shop floor, wiping his hands on a fluffy white towel, and shook his head. "I'm sorry. There isn't a lot we can do." He listed all the possible causes of the humming.
I finally held up my hand. "So what are you trying to say?"
He held up his own hand and started ticking off points on the other. "You've got one hundred eighty thousand miles, the roof leaks, the throttle is going, the clutch is going and it is very possible the transmission is going. It is time to start looking for a new car."
A lump formed in my throat. "How long does it have?"
He shrugged. "Six months, a year."
Today I sat in a 2010 Subaru Legacy and a VW Jetta and had to tamp down a bubble of emotion as I looked through the windshield at my little Cabrio quivering in the parking lot. This is going to be hard.