I know that it’s not nice to feel good about the misfortune of others, but, I just can’t seem to help myself.

Let me tell you the whole story.  Through the hard work of our wonderful West Philadelphia State Representative James Roebuck, we got a call from Chevrolet. How would we like to have the Chevy Volt come to our school? They would send one of the engineers who helped develop this-next-new-thing in the automotive world and we’d have a great presentation about range extended electric vehicles.

Wow! We liked the idea so much we invited students from other automotive programs across the city to come. The School District provided a bus. We conference called with the presenters, the P. R. folks and the logistics personnel. We crafted an afternoon’s activities that included a presentation by Chevy, speeches by our Team members about our technology, a question and answer session and time for all of us to get a good look at the Volt.

This morning we arranged a 100 foot parking spot on Hanson Street for Chevy to park the tractor trailer carrying the Volt. We ordered the pizza. We set up chairs. We got the drinks. Then we got the call. The truck carrying the Volt broke down.  We’re not making this up. “Can you flatbed it?” I asked the transport supervisor.  I asked the guy who called from Detroit could they swap the tractor. He asked me did we have a tractor. While we have a lot at the Auto Academy, we didn’t have a tractor sitting around.  So GM had to fend for itself.

The P. R. folks showed up, the press showed up, the students and teachers showed up, the presenter showed up, the pizza showed up, but the Chevy Volt did not. Melanie Fox gave a terrific presentation about the Volt’s technology. Students from West, Randolph and Edison asked great questions. Ron Preiss welcomed all the guests. Sekou Kamara, Alexis Bland and Azeem Hill all gave wonderful speeches. We all had a great time talking to each other and learning.

It is good to feel good about the exchange of information and meeting lots of new students. But, here’s the bad part. It is Schadenfreude.  I am getting some sort of significant delight that GM couldn’t get their super new car to West Philly because of mechanical problems. Let me be clear. I like GM. I like Chevy. I own a Malibu Hybrid. It’s the best looking car I’ve ever owned. It gets great mileage. It’s never had a mechanical problem.

Before I became the manager of the West Philly Hybrid X Team, I was a fan who faithfully followed the Team competitions.  Inevitably, the day before a race, Simon Hauger would tell me that the car was broken and we wouldn’t be able to go. Of course, if you take a look at our record, you’ll see that Simon and the team always managed to get the car to the race and more times than not, they won. That’s why I have always had tremendous respect for Simon.

Today, my respect for Simon grew by about 25-fold. We got to our races raising the money we needed through bake sales and there we were listening to how many Chevy Volts they crashed tested at hundreds of thousands of dollars a pop and how it took about a quadrillion zillion dollars of research and development to create the Volt.  And they couldn’t get the car from New Jersey to West Philly.

Chevy, I love you. It was a great day, a wonderful visit. I just can’t wipe the smirk off my face. I’m so sorry.


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