Sacked by the "downturn", an unemployed architect touring the country in a bus...

I used to live in New York City. I designed homes for the tycoons of Wall Street; Park Avenue, Scarsdale, Greenwich. It was great fun. And, after years of saving up for a down payment, I was just about to buy my own little place in Fleetwood, half an hour north of the city, when the economy fell apart. Architects are like canaries in a coal mine when the economy slows, and true to form, there were massive layoffs in firms all over the country. Devastation of the profession. So, I decided to try to find something else to do for a while. I bought a 23' school bus and I'm on the road to see if I can figure out what that might be.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

I'm not in a good mood, right now.

I still have transient moments of amusement as I plod around my Ramada Inn hotel room.  For example, I noticed that the latest turn in my truck repair saga, which landed me here at the Ramada, had a symmetry to it that might persuade some to look for supernatural forces, fate and the like.  The latest turn:  Ford has finally traced the illusive cause of the speedometer and speed sensor failure to a damaged gear inside the emergency brake assembly, the very same assembly first "repaired" back in Mississippi, some time ago.  I brought my truck to Warren Automotive in Poplarville, Mississippi on the recommendation of Kathleen Johnson and Garry Saucier, each well networked into the Poplarville community by their volunteer work and each saying of the diesel service, "They're good people."  Well, the good people at Warren Automotive have a contract with "the railroad" which requires them to work on the railroad's trucks first, so my truck remained at their garage for nearly a week before anyone looked at the emergency brake I had asked them to fix.  Finally, on a Friday afternoon, they removed the brake assembly, requiring the removal of the drive shaft around which the brake assembly applies pressure to stop the truck, and they began to open the assembly.  Jack, a bright perhaps 60ish ex hippie with long white hair tied in a neat tail, and a sparkling cockiness fueled, I thought, by a desire to show me he had the smarts to do more than diesel repair but at least he was great at it, began to try to open the brake assembly by attaching a "puller" to it; a long iron rod with a bolting plate on one end and a heavy sliding weight surrounding the rod which he slid and pounded repeatedly to an abrupt collision with a stop at the other end of the rod, thereby trying but failing to yank open the assembly to which the bolting plate end was bolted.  "Aren't you afraid of breaking something inside?" I asked.  "Nah," said Jack, but he stopped anyway.

Ultimately, the assembly was opened and the job came to a hault when Jack found he would need to order two gaskets to close the thing up again, after the new brake pads were installed.  With ordering and the remainder of the work, I got my truck back the following Tuesday, along with a bill for over $500.  Louis Warren, the fast talking owner of the garage explained,"It's a lot better than if we had to replace the whole break assembly which costs about 15 hundred dollars."  I paid my bill and left feeling at least it was behind me and I could travel with the comfort of knowing that my emergency brake would work.

Fast forwarding to last night's finale to my saga at David Self Ford, here in Orange Texas, the faulty speed information confusing the transmission has now been diagnosed as due to a broken ring inside the very same brake assembly.  My mind immediately flashed to Jack's pounding on the puller.  The parts orderer here at Ford, Orange, a comfortable dinosaur who's belly bulged well over his belt as he perched on a stool behind the counter, said "No authorized Ford service will open that assembly to replace a component because no one can close them up again without them leaking."  Sure enough, there was a small oil leak at the bottom of the assembly, from Jack's work, and a tech here also added "There is some silicone caulk on it, too."  My blood boiled.  The silicone reveals that Jack and probably Warren, too, knew they were sending me off with a botched job.  Good people.

I was now sitting on a stool in front of the parts department counter, at 5:30 closing time, with about six Ford people around me, who were all genuinely sympathetic, as they waited for me to digest the news that, after having fixed my burst radiator hose, and after having replaced my $512 PCM, and after having put a dent in the back of my truck, and after having chased diagnostic wild geese for a gaggle of hours to locate the persistent problem, all this while I camped in their parking lot for 3 nights and 4 days, after all of that, they would now have to order a $1,500 component for me, and I would be spending another night.  As upset as I was, I remember somewhat actually enjoying the moment, perhaps in a variation on a Munchhausen Syndrome.  It reminded me of moments when I commanded a team on a design or construction project and delegated tasks on the fly.  A few minutes passed.  I said to Curtis Beauford, who had reminded me of Martin Mull as he helped me these last few days as the point man for Ford on my case, having been been bright, cheerful, and occasionally amusingly ironic, but always almost perfectly opaque as he conveyed status reports to me with the deftness of a press secretary, "I have no choice here, what am I going to do, throw away my truck?  Order it."  As minutes continued to pass, I added, "Do you remember the Twilight Zone?  I keep expecting to see Rod Serling in the corner over there...'Meet Roy Pertchik, out of work architect, traveling...'" and Curtis dropped his guard and laughed genuinely.  A young woman who had worked the computer and the phone to order the part said "Ok, it will be here tomorrow."  "Is it set for a.m. delivery?", I asked.  "It should be," she offered.  "Well, let's not leave it at 'should be', give them a call back and be sure," I commanded with an encouraging undertone, and again I recognized myself in a former existence directing a team.  She made the call without hesitation, accepting my authoritative tone given my circumstance, and when she confirmed "a.m.", I said thank you, enjoying the slight tickle our chauvinistic society grants men who direct subordinate woman.  Then I addressed the group, "I want to thank you all for your help," and I looked directly at a few of them, dismissing "the meeting."

My truck now had it's drive shaft off and could not be moved to the parking lot where I have spent the last few nights, so I gathered some clothes, bathroom supplies, and got a lift to the Ramada Inn near I-10, from 20 something, exceedingly polite Jeremy.  I tossed and turned into the night as I tallied the burst hose, PCM, and now break assembly repairs to be upwards of $3,000 that I really can not afford, and I fumed over the botched repair by Warren Automotive.  I will see if I can get any refund from them...


I've had a nice shower now, the next morning, and I'm going to look for breakfast, and get on with my trip!

There are birds twittering outside; and I'm getting in a better mood :-)


  1. Roy Oh Roy!
    It has occurred to me from time to time that all the added weight from your upgrades to the bus may put a strain on the tranny and brakes. Or was all this fate!


  2. Ooooo the joys of travel & never really knowing who the h*ll is working on your rig!! Our supposedly new trailer hitch 'fell' off, flipping the motorcycle trailer..repeatedly mind you, got it 'fixed' in Idaho, only to have it fall off again in Utah!!!
    Best of luck to you & sure hope your problem is now taken care of. May the rest of your trip will be filled with real joy & blessings :-)

  3. Hi Ron,

    It's a little true, the bus leans to the right, now that so much weight has been added to that side. And I'm such a left leaning pinko, too!


  4. Hi Dawn,

    Hope the bike was ok! Thanks for the well wishes. I'm finally on the road again, now in Port Arthur, TX. I'll post some pics and the conclusion to the repair saga.