Thursday, January 20, 2005

Meet My Mechanical Nemesis

If I didn't have constant automotive turmoil I'd have to find a new hobby. Monday night, I drove a modest five or six miles across the wilds of Piscataway in the bitter cold of a quiet early evening. Just about half way to my destination I noticed the temperature gauge was a little higher than I expected so I turned on the blower to vent some heat. That's what you do in summer, right? About a mile later, I discovered sitting at red lights aggravated the situation, and a few hundred yard later at another light, the gauge topped out. I shut off the car while waiting to turn left. Now here's the thing: as an old bat with memory loss in a suburban metropolis that can't tear up and rework roads fast enough to suit trafficmeisters, I was reasonably sure I was on the right road, heading in the right direction, but *not* sure where to turn or how I would explain to AAA on a federal holiday if the car overheated and met its ignominious end on a deserted road, and would they please send someone before I froze to death?

When the light turned green, I turned the key. The car started without explosions or death rattles so I turned onto a road I thought probably used to lead to my destination but wasn't so sure it still would. I knew that right or wrong, there was a gas station about half a mile ahead of me - or there used to be. Suddenly, the temperature gauge dropped all the way to the bottom and sort of floated back up to a normal temp for a freezing night and a car that was just warmed up. With that, I made straight for a parking space outside my friend's apartment, and if I could've slapped my car across the face, I would have.

My friend had an appointment with an eye doctor some distance away, so we jumped in his less spiteful vehicle and drove off in the darkness. Some hours later, we returned, and despite nervous attempts at common sense thinking, I started the TataMobile and headed home. Just about the same time I thought the gauge was laughing at me I wondered if "Stand back, officer! My car is about to commit vehicular suicide" would be a good thing to say or my ticket to a lengthy stay in Orange Jumpsuit Land. Could I claim the Dennis Hopper Defense with a Chevy convertible if I refused to stop until my engine melted?

For the mechanic, it's Day Two of the seige. He's used to peculiar explanations. Last time I left a note with one of his teenage pumpjockeys: "After the addition of oil and wiper fluid, my car makes a noise like a swarm of angry bees. I'm developing a phobia." When he called to tell me the car was fixed he said he was absolutely shocked when he started the car and moisture spraying a belt sounded EXACTLY like a swarm of angry bees, and the problem was fixed. This gives me hope that someday I may describe something to a medical professional and not feel I sound like Charlie Brown's mother.

So. Cabbing it around town sounds so urbane. In reality, depending on which cab company one may find oneself in some very punk rock situations. For instance, if the driver stops the car to pick up the boyfriend he met in Rahway State and wants to take you to a second location, hand the driver cabfare and leap from the vehicle. I use the happy-go-lucky cab company that sends out cars with all sorts of dashboard lights flashing. Will I get home? Will I get to work? It's more fun than betting the ponies.


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