Friday, October 14, 2011
When Your Life Has Problems
If you grew up with a father around the house, chances are you’ll go to the grave with several of the old man’s sayings rattling around in your head. Two have been bubbling up to the surface this past week:
“When you own a car, you own trouble.”
“If your car has problems, your life has problems.”
Did I mention that Dad used to sell Chevrolets? Back in the good old days, when they were great cars? Good cars or no, wisdom born of long experience had taught him that no machine is utterly reliable and the greater your reliance upon it, the greater your difficulty when, inevitably, it lets you down.
Last Saturday night, I went out to pick up a pizza, and on the way home the car started badly misbehaving, lurching along with sporadic power. By the time it coasted into the garage, it was clear that it was done for the weekend and would have to be towed Monday morning.
Once in the hands of my excellent mechanic, the car went through a four-day repair process, as follows:
Monday: Sit in the queue with the other Monday-morning limp-ins, behind the cars that had service appointments that day.
Tuesday: Up on the rack for diagnosis, which determines that a new fuel pump is needed. Part ordered for Wednesday morning delivery.
Wednesday: Fuel pump installed and scheduled servicing added to the tab. Car would be ready for pickup at the end of the day, except that the fuel filter that came with the pump was the wrong model. New filter ordered for Thursday morning delivery. Car remains in shop.
Meanwhile, on her way home Wednesday afternoon, Linda notices that temperature gauge shows engine heat rising dangerously. With much starting and stopping, she gets it to another mechanic just before closing.
This takes our family of three drivers down to one functioning vehicle: Our son’s 1990 Ford Ranger, recently bought through Craig’s List (how did we ever live without Craig’s List?) from Raoul in Fremont. We say prayers for Raoul.
Thursday: My car finally sprung from shop at great expense, though not unreasonable considering amount of work done. Linda’s car diagnosed with bad circuit board, which they are able to replace, leaving us with full complement of cars at 5 p.m. — first time in five days. Ford Ranger still running like a champ, though we choose to ignore ominous rattle and say additional prayers for Raoul.
All in all, it was a week of vehicular scheduling mayhem, greatly elevating my consciousness about how much my life depends on ready access to a car. The three of us work three different places at different but overlapping times, and our house is far enough off the beaten track that getting to basic services without a car is arduous. Depending on my work situation, I sometimes have to do a lot of driving around to appointments and doing tasks for clients; mercifully, this week I didn’t. Still, at a time like this, I find myself entertaining fantasies about moving to New York City, where you can get around without a car, and if the subway breaks down, it’s the city’s problem, not mine.
And, to keep it all in perspective, at the end of this car-challenged week, nobody had died, gone bankrupt or missed work, and we were reminded how lucky we are to own three cars. If this is the worst thing that happens to us this month, it will still be a pretty good month. And if nothing else, it was good to think about Dad again.