Monday, May 10, 2010

Oh, So That's What That Part Does...

I learned a lot of really interesting things this weekend. On Saturday morning I took a seafood cooking class and learned out how to fillet a fish. That night I went to see "The Addams Family" on Broadway and watched the great Nathan Lane (a Jersey City guy, by the way) demonstrate how a comedic master's timing and patience-in-delivery turn a humorous line into a long, loud, sustained laugh. And on Sunday, as I was leaving my boys' college after dropping them off, I learned that when the engine belt in a car breaks, a succession of failures starts, each of which has its own graphically descriptive warning light on the dashboard. (This happened, by the way, in the same area and almost a year to the day from the last car-tow adventure. [].)

In case you're wondering, here's what happens when the belt breaks:

  • First, the power steering goes out. When this happens, the car does not simply revert to the old fashioned manual steering. It goes to what might be called, gorilla-on-steroids steering.
  • Fortunately, I didn't have too long to worry about the first thing, because the second thing that happens is that the warning light for the battery-recharging system comes on. Pulling over and flipping frantically through the owner's manual, I found where it said whatever you do, don't turn the car off, because you may not be able to start it up again.
  • Next, having made the decision not to turn the car off, I looked at the dashboard and found the engine overheat light had now come on. Flipping frantically through the owner's manual, I found where it said whatever you do, turn the car off. I don't know much about that battery-charging stuff, but even I know engine overheating is not a positive development. In the ignition on-or-off contest, fear of engine exploding beats fear-of-charging-battery every time. Besides, had I kept the car running, who knows how many more warning lights would have lit?
Packing my wife, my mother and my sister into a cab for the ride up the turnpike to home - we'd all gone down to visit my sons at college and have dinner for Mother's Day - I rode back with the tow truck driver, grateful that both my wife and I have cel phones to keep control of the somewhat complicated logistics of the situation. Or I was grateful, until I reached into my pocket and found I'd forgotten to give my wife's cel back to her. Fortunately, my sister has a cel phone also. Unfortunately (not to mention inexplicably), she keeps it turned off. Along the way, their cab driver made polite conversation: the weather, songs on the radio, how he gave up driving for a while because of his fear of driving near trucks, etc. (As told to me by my wife, so help me I'm not making that up.)

The car is still at the mechanic's as I write this. It should be done soon. ("Soon" here being a euphemism for "was supposed to be done over two hours ago.) It's about seven years old. My hope has always been to have a car that lasts ten years. I haven't made it yet (my first two cars lasted eight and seven years, respectively) so I'm keeping my fingers crossed this one will work out. It's not that I like driving old cars. It's that I like not making car payments.


oldhousegal said...

Oh dear. This happened to us once while we were driving around Lake George, about an hour from where we live. It is NOT good news. I'll keep my fingers crossed...

Jacob said...

I'm glad everything worked out, but I can't help but feel a little guilty for making an ill-timed joking reference to last year's incident just moments before this year's.

Sorry about that.


Angie said...

Ben, I don't know about in America but in England a car isn' MEANT to last 10 years. If you get a new car it has to get a Ministry of Transport test at 3 years and thereafter every year. Many years ago this used to be called the 10-year-test. Guess why! But then they made it so your averasge home-mechanic couldn't fix anything by sticking his head in the engine or lying underneath and gazing at the brake pipes. They developed computer diagnostics and that put a stop to all grandad's fun.