Swimming with the Geo

I find it hard to believe, but I don’t think I’ve ever talked about our second car on my blog, and that’s really quite a shame. Last year some friends of ours moved to the east coast and didn’t think their 1992 Geo Metro would make the trip. They wanted to get rid of it as easily as possible, so we traded them an air conditioner and $100 for the Geo.

The thing leaks oil, starts less than reliably, the wipers won’t shut off (until you pull the fuse, my usual remedy), you have to shut off the AC at a stoplight or it dies and the passenger door only opens some of the time (a fact I discovered when picking up a business colleague at the airport–he had to ride in the back seat when I couldn’t get the door open).

Anyway, that’s our second car. On to my story.

Yesterday I went to to the bank in the Geo and it started pouring rain. Pouring. It came so suddenly that the streets started flooding and before I knew it I was driving in six inches of water. Then I wasn’t driving anymore, I was coasting. Or maybe floating.

The Geo had stalled, probably because the six inches of water had splashed onto the distributor cap (or something mechanical sounding like that). I pulled over hoping not to be stalled in the middle of the street and tried starting it again. Nothing. With the Geo’s questionable electrical system (leaving the parking lights on had drained a brand new battery) I didn’t want to try too many times, so I just sat there, waiting for the rain to let up and the distributor cap to dry off (if that was in fact the problem).

As I sat there cars kept coming by, seemingly able to make it through the six inches of water. Each time they came by the waves rocked the little Geo, kind of like being in a boat, and made a disturbing rumbling noise against the underside of the car. If I had opened the door the waves would have come in.

After five minutes or so the rain let up enough and I tried it again. It fired up and we were off, not to be deterred by six inches of water.

Then I came up on an intersection a few blocks from my house and quickly realized that the street here was flooded too. You always see those videos of cars trying to drive in really deep water and you wonder how stupid people have to be to try that. Well, when it’s raining, it’s really hard to tell if there’s an inch of water on the road or eight inches.

Even though I was at a stop sign I decided stopping would be foolish–the water was deepest at the stop sign and it seemed likely the car was going to stall. I hoped worst case scenario the momentum would carry me to higher ground and I could start the Geo again if it stalled. Nobody was coming so I ran the stop sign (a rolling stop more than anything, I had already slowed preparing to stop) and then saw the water ahead.

On the other side of the intersection the water was deep–but I couldn’t tell how deep until I saw an oncoming car go through it. Easily eight inches. The Geo was doomed.

I slammed on the brakes and stopped just shy of the eight inches. With a wave to my fellow befuddled motorists and their more boat-like cars, I backed up and turned right at the intersection to go around the block and get home via the high ground.

The lesson? The Geo can’t swim.

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