What does the world cost? Oh well, then we'll just take a small coke.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

That can't be good

My car needed an oil change. Well, that's a bit of an understatement. My car needed an oil change before I drove to San Diego and back and then took a series of jumps off a rise in the road by the railroad tracks a few miles from my house. Now it's a miracle my car even responds to the key in the ignition or my foot on the pedal. I had to do something before my only means of transportation turned into a yellow metal box with sweat-smelling upholstery and a radio.

Last Saturday, I set out to remedy the situation. I hopped into my car (using the passenger side door and sliding over to the left since the lock on the driver's door was jammed), turned on the engine and eased out onto the main road.

In case you've never driven a four-cylinder two-door before, something about the open road demands more pressure on the accelerator. Even treacherous driving environments don't take away from the car's desire to be driven - and to be driven recklessly. In retrospect, I probably should have considered the oil situation and kept my speed within the legal limit, but at that moment I didn't have any retrospect. All I had was the wind in my face (the window control was not jammed) and the wind was whispering sweet nothings of dangerous velocity. It said some other things too, that I won't share here.

The railroad tracks were a few hundred feet ahead and I sped up to take the jump. I think I actually got some air on the attempt, but the return-to-earth impact caused such a jostle that I can't be sure. I tapped the breaks for a known speed trap and kept going toward the service stop.

As I pulled into the parking lot and waived to Cindy the clipboard-clad attendant, I heard the most obnoxious noise imaginable. It was a scraping sound combined with a whirring whine that, if heard on a car lot, would just shout "discount." I stopped and looked around. Nothing unusual. Then I checked my radio. The new CD from Whiskey Falls was in the drive, but the noise was like nothing I'd ever heard from Seven Williams, even in his darker moments. As I budged forward the scraping continued. Bracing, I turned up the music, gunned the engine and let out the clutch just enough to overpower the resistance and move over the sidewalk. I couldn't hear the noise anymore, but I wasn't completely comforted either.

Cindy marched to my window and went through her scripted customer service routine. I interrupted her with a hand, walked around to the front of my car and looked underneath, half expecting to see an alien or the Loch Ness monster. What I saw was less glamorous but similarly enigmatic.

Protruding from beneath my engine, lying there in all its indignity, was a car part. I really can't describe it any more accurately than that. It had all the telltale markings: it looked greasy and dangerous and was beneath a car. It was the kind of thing Billy Bob Thornton might put on his Christmas tree as an ornament. I told Cindy to come take a look.

She was appropriately impressed but had no idea what to do with it. I told her it wasn't there this morning and that I really didn't think it liked being on the underbelly of my vehicle, given its regular complaining. Cindy concurred.

The kind folks at the oil change sent me over to a mechanics shop with the encouraging words "they might be able to help you." I repeated the cringe inducing grating noise as I entered the mechanics parking lot and, as if called by my car's underside, Jose came sprinting from the store to help.

It took Jose all of three minutes to identify the problem. If only Guinness had been there to record the attempt, I might have had my name on the record too. Apparently my fan had fallen off its hinges during some kind of "jostling" and was now hanging by its air ducts, suspended beneath the engine. I assured Jose I could think of "no single incident" in my driving that could have caused such a problem and it was true because I didn't know for sure which railroad jump had disrupted the fan. But my mouth kept talking and I added that I knew "hardly anything about cars," a mistake I paid for at the checkout. Ouch.

Cars can be really expensive. After changing the oil (ouch), I drove over to a local filling station and spent some more Christmas money (ouch), the light on my dashboard reminded me of an outstanding problem with my breaks (future ouch) and the post office box had a letter from my car insurance company and they weren't just checking in to say "hi" (big ouch). And that's just transportation; think about all the other things needed to go on a date.

In other news, I'll be asking my boss at General Mills for some more hours and I'll be eating Cup A Noodles and green beans until future notice. Not that that's much of a change, but as long as I am suffering I may as well have your pity.


no mercy said...

no, you can't have my pity. come on, what do you think this is? you take care of your car, your car takes care of you, smart one. that's all I have to say. Mommy G, where are those spatulas?

Jellyfish said...

you should try for the world record high jump off train tracks in a broken little yellow car.

Christopher yerziklewski said...

I would have to agree with no mercy. You asked for this kind of trouble and you got it. So man up and deal with it.