Murphy’s Law, the automotive edition

Here’s a saga of great suffering and lamentation that I couldn’t help but to share.

And so it came to pass that a week and a half ago, I was staying up late to edit an upcoming book.  It’s over 360,000 words – my longest ever – so this takes a lot of doing.  I was getting tired, but I had an appointment to take in Cat 1 for an all-day checkup at the vet.  So I set the alarm for an hour later, putting the clock next to my head so I’ll actually get up.

An hour later, I pry myself out of the bed.  Girlfriend 1 takes a little while to get dressed, but we can still make the appointment.  Then I get a message from Roommate 1.  Her car broke down and she’s stranded.  We quickly find out that my repair service won’t do squat since she’s not on the plan.  Great wo betide me, I’m not feeling in the most delightsome of moods.  I guzzle an energy drink, which is surprisingly effective since I’d been avoiding caffeine for a while.  Perhaps my bishop wouldn’t be too impressed by my backsliding, but that’s his problem.

So we drop off Cat1.  GF1 wants to go on a side trip to get a prescription.  I do so too.  (Damn allergies.)  Then we make a junk food run.  Then we figure out where RM1 is and drop by and let her have a go at the grub.  As for the car, it turns out that it popped the serpentine belt, running the alternator and hydraulics.  We hook up the battery wires so she can get the car started.  Because of some rather strange engineering practices, the battery is in the trunk, which necessitates unloading the junk in the trunk, some of which gets transferred to my car.  Her car starts – apparently the starter runs on a different belt – and she loads up the remaining junk again, but the engine dies out.  Well, that sucks!

We find out that a tow service would cost a base price of $75 for a haul of less than a mile, and that’s before they throw on all the BS charges.  There’s a mechanic shop only a couple blocks away, but it’s uphill, so pushing the beast would be a little much.  We drop by the mechanic – it specializes in oil changes, but they’ll put on the belt and make another minor repair.

Meanwhile, I go across the street, as Nature is calling pretty loudly, and the shop doesn’t have a bathroom for the public.  It’s a gas station, but fortunately the bathroom was clean, no piss on the seat even!  After that, since I didn’t want to be a shmuck who pollutes the bathroom and doesn’t even buy anything, I purchase an extra large can of Red Bull.  Five bucks and change!  I figure I’d need it soon enough, the way I was feeling…

So we return to the house.  On the way, RM1 drops off the junk in the trunk at her storage unit.  Back home, after a little more searching on the computer, it turns out that no reasonably priced tow services are to be had.  The plan is to tow it ourselves.  She does have a strap, though it’s conveniently located in her storage unit – yanno, the place we just were.  Much razzing follows.  I have one too, but there’s no way in heck that I’m going to find it in the disaster area I euphemistically call the garage.

GF1 dropped the can, causing it to spring a leak, but fortunately not a bad one.  The spraying can of Red Bull is now in a tall glass.  She wanted to go see her mom, so I sent her off in my birth control Chevy, and meanwhile I took her truck, which I’ve named “Old Paint” for reasons not too hard to fathom.  It’s like the Millennium Falcon – “doesn’t look like much, but gets you where you need to go”.  Anyway, so RM1 and I head right back to the storage unit to get the strap.  I figure, what the heck, all this is a deposit in the favor bank.

Then we return to where the car is.  I first have to pull it backwards out of the parking space, so then I can pull it forward from the parking lot itself.  While doing so, I feel a jiggle as if I’d hit a pothole, but there weren’t any potholes.  The truck is moving forward, but the car is no longer moving.  The strap broke!  I was babying it too, but even then the thing popped.

I got out, and it turns out the strap was a lot flimsier than I had expected.  Fortunately there are two others.  I advised to tie the broken one, then braid the other two to distribute the load.  The car is far enough out to bring it forward – barely – but will it make it up the hill?  It’s not a very steep incline, but what just happened didn’t fill me with confidence.  If there was a repeat and the straps broke, then I’d have to Donkey Kong her tank uphill.  Even in my advanced age, I still can deadlift six plates and two quarters.  However, I just wasn’t feeling the love, especially given my fatigue and the fact that this part of the country is hot as blazes during the summer.  Technically it’s the very end of spring, but close enough for government work.

So the cars zoomed by and finally I got a suitable opening.  I pulled out onto the road, with her tank following Old Paint, then up the hill, very slowly.  By some miracle, we made it to the mechanic without incident.  Unfortunately, the trunk would no longer open, as it has an electric control which decides to quit working.  (Why do engineers do shit like that?)  It’s more like an open hatch than a trunk, so we start pulling the stuff out over the back seat, and load up the back of the truck.

Then she goes into the office, and I notice something.  The tank is rolling backward.  If I’d just followed her without looking, it would’ve ended up in the middle of a busy street.  I put my shoulder to it and stop it, but I’m not feeling the love.  I gesticulate wildly.  Another customer sees me, and I tell him to get RM1’s attention.  She comes back out and puts it in “Park”.  Finally I get under the shade.

