The internet connection was repaired later that afternoon, but she wasn't on AIM. Naturally, she called back when I had stepped out of the office for a minute, saying she'd be out for a while, but should be back by the time I was in her area. I pulled up her phone numbers from the computer, and only found two (work and cell). Apparently the third had gotten clobbered when synching with old data, ah well. I headed out and then it occurred to me that it might be easier to just take Metro and avoid driving all the way. I called to ask about the possibility, but no answer at either number. No matter, she'd said she'd be out for a while, so I forged ahead as I didn't know which Metro stop would be close and I can't call from on the train.
Traffic was actually fairly light and I made decent time. I remembered we had figured a reasonable way to get in to town, and approximately where to turn. When I was several blocks out, I tried calling again. Still no answer at either number. I realized that the number I probably wanted was her home number, she probably didn't answer her work number after hours and the cell phone would be off since she was home. Luckily, I did have that number, on my Visor. By the time I had retrieved and dialed it, I had already made the turn but figured I could loop around if I had overshot. She did answer, but the connection was horrible, neither of us could hear each other at all. I waited a bit, figuring the system would hand-off to a better cell fairly quickly, as I was in an urban area. No such luck, and eventually the call dropped.
I tried to redial and got the "system panic" tone, meaning that something was pretty broken. I surmised that a cluster of cells had gotten cut off from the network, which is why I couldn't hand-off and now couldn't make a call at all. I figured I should turn back and hope to get to some cell sites that were still working. This took some time, with the system either returning fast busy or the panic tone. Finally I got a real connection, which yielded a busy signal. I figured she was trying to call me back and commenced to going around several blocks while I waited for the line to clear.
Then there was a cloud of smoke, and I figured I'd driven over a steam grate. But it persisted and I wondered if I had cut down a tyre. Then I smelled the antifreeze and realized my cooling system had ruptured. I pulled over to survey the damage and avoid overheating the engine. After the steam had cleared somewhat, I had a look, hoping that a hose had come off or burst, which I could probably fix. But the steam was issuing from the engine itself, which told me the water pump had blown a seal, something I couldn't fix on the spot.
I was going to call AAA, but remembered I had just gotten a letter from them informing me that my payment hadn't gone through (my credit card company had changed allegiance from Visa to MasterCard, which had given me a new card number). So I called their business office, hoping I could set things right over the phone and get a tow. But the business office was closed, so I called the road service number and hoped for the best. They took down my information and said a truck would be out in 0 to 90 minutes. I guessed this meant about 85 minutes. Turns out my membership still has a couple of weeks before it runs out. It seemed a bit presumptuous to have them drag my car the 50 miles back to where my usual mechanic is, but their database didn't find any approved garages in the area, so I decided to have it hauled all the way out there, which also meant I'd be able to walk home.
While I was waiting for the tow truck, I tried vvalkyri again and got through. I explained what had happened and she said she'd come take me out to dinner, but I pointed out I should really wait with the car. So she said she'd come out and keep me company while I waited. I also found out why the phone had been busy -- after she had gotten back, she got more work to do and work phone was plugged in to the wrong line. And the cell phone ringer had been turned off the day before and inadvertently left that way. After we rung off, the phone rang, and it was the tow truck operator, confirming that I still wanted a tow and informing me that he'd be there in a few minutes. Sure enough, he drove up a couple of minutes later. We both looked at the engine and he agreed it needed to be towed. I backed up the car enough to make room to hook it up, and we hooked it up and headed off. I felt bad she hadn't shown up yet, and I couldn't call her as my phone was in the car (it's not a portable).
After the car was unloaded at the mechanic's, I called my sweetie to see if she was around and willing to give me a lift home (it's a bit of a hike, and it was cold, and I'm lazy). No answer at home, so I tried her cell phone. She seemed quite unsurprised and asked where I was. I told her and she said that had been her second guess. It turns out vvalkyri had called her and explained what had happened. She drove up about 30 seconds later.
I talked to the mechanic this morning, it turns out it wasn't the water pump -- the intake manifold casting had cracked. It'll take 'em a couple of days to get a new one, so I'm having them do a bunch of maintenance that I'd been putting off.
It could have been a lot worse -- if I'd driven to Lunacon, it might have failed somewhere in northern Pennsylvania!