| My friend is having car problems. Car problems are notorious for causing everything from mild irritation to homicidal rage. No matter what the extent of the problem, when something goes wrong with your vehicle, you are assured of experiencing intense frustration followed inevitably by impending poverty. Car troubles are a nightmare.
My friend thought she would avoid some frustration and bank account draining by purchasing a newish car, so she bought one that was only two years old and had minimal miles on it. Sadly, this perfectly reasonable decision on her part in no way prevented her from having a vehicular and mental breakdown.
Everything having to do with a motor vehicle is expensive, but there is a certain relief in having something breakdown that is immediately and clearly recognizable and easily, albeit expensively, fixed. When your alternator goes it is a problem that is easily identifiable and it is abundantly clear that you have only one option – purchase a new alternator and install it or have it installed by some person who will charge you an arm and a leg and your child's college fund to fix it. Obvious problems have obvious solutions. It's when your car has a problem that seemingly impossible to identify, much less fix, that the frustration and stress become overwhelming.
This is the situation with my friend, whose car is behaving in a strange and inexplicable manner that no one seems to be able to diagnose, much less repair. What happens is this; the car will start with no difficulty and behave in a perfectly normal way until it suddenly decides to shut down completely and cease to function. It will start up easily enough again, and roll merrily along for 10 miles or 10 feet or 10 inches until it does it again. It is completely unpredictable. It doesn't matter if it is cold or warm or hot, if it is stopped at a light or just going down the road. It has nothing to do with what gear it is in or how much gas is in it or whether or not it is raining or the second Tuesday of the month or if the moon is in the 7th house. There is no predicting or anticipating when it might happen and no discernible pattern to its bizarre behavior.
My friend has taken her car back to the dealer 4 times. Each time they have told her that it is fixed and each time it does the same thing, sometimes after days and one time, when she pulled out of the dealership. The mechanics have checked everything at least once, and somethings multiple times just because they are beginning to doubt their own sanity. The car has had the plugs replaced, wires changed, belts changed, sensors replaced, and numerous other operations checked or replaced in a futile quest to fix the problem. The list of things done to this car takes up eight pages of invoices. Despite all this checking, repairing, and replacing, the nasty little piece of engineering continues to defy fixing.
I went with my friend today to pick her car up from the dealership for the fifth time. The people who work there did not look happy to see her and it took half an hour for them to explain everything they had done to the car. As far as I could tell, they had done everything humanly possible to figure out what was ailing the stupid thing. The car started up just fine and we drove it out of the lot with cautious optimism. Surely, the 5th time would be a charm and the car would be cured.
My friend's dreams were brutally shattered when the car decided to completely shut down 5 miles out of the dealership lot. She pulled the traitorous machine off the road, put it in park, and started banging her head on the steering wheel. I pointed out that the only thing worse than having a psycho car was having a psycho car, a large bruise on the forehead, and a splitting headache.
“I can't take it anymore,” she told me, the picture of humiliated defeat. “This car is killing me. I have tried everything I can think of. It hates me.”
“Maybe that's true,” I said. “Maybe it needs a vehicular psycho-analyst. You haven't tried that yet.”
“Forget psycho-therapy,” she snarled. “This heap is possessed. I don't need a mechanic; I want this evil thing exorcised. What I need is a priest. A priest with crucifixes, garlic, holy water, and a wooden stake.”
“And a flask of good Irish Whiskey,” I suggested helpfully.
“That, too,” she agreed.
“What you really need is those two brothers on National Public Radio who seem to be able to diagnose any problem with any vehicle, no matter how baffling. They are the Sherlock Holmes of car mechanics but a lot funnier and with Boston accents,” I told her.
“Do you think they carry a flask of Irish Whiskey?” she asked me.
“Wouldn't surprise me at all.” I said.
“Fine How do we contact them?” she asked.
“Well, you have to call up their radio show and they have to put you on the air.” I told her ruefully.
She looked at me with desperation in her eyes. “Never mind,” she said. “We'll just drive to Boston and kidnap them.”
“Ok,” I agreed. I didn't think that this was the time to point out the flaws in this plan; she was looking kind of wild-eyed and dangerous.
“But not in this car,” she said.
No, definitely not in this car. Kidnapping master mechanic radio stars would require a more reliable get-away vehicle. Something less likely to appear on an episode of the Twilight Zone or qualify for Ripley's Believe It or Not. Maybe a bicycle with a side car. Or a rickshaw. Maybe it would be best to just take the bus.