The original plan was only for Nicole and I to head over to LIME, a Japanese restaurant that used to be a Turkish restaurant named RIME, (just because, that's why), for a friend's gig and some GirlTalktm, but by the time Thursday rolled around Nick, (who I had sort of not-quite-secretly set her up with), was part of the party and I had agreed to pick up cat supplies from Dominique, who had put her suddenly feral kitty to sleep. So instead of taking Nicole's little car and heading straight to the restaurant, we ducked through downtown to Dominique and David's place with Nick's van and visited with their new tiny little wonder for a bit before hauling the cat stuff out to the van and heading back to the Drive.
It was incredibly cold out, with a thick cake of ice on almost every side-street, the result of cars packing down snow. Nick's a fairly good driver though, so it wasn't until we got stuck on a surprisingly steep bit of low hill near Commercial Drive that we started worrying. Nicole and I were all for slowly backing up the way we came and trying another street, one with a shallower slope, but Nick had tire chains in the van and decided to use those. Or rather, one of them.
Truthfully, if he'd used all his chains it likely would have worked, but it was freezing out and he didn't have gloves so he only used the one, leaving his other front tire to spin wildly as he floored the gas, trying to get some forward momentum going. Within a minute, at the same time Nicole's phone rang, dark clouds began pouring out of the hood and a pedestrian ran up to us shouting, "Fire!".
Black smoke started pooling in the van almost immediately. Nick, ever able, quickly popped the hood and jumped out to discover incredible flames licking his engine, so I grabbed my camera bag, yanked myself out of the van, and tore Nicole's door open as soon as I could stand on the ice, "Nicole, time to get out." Once she was clear, (explaining to her friend on the phone, "Sorry, can't talk, car's on fire!!"), I reached across and turned off the engine as Nick used frantic handfuls of snow to put out the crackling fire. Exciting times!
Lucky us, the disaster was a small one. By the time a local resident ran up with a fire extinguisher, we'd already doused all of the flames we could see, rolled down the windows to let the smoke out, and started laughing the adrenalin off. We were fine. It was Nick's new van that was in trouble. The fire had been behind the engine where we couldn't make a closer inspection, so we could only theorize at the damage. Our guess, based on the horror movie strobe of the dashboard lights, was that maybe a wire had been sitting somewhere it shouldn't and caught fire when part of the engine overheated.
We moved the van as soon as we felt it was safe, gently rolling it back down the hill to a corner parking spot out of the way. Except for aforementioned flickering lights and some strange sizzling noises, it seemed fine, so we looked under the hood again, trying to figure out what was hissing, a futile thing, and decided what to do next. Nicole's suggestion, "Gently drive it home", was a great idea, except it wouldn't turn on again. When Nick tried the ignition, all the internal lights went out with a very quiet pop. Somewhere in all of the uneasy hissing engine sounds, the electricals had given up the ghost. We couldn't even roll the windows back up.
After a bit of talking and a bit of sitting and a bit of turning into ice, we decided to simply abandon the vehicle for a tow truck in the morning and continue on foot. Nick wrote a note that said ENGINE DEAD, ALL VALUABLES REMOVED, I left it pinned to the dash, and we walked the rest of the way to the restaurant where it turned out the food was delicious and the company even better. Thank mercy we're all cheerful people. The End.