Thursday, October 3, 2013

3.35. Stranded

When Murlocs Attack,
Elwynn Forest

Grinding My Gears

Vacation. Hundreds and hundreds of miles away from the city. Standing on the edge of a lake. Casting a rod into the water and hearing the ploop as the hook hits the surface. I wait a moment, and then slowly reel it in. There's no rush. No schedule to keep or appointments to make. In the distance, a loon warbles. I glance up, and give a nod to the old man for taking me out here. Dad's not in sight. I glance around. Maybe he's gone back to the truck for more bait? The sounds of the loon grow louder, they distort. Still no sign of the old man. Where is he? God, what is with those loons? It sounds like they are being murdered, choked to death, drowned. My kids call out for help, call out my name. I hear gurgling and choking sounds and drop my rod, trying to cover my ears. The noise deafens me. Panic sets in. I'm not hearing loons.

The murlocs are upon me.


"Dad...DAD! Your phone?"

I woke up in a waiting room. The lack of sleep finally did me in. Either that, or I succumbed due to boredom of relentless hours without updates from Honda. I felt the vibration of my phone in my right pants pocket, the familiar sound effect of a murloc causing a relentless, never-ending attack to seep into my subconscious. Invading my dreams. I answered.


"Mr. Holmes? Hi, Honda Service Care, here. How you holding up?"

"Not well. Here's to hoping you have news that may change my mood."

"Well, we have some good news and bad news for you."

I sat up and glanced through the window of the waiting room, leading across the lobby and out into the bay where my Civic's guts lay strewn about the greasy concrete.

"I doubt the news could get much worse, but try me."

"After going over your case file with headquarters, we've decided that an inspection isn't necessary. We're going to go ahead and approve the full transmission replacement, and this is covered under your current warranty. There'll be no cost to you."

Thank. God. The last thing I needed on my plate was to pay for a brand new transmission. I stuck my finger over my left ear as I tried to hear the faint voice on the other end.

"Ok, that's definitely good news. Thank you for that. So, what's the bad news?"

"We don’t have a transmission near Williston, so it's going to have to be flown in. That'll probably be at least another three days, but I can't guarantee its delivery."

I exhaled. Serenity Now.

Williston, North Dakota

Sorry Fixes Nothing

"So, I've basically just been hanging out here for a week for no reason? I sure wish someone would've helped me understand just how far gone this transmission was four days ago."

"We're really very sorry that this happened to you, sir. I understand how inconvenient this must have been for you and your kids."

"Well, they missed their first day of school, so it was nothing terribly important." I'd mastered my Mother's ability to sarcastically lay on the guilt trip, a weapon I wielded like a machete when I needed to make a point.

"Again, we at Honda are truly sorry for this inconvenience."

I leaned forward in the waiting room chair with the smartphone still pressed against my head, and eyed the coffee pot with contempt. You had one job, shitty dealership coffee. Keep me awake. You failed.

"So, let me ask you this. If Honda is as sorry as you say it is, then you'll be picking up some plane tickets for me and my kids, so we can get home while this thing is being repaired?"

"I'm sorry, sir, but under the current circumstances of this type of warranty repair, there isn't any allowance beyond the standard roadside assistance for that sort of thing."

"And no rental car, either? Can't just put me in something? I don't have a problem with long distance drives. I'm going to have to come back here to get my car at some point. I can return whatever you guys give me."

"Unfortunately we don't have any loaner cars in Williston, sir, so we can't really help you out. We have a dealership in Minot, North Dakota with vehicles…"

I stopped him.

"You realize that Minot is over a hundred miles east of here. Am I supposed to walk that? Can you put me in a taxi?"

"We can't. I'm sorry."

Lovely. The 'no cost to you' part of the deal had a surprising price tag attached to it.

"Of course, you can't."

I was rewarded with an awkward silence on the other end.

"So, perhaps before I let you go, you can at least tell me this. My entire transmission was torn apart and rebuilt from scratch by a dealership in Denver eight weeks ago. One of the gears had ground away, and the entire gearbox was replaced. They were in there, doing the work. Are all these additional costs I've accrued in the last week going to be covered by them? I mean, this whole entire ordeal was the result of their shoddy work, am I right?"

"I can't comment on that, sir. Since the inspector was vetoed, there's nobody qualified to identify and claim ownership of the faulty repair work."

"What about the mechanics here? The ones that are doing the work as we speak? You mean to tell me they can't put their finger on the root cause?"

"I'm sorry, sir."

Every time I heard 'sorry', my eye twitched. Growing up, I'd been taught to avoid using the word at all costs. Mom had a particular adversity to the word, saying it meant nothing; that it was a cheap way to absolve you of the mistake you were making. But the word didn't fix those mistakes, and that was something Mom was particular about. 'Sorry' fixes nothing. So stop apologizing, and start making things right. And even though the four-thousand dollar transmission was already en route to that hole of a town in North Dakota, I couldn't look past the inconvenience, the fact that my kids had missed school, that I was eating away at vacation hours that didn't exist. I wanted someone to pay for that.

It was all just words. Everyone was sorry.

