I was well-rested from having slept in an extra two hours and could take my time getting ready since it was an easy fifteen minute commute to the training class. The class didn't start until 8:30 but I left at 7:45 so I could work on some of the cases I brought with me. By the time the other students and the instructor arrived, the case I started the day before was finished and I had a good start on the next case. I knew I would work through lunch each day and was feeling pretty optimistic that I would easily be able to keep my real workload in check even with a four day absence this week. It was going to be a good week.
Class was dismissed at 4:30 and I had accomplished even more than I hoped during the lunch hour, so I headed for the hotel. It's only about four miles from the class site to the hotel but the route takes me through a fairly busy retail section of town, lights every other block or so. I was stopped at a light and decided to turn on the radio. Since I was out of range for my usual stations, I glanced down to press the Seek button and that's when I noticed the brake light on my dash was lit. Hmmm. I didn't recall having set the parking brake any time recently, but I reached down and pulled the release just in case. The light was still on. I'm thinking it's got to be something simple.
The traffic light changed and I started to move with the traffic, leaving maybe just a wee bit more 'stopping space' in front ...just in case. The next light was a block away and had just turned green. I'm not familiar with the timing on these lights and have no idea what my odds are that it would still be green when I get there ...but I did notice it's on a hill. A rather steep hill. I was still not convinced I had a true brake problem but really didn't want to stop on an incline to find out. The light turned red long before I got there and I was the third car back from the light ...still very much on the hill. My brakes felt normal but that red brake light was still staring at me, unrelenting. I was only a mile or so from the hotel by then. I figured I could make it that far even if I had to walk.
I glanced down at the dash again just as the light turned green. The brake light was still on and now the ABS light was on too. Ruh-roh ...definitely not good. I still couldn't detect any oddities in the feel of the brakes but obviously the truck thought something serious was amiss. I decided I would get on the Internet as soon as I got to the hotel and google some answers ...and maybe the location of the closest Mazda dealership. I parked, went to my room to change clothes and headed back down to the Business Center. The Internet was down. The computers were functional if you just needed a spreadsheet or a wordprocessor but there was no Internet. Great. Access to the Control Panel had been disabled (typical on these hotel computers) so I couldn't even troubleshoot anything myself.
I went to the front desk and asked if there was a problem with the Internet. They were not aware of it until I told them, but called tech support for their provider right away and offered to let me use a computer behind the desk in the meantime. If I just wanted to check email or read some blogs, I would have just gone back to my room. But under the circumstances, I was very grateful they offered. I'm telling you, this hotel is top notch.
The information I found on the various forums and Mazda tech sites was less than helpful but I did find a dealership one exit south of my training location. So I printed their contact page and went to my room. It was a few minutes after 6:00 by then but I called anyway thinking at least a salesman would still be there and be able to tell me what time the Service Department opened in the morning. A switchboard receptionist answered and said sometimes the service writers are there for a while after closing so she would put my call through.
Sure enough, Angel Martinez was working late that night and picked up on the second ring. I explained the symptoms my truck was having and described my predicament with being out of town and no alternate transportation. He gave me some safety pointers on deciding whether it was safe to dive if it was safe to drive the four miles to the shop in the morning and told me the doors open at 7:00am. When Yeoldfurt called me that evening, I filled him in on the situation. He told me to just use my judgment but not to take any chances ...if I needed to have it towed, have it towed.
I decided the less traffic there was, the safer we would all be ...so I set my alarm for 4:30am with the intention of driving to the dealership at 6:00am.. I was dressed and in the parking lot by 5:30am. The master cylinder was low but not empty and I made a couple of test runs through the parking lot to see if I could feel any difference. The brakes were a little mushy but still there. So I headed out and was at the shop by 6:15am. When the doors opened, I was the first one checked in. The mechanic I'd spoken to the night before told me that if the parts were in stock, they could get it in and out that day. If not, they should be able to get it out by close of business the next day. A shuttle driver took me to my class and I tried to put it out of my mind and concentrate on the class. One of the ladies from that office gave me her direct line and said she'd drive me to the shop to get my truck or to the hotel if it wasn't ready, or anywhere else I needed to go that afternoon. Very sweet lady!
Unfortunately, I did end up having to rent a car because a couple of the the parts did not come in that morning. I was promised that my truck would be first in line the next morning and they would get it done the next day even if they had to stay late. The rental car only cost me $30 which was a drop in the bucket compared to the repair bill I was expecting on the truck.
Class was over at 4:20 on Thursday and I was at the dealership by 4:30. My truck was not finished but they assured me they would be done that day, probably within the hour. Keep in mind the shop closes at 6:00pm. When I sat down int he customer waiting area, there were about four other customers waiting with me. One by one, they left with their vehicles. By 5:45, I was getting nervous. Finally, a few minutes after 6:00, my mechanic came through the door. He wasn't smiling and I was really expecting him to say they found something else wrong ...or they were just quitting for the day. I admit it, I was expecting the worst. The lenses on my Pollyanna glasses were cracked ...it had been that kind of week. But he was just coming to tell me that they were almost done and that he wanted to test drive it on the side road by the dealership because he knew I had a long drive home. He said he and his mechanic helper were staying late because they knew I was in a bind. As grateful as I was for their willingness to stay late, I sure was anxious to get back on the road. If you're ever in Austin and need a Mazda shop, call Mazda South and ask for Angel Martinez. He will go over and above for you.
Finally, at 7:15pm, my truck was ready. I paid the bill, thanked Angel profusely for staying late to finish, transferred all my luggage from the rental car to the truck and turned the rental car keys over to the shop manager. I called Yeoldfurt and let him know I (finally) on my way. I was very cautious with the brakes for the first hour or so, but honestly, they felt fine to me. When I pulled into the driveway, Yeoldfurt met me at the door and helped me get everything into the house. I had only been gone four days, but it felt like an eternity.
I learned two important lessons from this trip:
Make sure the corporate credit card is working before I leave
If the State wants me to travel, they can sure enough provide me a rental car