After arrangements are made, we head back home.  Then GF1 calls.  My birth control Chevy is overheating.  Two cars go kaput in the same day?  Whiskey Tango Foxtrot?  I advise to check the jug to see if there’s any coolant, but she can’t hear a word I say.  She’s at some mechanic who wants to charge seven hundred bucks.  She makes arrangements to get towed back to Bubba, our local mechanic.  Since she’s on my tow service plan, they don’t give her any lip this time.

Roommate 2 wanted to do a booze run.  The day before, I’d promised her that I’d do that, so why not?  (She’s a gentile, so she’s allowed to be a wine snob.  But what’s my excuse for being a beer snob?)  I figured we’d multitask by taking Dog 2 to the vet, since she’s overdue for a shot.  I slurp down what’s left of that can of Red Bull, and somehow we all crowd into the cab.  Dog2 knows very well what the vet is all about, and she wasn’t feeling the love about that.  She’s a real sweetheart – an angel on four paws – but she starts flipping and tripping soon after we get there.  Bitch, please!  While there, I find out that Cat1 is doing well, but they need to observe longer so I’ll have to pick her up later.  Dog2 gets her shot and we drop her off at home.  Then we get enough wine to do a Sunday service at St. Peter’s Basilica.

With merely one hour of sleep since the night before, I’m not feeling too great.  I do another hour of editing, because if I go to sleep, I’m unlikely to wake up until the next day.  RM1 announces that her car will be ready soon.  I try to figure out how I’m going to pick up her car as well as Cat1 in afternoon traffic.  I call the vet, fortunately Cat1 is ready.  I go get the adorable little furball.  Then we go get RM1’s tank.  We split off and I go to Bubba’s shop – she’s made it there at long last – and I fork over some dough.  It turns out that there’s something goofy with the radiator fan.  Later, RM1 takes me and GF1 out to dinner, and upon my return, I pass out from exhaustion.

The following week, I try to get Old Paint inspected.  The place I took it to before, which has the only equipment that can test that type of engine manufactured at that time, had a malfunction on that tester, and nobody makes spare parts.  But it might or might not matter, depending on Old Paint’s month of manufacture.  (The state law on the matter gets a little Talmudic.)  I bring it there, and according to the omniscient computer, it won’t need the tester after all.  However, there’s a light socket on top of the cab that’s not working, and now it’s illegal for a third brake light not to work.  They put in a bulb, still no workee.  So it’s either the socket, or a wire, or a fuse.  I’m enough of an electrical engineering geek to figure that crap out, but I’m just not feeling up to messing with it.

GF1 and I take it to Bubba’s early the next day; I figure that he’s adventurous enough to Polack-engineer the light.  Unfortunately, he’s not there.  It turns out that he’s sick, which I find out later.  The accumulated stress made me declare another cheat day; junk food is consumed.  I go to another mechanic.  I get the same spiel about the testing equipment.  I inquire about the blessed light.  I find out that the socket is messed up, and good luck finding another unless I go to a junkyard.  Screw it – I go home and order one online, though it won’t be here soon enough to remain street legal until then.  As the French would say, “C’est la vie, c’est la guerre, c’est la grande pomme de terre.”

Later that evening, the birth control Chevy overheats again.  Looks like there’s something more to it than the fan.  I put in some fluid, as I see that there’s none in the jug.  Later I notice that it’s leaking somewhere, but I can’t see exactly where.  GF1 was planning to go to her mother at last; another trip thwarted.

She takes it back to Bubba’s shop the next day; fortunately he recovered.  He identifies a cracked thermostat housing.  As it happens, this was exactly the part he’d replaced nearly a year ago.  The good news is it’s under warranty.  The bad news is that there’s some other fucking part going (almost literally) haywire – probably a signal cable, because it throws random error codes if you wiggle the connector to the control system.  These are false positives, but I have to fix it to get it inspected in another couple of months. and it’s going to cost schweine Geld.   I’m rather tempted to find out what connector it has and rewire it with a soldering iron.

While there, I relate a cute anecdote about how my son just got expelled from day care.  (Long story.  He’s not really my kid, but close enough.)  I ask for tips on how to get him interested in being a mechanic – already at three, he’s showing subtle signs of aptitude.  All that turns out to be worth a good laugh.  I’m tempted to add another quip – “A bad mechanic screws you, but a good one buys you a drink and kisses you first” – but I hold my tongue.

The following day – yesterday, to be specific – RM2 wants another hooch run.  (I’m tempted to purchase large quantities of beer while we’re at it, but decide I’d better watch my calories.)  GF1 had to take Old Paint in to work, since the thermostat didn’t show up in time.  Soon after, Bubba’s finally done with the birth control Chevy, at least with the thermostat.  RM2 and I walk there, and although we were overheating, finally the car was doing so no longer.  I figure I’ll pop a gasket for sure when I find out about the signal cable.  Replacing it involves dismounting the dash and routing cables to every damn place in the car.

I might ask GF2 for some advice; although she looks like a Barbie doll, she’s the butch one and is great at fixing cars.  Unfortunately, she’s still out of town; otherwise we’d have a go at it together.  On second thought, maybe I should get a horse and buggy?  I think the Amish are onto something.

Murphy’s Law, the automotive edition

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