Saturday, March 8, 2008


I could see that this was trouble. I was being warned repeatedly that my day was going to get worse. I had been advised before from the same source that there was a problem that needed immediate attention. However, I continued to try to ignore it, thinking that would make it disappear. I had made minimal attempts in the past to straighten things out, but my band-aids had failed to fix what was wrong. Now, as I sat in my car, staring at the blinking light on the dashboard telling me that my coolant had to be replaced, yet again, my heart sank.

We have all experienced the nightmare , at one time or another, of an issue with a car that just can't seem to be fixed. It is frustrating, and leaves one in an increasingly foul mood. With every effort gone bad, with every time we hear the rattle reappear, or see the slow leak in the tire return, for every day that we trudge back to the repair shop and leave the offending beast behind, for every secret joke it decides to play on us, we are made increasingly unhappy.

I was living through a recurring bad dream with my car. Months before, the light had gone on warning me that something was wrong with my car's engine. Reading the manufacturer's recommendation made it sound like the car might disintegrate before I could escape from its clutches. I was instructed to take the car immediately for service. I was not to pass go, not to collect $200, while driving this car. I understood and obeyed.

The dealer from whom I had purchased the car attempted to remediate the problem . Over the next months, I repeated my slow dance with my car, my dealer and myself, as the problem was fixed, fixed again, fixed once more, and finally not fixed. The offending light would be off when I left the dealership, only to return within days and sometimes hours. Ultimately, it was determined that there was something wrong with the internal workings of the car that could not be repaired without the body of the beast being pulled apart and then put back together. Finally, I said thank you to them for their efforts, decided it was machine over man and drove away in my car. I was tired of the efforts, and disgusted with the results.

Like one who revels in playing bad jokes, my car decided this was not to be the end of the story. Several weeks after the last failed attempt to make the blinking light disappear, it went away on its own. It has been a few months since it has reared its ugly head. Then, very recently, the manufacturer sent a notice to every single owner of my year and model car. The letter from the higher ups told all of us that there was a problem with the check engine warning on our cars. It advised that if any of us had experienced this problem and been compelled to expend monies to try to get it repaired, that the company would, with proper proofs, reimburse us any costs so incurred. Well, speak of too little, too late. I wondered why there was no pain and suffering component of their recompense. For all of us who have fought a losing battle with our cars, return of capital is not a return of principal. We want to be made whole, and there is no way the check from the company does that.

If that was the end of the story, it would be bad enough. But, as I stated at the beginning of this tale, I was now staring at a coolant warning for the third time in recent weeks. The manufacturer's suggestions now instructed me to get out of the car quickly, before the car and I made matters worse. I had done what the repair people had told me to do the last two times, replacing the coolant and keeping an eye on it as there may well be a leak that had to be addressed. I was now hearing about it taking 2 days of labor to rectify matters and was learning of the possibility of expending amounts that made me want to abandon the car by the side of the road. It was clear to me that the beast had arisen and was telling all of us that it was ready to do more battle.

Finally, I took the car over to our old service station. For $12, our reliable service repairman replaced the coolant fluid and put in some extra sealant to try to keep the beast quiet. So far, knock on wood, the beast sleeps. However, I know that one day soon it may wake up and decide that this bandaid is not enough to satisfy its needs. Let us all tip toe quietly in its presence so that it may rest in peace. Sleep tight.

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