August 23, 2010

Car Trouble in Toronto

Posted in Children, Travel tagged , , , , , , at 4:00 pm by Liliana



My youngest son, Sam, is interested in attending the University of Toronto. He, my husband Jeff, and I spent the weekend exploring the city and the campus.

Things didn’t go smoothly the entire trip. First, we were stopped at the border and had to  go to the immigration building and talk to serious looking officials. The traffic was congested. There was construction on the road and we had to take a number of detours. And when we were about an hour away from the city, our engine started to overheat and a warning light came on. Jeff drove very slowly and we worried the entire time but we made it to our hotel. The hotel was not as nice as we had expected. None of us slept well.

The next morning, we had an appointment with advisers at the university at 11 am. We decided to take the car to the mechanic (recommended by our hotel) first. We got stuck in traffic and made it to the Little Portugal part of the city late. The mechanic was not encouraging. The car radiator had developed a leak and needed to be replaced. They didn’t know if the engine was ruined. We didn’t know what to do. Should we fix the radiator, and then take the chance driving back to Michigan? What if the car breaks along the way? Should we spend several thousand dollars changing the entire motor? Is it worth it?

By this time, we had missed our college appointment, but made another for 2 pm. We told the mechanics that we needed to think things through and would call them after we made a decision. A niece of the owner gave us a ride to the campus.

The three of us met with the university counselors. We talked about admission requirements, the university, and our car. Everyone felt sorry for us.

Sam and I went on a campus tour, but Jeff stayed on a shady bench and tried to figure out what to do. He called his brother Joe, then his brother Randy. Randy called our mechanic in Michigan and Jeff had a long consultation with him. When we got back from the campus tour, Jeff had some facts to work with. Our Michigan mechanic thought that changing the radiator was a good place to start. If the motor made no noise, he believed it wasn’t damaged. We decided to do that and hope for the best. Jeff called the mechanics and they told us that the car would be done by 10 am the next morning.

There was a wonderful sense of release once our decision was made. We walked around the city center, and had a wonderful (and expensive) dinner in an Asian restaurant. We didn’t care. After the kind of day we had, we felt we deserved it.

We decided to see a movie. Sam wanted to see Salt, and Jeff and I wanted to make him happy. It was fun, but so unrealistic, that even in my desire for complete escape, I kept asking questions that just couldn’t be answered. We walked back to the hotel, got confused, got lost, then took a taxi. The taxi driver had trouble finding our hotel. When we finally made it, our dingy room looked very inviting. The three of us went to sleep immediately.

The next day, after breakfast in an outdoor café, Jeff took the trolley to Little Portugal to check up on the car. Sam and I decided to do some school clothes shopping. We were buying a sweater when Jeff called and said that the car looked good and the engine did not seem damaged. After everything that had happened, it seemed almost too good to be true.

We drove home to Michigan without further incident. The traffic was bad, and it rained most of the way, but our car seemed to be in good shape. We crossed the border without hassle.

Our home felt warm, cozy and very inviting when we arrived late that evening. Sam still wanted to apply to the university. We still loved the  city. But it felt good to be home.