This post was originally published on November 28th, 2012
This is a true story...but I couldn't change the names or faces...because they make the story!
past summer while at the chateau we had a guest that suddenly had to
leave mid-week, much to our unhappiness, as we had become totally
smitten with our new friend from Savannah. On the departure day,
Mogull (as always) quickly offered to drive our guest to the Toulouse
Airport, about 45 minutes away from the chateau.
We should have
known that things were going to go a little haywire when her car
wouldn't start - this, by the way, was her third car in less than 2
weeks...the first two had to be exchanged for technical problems. So,
Mogull jumped in my car, the trusty Renault, which had an empty gas
tank. "Don't worry Mogull," I said, "you will be able to get to
Montauban to fill up the tank - no problem." Fifteen minutes later, I
received the call - "We filled up the tank in Montauban, but the car
stalled - we are on the side of a very busy road - help!"
our first idea...didn't pan out too well
Christopher, our trusted man-about-the-chateau and I jumped into his
car and off we went to rescue the girls on the side of the road. When
we got there, our new friend jumped into Christopher's car and off they
sped to the Toulouse Airport...hoping to make her flight.
Mogull and I tried to figure out the problem. "You did fill it up with
gas - right?" "Yes, yes, yes, we filled it up - and all was fine until
it just kinda sputtered out less than 3 blocks from the gas station."
"Hmmm....and you put in diesel...right?" "Yeah, yeah, yeah sans plomb -
diesel - right?"
At that point I wasn't totally sure...was
diesel sans plomb or could it be gazole?? "Well, let's call Eurocar and
get the mechanic or tow truck out here right away." The temperature
was rising, the day before had been 104 degrees, and we had no water in
I called Eurocar and was put on hold, then I called back,
but the French woman from Eurocar couldn't quite make out what I was
explaining to her - that we were stuck on the side of a very busy road
in a stalled car and needed help - asap!
I called Eurocar again
and this time spoke with a very nice young Frenchman, who, after hearing
my whole story a couple of times, with the word DANGER thrown in a few
times for good measure, said "First of all..." I hung onto every word,
first of all....what?? We are coming to rescue you, we will be bringing
you another car, we are so sorry for yet another technical difficulty
with one of our cars....?
"First of all....take care"
care? First of all - take care?? What in the world did he think we
were doing?? Mogull and I laughed so hard I thought we were going to
pass out - right there in the overheated car with cars whizzing by at
100 miles per hour!
Eventually we composed ourselves and were able
to continue our conversation with the nice young Frenchman. Within
about 15 minutes, our tow truck pulled up and we thought the drama was
over...little did we know it was only just beginning!
who spoke no English, immediately diagnosed the problem: wrong kind of
gas was put into the car. At that moment, we learned a valuable
lesson....diesel cars get filled up with gazole and unleaded cars get
filled up with sans plomb. (Reread that sentence if you are traveling
to Europe and plan on renting a car.) The mechanic hitched our car up
to the back of his chains and loaded the car up onto his flatbed and
then, motioning to the front of his cab, basically said "Get in." At
this point, I had to try to explain to him that we just couldn't "get
in" - we had already called my sister Molly and she was on her way,
right now, to pick us up. Due to a mishap earlier in the week, we knew
that if we were not where we said we were going to be - there would be
hell to pay! We continued to plead our case to the mechanic, and even
brought the young Frenchman from Eurocar, who was still on the phone,
into the conversation (heated exchange?).
the car on the flatbed
we knew what was happening, the mechanic was reversing the ramp on his
flat bed and our car was being taken off. "Wait a minute!! You can't
take our car off - we need you to help us!" And that's when he
basically told us that if we didn't get into his truck right this
minute, he would unload our car and leave us, and our car on the side of
the road. That was the turning point, I gave Mogull a bit of a shove
and said "Get in!" I figured Molly would have to check her cell phone
at some point and realize that we had no other choice than to comply
with the rules of the road and our mechanic! That's another story....
the car coming off the flatbed
Mogull begrudgingly getting into the cab of the truck
here, the story gets better...and worse! Barrelling down the country
roads, the three of us, Mogull, myself and the mechanic, all got along
like a house on fire - strange since minutes earlier we were yelling and
shouting on the side of the road. The mechanic said his garage was
about an hour away...at which point Mogull and I nudged each other and
thought "What in the world have we gotten ourselves into??"
we pulled up to his garage and were met by the mechanic's wife who
invited us into their service shop, which was spotless and air
conditioned! She offered us cold drinks and maybe even some
cookies...it was like we had died and gone to heaven. She said they
would have to pump the full tank of sans plomb and the estimate was
about $250! After about a half an hour, the wife told us we should go
to the cafe next door (which reminded me of something out of the movie
Bagdad Cafe) because it would be a while till the car was ready.
the French mechanic
the French mechanic's wife
obediently walked to the cafe and ordered a much needed cafe au lait.
Through the window, we saw the mechanic taking two full gas containers
across the street and we snickered about how he was probably selling off
our mistake for a profit! We laughed, we told stories, we tried to
figure out a way to not let everyone know that it was a gas mistake!
we headed back to the garage, where, since it was noon, the gate was
closed and locked. Of course it was...when the French eat
lunch...everything closes down. All of a sudden the gates magically
opened and we were let in.
the shop gate opening for us to collect our car
We entered the service shop and the wife and mechanic were there behind the counter, eating lunch.
were handed our bill for less than $100 and told that the mechanic had
siphoned out the sans plomb, filled up the tank with gazole and given us
a credit for the gas he had sold off to the gas station across the
street. What?? So...many lessons were learned...but probably, most
importantly...if you have to go through a car break down in the middle
of France, on one of the hottest days of the summer...best to have a
friend like Mogull to go through it with you!