Thursday, May 10, 2012

Bad Carma (Richmond, VA)

A friend advises me to get a Mercedes, but if you can't afford to fix it, you can't afford to buy such a vehicle. I can't and I don't. Sure it'd be swell to find myself behind the wheel of a cute little Mini, a shiny Jaguar, a sporty convertible. But the truth is that looks have to take a back seat to practicality. I need a car that will take me where I want to go. Style is not the top priority.

But I've been going to the garage in my not-so-new Nissan more often than I've been going anywhere else. I've replaced more parts than the human body has bones. Still, there's a whining sound when I turn the steering wheel, there's a bucking feel when I try to pick up speed, and every week the tires seem to be more -- well, tired.

I've added oil and some thick gunk that will plug the hole in the oil tank but will lead -- in time -- to the demise of the vehicle. I've added steering fluid to stop the whining and some gunk to plug the leak from its container and/or hose. I'm toting around more fluids and stop-gap liquids in my trunk than a hypochondriac has medicines in his bathroom cabinet. I might as well buy stock in Autozone because I've already purchased half of what they stock.

So, last week I park in front of the health food store. I run in to pick up a few items. As I get back into my car, I spot an acquaintance I haven't seen in ages. We chat for a minute, he leaves, and I start the car. I put it in reverse, but I can't back up. The car is running, but it isn't going anywhere.

I run back into the store and hunt down my buddy. "Do you know anything about cars?" I ask him.

"No," he replies -- quite honestly, I will learn in short order -- , "but I'll see what I can do."

He tries his hand and foot at the wheel and the pedal, respectively. The car doesn't respond. He throws open the hood, stares thoughtfully at the inner and outer workings of the engine, and asks if I have Triple A.

I do.

I call for help. The tow truck guy sprays some stuff into the engine, when he arrives, explaining that sometimes something [insert technical name here or just use a term such as "floo-flah"] gets full of dirt and won't do what it needs to. My car doesn't respond to spray or explanations such as these.

My mechanic -- whose children I'm helping to put through college -- puts one of his helpers on it. This guy cleans the dirt out of the floo-flah flap, drives the car around for 15 minutes, and pronounces it cured. I breathe a sigh of relief, as the cost will be no more than that of one exceedingly thin college textbook.

The next day, I start the car up in the morning, but it refuses to move. The tow trucker tries to start it, but no dice. I tell him I just had the floo-flah flap fixed, but he's flummoxed. My car and I are towed to the garage, where the guy who cured it the day before is able to start it up with no problem.

My mechanic says they need to take a closer look. This time it's the fuel pump that needs to be replaced. I am now paying for his children to go to Harvard.

Somebody, please help me figure out how I can get a new-isher car for nothing -- the exact amount I have on hand to buy one. At this point, I'm even willing to drive something that advertises a product. Even a product I don't like. Floo-flah flaps, for example.

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