Saturday, September 09, 2006

Adventures in Houston

Last week, four of us (Archana, Satish, Suman and Self) decided to drive down to Houston (in my Eagle Talon) and see the Munnabhai Movie. We had read lots of happy reviews about the same online, and decided to see what the fuss was all about.

So, we found ourselves speeding towards Houston - when a slightly disconcerting feeling made itself prominent. The engine was "vibrating" (at frequencies lower than the expected piston frequency). We started to smell something burning too. So, we stopped on the shoulder and tried to investigate. Realizing it was too risky, we pulled into a by-road in Navasota and checked the smell. By this time the car has ceased jerking. Dismissing all this as a figment of our imaginations, we set out on our way to Houston all again.

And in that steep fly-over near Hempstead, we realized that our car was not going to make it to the top. The engine was overhearting - the temperature reading showed "H" almost consistently. The A/C was breathing out hot air even if the setting was the coldest. We realized that the car was out of coolant. And emergency stop was effected on the shoulder near the maxima on the flyover. After a call to an uncle, we managed to get some coolant into the radiator (after wrestling with one of those radiator caps with "Do not open" explicity written on top).

After a few agonizing moments on top of the fly-over, (including one in which a surprised Satish woke up and found the car "stranded" on top of the bridge), the car cooled down enough to make it to a yonder gas station. Coolant and water was procured - and was poured into the car. We reckoned we'd solved the mystery of the car. We felt happy about ourselves - just like Sherlock Holmes would have after sovling the Baskerville mystery, say. Back on the way to Houston we were.

And guess what! We were taking an exit onto Houston - and the car stops bang in the middle of the road. After a few agonizing minutes (with the blinkers on), we somehow manage to push the car onto the shoulder. We fed it more coolant - and somehow pushed the car to the theater. An offer to help from a considerate Sardarji is graciously refused (more due to it being unpragmatic than anything else - I mean .. where would he park his car?) in doing so.

The car was parked in the theater. The journey to the theater was quite trying. Seeing the needle to to 'H' is quite agonizing. I got the feeling that the car was going to explode on me any moment.

A stroke of good luck was that Harsha (whom I had called to meet us at the theater) decided to pop up for the movie anyway. I met him in the theater. A reunion was effected; the movie was enjoyed, one's prejudices against Sanjay Dutt notwithstanding. After all, absurdity conquers all. I felt that references of Gandhi were particularly pertinent - and the movie packed an elegant punch.

After the movie, it was time to get the automobile reparied. Archana and Harsha (in his spanking new Honda civic) were despached to scout around for auto-repair shops. Looking at Harsha's brand new car, one could but not help thinking that he and I were in the same batch at IIT - look at his car - and then look at mine. After some such cynical humor, we finally got word that an Autozone armed with mechanics existed in yonder Bellaire. The car chugged its way to Bellaire only to find a stuffed-to-the brim autozone which did not even have distilled water, leave alone mechanics. We bought a "sealant", which was used in the car. It did not work.

We made our way to 'Masala Wok', a chinese flavoured Indian restauraunt. This is where I had another stroke of good luck - Suman and Satish called over Vijay, one of our friends back at A&M. He too popped over, and Harsha and Vijay hat another sentimental reunion. We then realized that the best place to park the car was Vijay's. So, we made our way there (stopping once or twice to cool the engine).

Harsha and I and Archana went to her place. Rather than go to Harsha's place, we decided to sleep at Archana's. We slept there, and I was woken up by Harsha who said "How can you sleep in this light?" at 7:30. After some finger-brushing we had a breakfast (and more importantly, coffee) at IHOP. And then we bid good-bye to Harsha. Archana and I went to Vijay's on her Corolla (which had a fit radiator). We spied a firestone beside Vijay's apartment. I took the car to firestone. I must confess that I was quite disappointed to learn that the shop was a Firestone, since their tendencies to charge the earth are quite well known. But as a beggar, I had no choice. I just had to part with all the money that they would ask me to part with.

They told us they'd take a little while to get the car up and runnning. They told me it'd be $400. My wallet won't need to diet anymore, I suppose. We still had a couple of hours to kill, so we deicided to go to IKEA. While at Archana's place, I had slept on a divinely comfortable futon. So, I contemplated getting myself one if possible. Suman concurred. We walked all around Ikea, got the futon (and lots of other useless stuff). We managed to stuff it into Archana's car (by stuffing self and Satish in the back seat).

Of course, one must make a passing mention of the divine commestibles served up by the Scandinavian chefs down at IKEA. The vegetarian Lasagna was a slice of heaven, as was the cheese cake. The rationale behind having such an excellent food court bang in the middle of IKEA eluded us. Perhaps, we reckoned, Scandinavians cook well in general.

Finally we went home, to Vijay's house and got the car. After a tearful adieu to the $400, a rather comparitively eventless trip home was effected. A thoroughly filling dinner was had at the Aunt's place, and home was gone to after a real long time.