How hard was it for someone to put their hand up and say, "You know what? This one's on me. I messed up and take full responsibility." A couple thousand dollars in hotel rooms, meals, and plane tickets out of this hellhole should have been a drop in the bucket to a multi-billion dollar corporation like Honda. But, getting the mechanics in Williston to point to a root cause wasn't going to happen. Fingering their sister shop back in Denver would only implicate themselves as well; all part of the large Honda family. Families protect one another, providing each other an alibi when cornered. Doing the right thing was overshadowed by standing together as a cohesive unit. All I wanted to know was why things had gone so horribly wrong after I had been assured that my car was in full working condition. I wanted to know who was responsible. A name, a face -- someone I could pin all of this on. It was you. You're the reason I'm stuck here, with a completely failed transmission. It was clear that this Honda family wasn't going to hand me that person on a platter. Instead, they unleashed the 'sorry' machine, which solved no mysteries and gave me no closure.

The process of extracting oil via hydraulic fracturing


I hung up, dazed with thousands of images racing through my head from the last four days, struggling to process them all. The panic and fear setting in upon hearing the screeching noise coming from my car's undercarriage. The gears slipping out of fourth, out of third. Hobbling across the border, hours behind schedule. Driving along the curb at 35 MPH in second gear to Sidney, Montana. Pulling into a McDonald's for the kids while I called the dealership back in Denver, pleading for a solution. Dragging the car and kids another 45 miles to Williston, North Dakota -- the nearest Honda dealership in my vicinity. Arriving in this one-horse town suddenly bursting with the inconvenient popularity of fracking oil; a term less about Battlestar Galactica and more about sideways drilling. This had been my hell for the past week.

The surge of interest in sideways drilling coupled with the oil deposits deep beneath the crust this town was built on produced a wonderful side-effect for a stranded traveler: all hotels were booked solid, months in advance. I was forced to call each and every one, day by day, waiting for a cancellation so my children didn't have to sleep in a dealership rental van. I spent my days waiting -- waiting for a phone call from Honda to deliver the good news and get me the hell out of here. I drove around the town aimlessly in that dealership's van -- a small gesture they were able to offer me, while the thing I really wanted remained well out of reach. I called Julie to keep her apprised. I called my boss to let him know what a clusterfuck this vacation had become. When I delivered the bizarre news surrounding the hotel situation, he was equally stunned. "Oil", I told him, "It's a fucking oil town."

I pressed on. I held it together. In the face of real life adversity, I coped. As with situations I had dealt with in the guild, shit happens. It isn't an excuse to collapse or throw in the towel. Here, stranded in Williston, North Dakota, my kids depended on me...just as the guild had depended on me for seeing us through the various storms we'd weathered. Two guild exoduses. The loss of a handful of core officers throughout the years. Brick-wall bosses. The ever-changing roster. And woven within this guild tapestry, a golden fleece of drama -- a magical thread with no discernible beginning or end. In this wonderful turn of events, there was no WoW community to complain to, no Ghostcrawler to pin my misfortune on. It was just me, alone in a Honda dealership waiting room, drinking another round of stale coffee from a styrofoam cup, and dealing with it. I deserved no special treatment from Honda, I was just another customer, one more car owner among millions. I wanted to be special, I wanted them to see my situation as special. But as my anger melted away into the quiet hum of the florescent lighting in that room, I remembered what it was that allowed me to cope and to deal:

Nothing was special about my situation. Cars are imperfect, they break down. And when that fateful day arrives that hurls a new obstacle in your direction, complaining does nothing but produce a barrage of 'sorry's. And sorry fixes nothing. So, you get off your ass, and you deal with it.


My phone buzzed in my hand. I diverted my hypnotized gaze from the coffee pot and glanced down at the text message. It was from Ben. Ben, the guild mascot, the PvPer. Ben, the Shadow Priest that rubbed Cheeseus the wrong way and didn't like to follow directions. Ben, the player more likely to jump into Vent in a drunken tirade then be online in time for the 25-Man progression raid. Ben...a player I thought was worth putting effort into. I read the text message:

Yo. Gonna be about 10 min late tomorrow, but will be there!

Ben, the player that was now keeping me apprised of his schedule, and taking his role seriously. I was impressed. His accountability was refreshing, which was more than I could say for a certain car company.


Anonymous said...


Nah, in all seriousness, I really can't begin to explain how happy it makes me to see a new post up. Keep it up!

Ian said...

I noticed there weren't many comments on these posts lately, so I thought I'd leave one just to let you know people are enjoying them. I can't say why I look forward to reading about what happened in a guild I have nothing to do with, maybe it's looking at the events and comparing them to my own memories of old guilds, maybe learning a little about guild leadership. But it sure is interesting.

Shawn Holmes said...


Thanks for your continued support! The entire readership has been very supportive thus far. There are many stories left to come; my hope is that they stay interesting to the fans.

Nathaniel Minton said...

Waiting for the arrival of Insayno... ;P

Shawn Holmes said...


That's *Captain* Insayno!

Fred said...

Insayno is one of the memories we try to forget. I'm sure it will all come out when we are in our 30's and can't function in life. A therapist will likely drudge it up from the dark corners of our minds. <3 ya kid. Miss you.

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