It's the way I've rolled for years. Seldom have I given up on a vehicle that had less than 250,000 miles (400,000 km) on the clock. But that's in the United States. That's where I had a mechanic in my home town that I knew and trusted on speed dial. That's when both Cathey and I worked, so we had two cars...plus my scooter.
This is France. There isn't a mechanic in our little village and I have yet to form a relationship with one anywhere else. We're retired so we only maintain one car. I've yet to buy a scooter. So when the clutch blew out on our 1999 Citroen Xantia, life became more than a bit complicated.
Fortunately, I was only a couple of blocks from home. I managed to get the car off of the road and I walked home. We're insured through AXA, home, supplemental health (to pick up the percentage that the French system doesn't pay for inpatient hospital care), and auto. The auto insurance includes roadside assistance. I called. As I usually do as a matter of course, I apologized for my poor French.
"Vous etes Anglais?" asked the operator.
"Americain," I said.
And in a few moments, I was transferred to an English speaking agent. Score one for AXA. I told the agent who I was, where I was, and what the problem was. After verifying my creds, and a couple of minutes on hold, I was advised that I had a 45 minute wait for a tow. Not bad. Within about twenty minutes, I received a call from the driver. He was on his way. Not bad. And in another twenty minutes, the rollback came into view. Forty minutes all told. Not bad at all.
The driver was competent and businesslike. My car was up on the bed of the rollback quickly. No fuss. No muss. Now came the big question: Where did I want to go? As I said, I don't have a regular mechanic. The nearest full-service garage is about 5 kilometers away at La Croissade (The Crossroad), where two relatively busy secondary roads meet. So we went.
That's how long it would take to schedule a clutch replacement. No chance for anything sooner. Shoot. The driver asked if he should call his people. I was leery. His people were Garage Bernard & Fils, a Citroen dealer. That was a plus. But a friend had warned me against them. In his experience, they found things to service that didn't need servicing.
What alternative did I have?
The driver called.
"They can start work next Wednesday." Less than a week. OK.
So the driver dropped me off back in Quarante and I waved good-bye to Xandy (my nickname for my Xantia). In spite of letting me down, I'm still very fond of Xandy. When we bought her, she had 135,000 kilometers on the odometer. We only paid 2,500 euros. In the 20 months or so since, we've logged another 30,000 kilometers, hassle free. Not a hiccup of any consequence. Yes, we had to spend some money on the air conditioning. And yes, we had a problem with the electric window on the driver's side. But neither of those were what I would call a running problem. We could work through them. So we really can't complain.
Stay tuned for Part Two: Houston, We Have a Problem.