Commuter Corner: Fired up

Life's never easy for a commuter, as all these owners of the cars could probably attest. (Tyler Benton/The Daily Campus)

This past summer, in preparation for becoming a UConn commuter, I purchased a 2002 blue Dodge Stratus.  It was only $700, but it works well enough for me to get by on.  Recently though, I’d begun smelling a weird odor coming out of the car, lightly at first, but getting stronger as the days went on.  I played with my heat, tried turning it on and off, and realized the smell was most likely coming from there.  With the increasingly cold mornings though, I decided that I would rather be warm and face the stench than wrapped in a blanket heading to my earliest babysitting job.  A few Fridays ago, I don’t even remember having to crinkle my nose at the scent, so I was counting on a bit of good luck.

Two hours later, as the kid and I were waiting for his bus to come in my car, the smell got really poignant.  I quickly typed a message to my father, telling him that I now recognized the grotesque scent as something burning.  No sooner had I sent the message that the boy I was babysitting cried out, “Uh, Miss Hannah??”

“Okay,” I said in a stern voice.  “Get out of the car.  Now.”

The five year-old did as he was told and looked back at me, eyes rounded with fear.  In the time it took me to tell my father this newest bit of information, smoke had started twirling out the heat vents on the passenger side of the car.  I hurriedly shut the car off, left the doors open to let out the smoke, and then waved goodbye as the kid hopped up the steps to the bus.  I called my father, who told me to head home and take one of the other cars to school.

I think a car pouring smoke into the cabin would be reason enough to skip class for the day.  As I only had one class, I was eager to just put the incident behind me and get on with my day, trapped in my home until the car could be fixed.  But during lecture that week the professor noted that our TA’s would be handing out the second of three important essays.  I emailed the teacher, asking him if he could give me the assignment online as my car mysteriously started smoking that morning.  I cited all the trouble I would have to go through with getting another vehicle (which I picked up from my mom at work, leaving her the damaged car) and registering this new car so that I could park it without getting ticketed (commuters are only allowed 21 days a year, and if I didn’t have to waste one then I would have appreciate it).  But alas, by the time there was only one hour left until the class, there was still no response.

I started up my mother’s car and drove it to campus, taping the confirmation email to the windshield with angry hands.  I got on the shuttle bus, made my way to the one class I had that day, and sat down in my usual seat.  After thirty minutes and only three people, including myself, arriving I understood that I was missing something.  Lo and behold, the other girl in the class suddenly jerks up and gasps, announcing to the two other souls in the room that class was cancelled for this week.  Apparently he had mentioned this last week, when I had been too sick to attend.

You can imagine my frustration when I found this out.  The two classmates of mine shook their heads and walked out, but I stayed for another minute before heading back to the bus stop, and back to my home.

I keep wondering why he wouldn’t have mentioned this to me when I saw him during lecture earlier that week.  I was getting my midterm grades from him, apologizing for having to miss class.  Just a short response to the email I sent, or a hurried explanation during that brief meeting where he gave me my grade.  But no, nothing.  Nothing alerting me on HuskyCT.  No direct notice from the TA.  Nothing, except a smoking car.


Hannah Desrosiers is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at hannah.desrosiers@uconn.edu.