Thursday, December 01, 2005

mondays aren't just the first day of the week

So I drove to campus yesterday, ready for a fun day of students going over drafts, still panicking from the approaching (and possibly catastrophic) labor strife and difficulties and wondering when someone would give me some information and maybe a textbook for the Scientific Report Writing class I'm teaching next fall. I decide to stop and get some gas at the 7-11 by campus. What could possibly go wrong?

First off, I've been listening to Two Cow Garage, so I have "Smell of Blood" stuck in my head, which is good. I'm able to fill up my tank for under $30, which is also good. Then I go to start up my car, and....nothing, save errant clicking.

I try two or three times, in the vain hope that the automotive gods (who is the patron saint of Oldsmobiles anyway?) will be kind, but no dice. Then I have to push the car away from the pumps and into a parking space...which would be easy if I drove a nice compact, but no, it's a late eighties Delta 88, and I have to push I'm out of breath, sore, and feeling very much like a weenie loser...more so than usual.

I then powerwalk to class (only 3 minutes late) and sit through draft days and then, at my office, through a few hours of conferences. I call AAA and go back to my car, wait an hour and a half, and the guy comes to give me a jumpstart...only he can't start the car. Rather, the battery starts smoking. He tells me the battery must be dead. He was an observant guy. He can, however, sell me a new battery for $95...but that is installed. I politely decline.

I call my wonderful wife, and she agrees to bring me my tools after she gets off work, so I can buy and replace a new battery that night. So I return to my office to warm up, drink some tea, and play some poker (I play online at UltimateBet in case anyone wants to join me). I lose tremendously...every time I get trips, someone else flops a straight. Thank the heavens I'm still in the free games.

My lovely wife arrives...I'm very glad to see her...and then she realizes that she forgot my tools. She does have some in the car, though, so we go to (shudder) Wal-Mart to get a new battery...yes, I know they're evil incarnate, but they do sell cheap car batteries, and right now, my finances outweigh my ethics.

At Wal-Mart, we encounter people walking on the wrong side of the isle, elderly in those electric carts directly in front of us who suddenly and mysteriously shift into reverse, parents who push their kids in front of our cart, idiots who don't look where they're going, and other travesties of man and corporation. Wal-Mart is very close to what I expect Hell to resemble. As you get closer to Christmas shopping season and the Wal-Mart crowd increases, you move down to a more perilous circle of see, Dante was wrong in the details. We did run into one of those plastic animatronic mounted deer heads that sang Elvis' "Suspicious Minds," and that was the highlight of our visit.

So we got my battery and got out of there. While I was putting the battery into the trunk, I checked Lori's tool box...and all the tools I'd need had mysteriously been removed. So I go back into Wal-Mart to look for one of those all in one tool thingies...the really handy guys reading this will know what I'm talking about...and they don't have any. So I pick up a plastic tube of 5 tools for the home for $5 dollars and what ends up being the worst beef jerky product I've ever tasted.

We drive back to the car, and needless to say, the cheap tools are useless. I can't get anything to budge, and I'm getting weary and frustrated, so I break down and call AAA back for a tow to a Bowling Green service station. The whole time, I have the Drive-By Truckers song "Outfit" stuck in my head, particularly the line "don't ever say your car is broke." I feel like a loser, out of touch, like less of a man. I can't even change the stupid battery in my car. I'm going to have to turn in all my macho clothing and forget the secret "real man" handshake.

Lori runs to McDonalds, and we are just finishing our value meals when the tow truck guy pulls up. He's nice, but he looks a little too much like a psychotic Amway salesman I know. He informs me that he could just tow my car to his shop, because his mechanic is still there, and they could install the new battery there. The only thing is, if AAA asks, I have to tell them that they took it to BG. I agree, but somewhere deep inside me, the "watch out for scam-o-la" light clicks on.

We get to his shop. There's a whole bunch of used cars littering the lot, and not once but several times, various people working there try to sell me a used Crown Victoria. Every single person there is smoking Marlboros, even when working on my car. One gentleman complains about the cold, and another responds: "If you think you're cold now, just wait untill I piss on your let and it freezes." While they're installing the battery, someone else tries to sell me another Oldsmobile.

They get the battery in,'s dead. The car won't turn over. After speculating that I might need a new starter or alternator ("which we can put in for you tomorrow"), they jump the car, and it turns out that the brand-new Wal-Mart battery was dead on the shelf. They let the car run, test the battery, test the alternator, and try four times to convince me that I need to let them perform a tune-up ("you can drop off the car on your way to work tomorrow").

I ask them how much for their trouble, and they tell me $30...only $5 less than the battery cost me. I tell them I've got $20 cash or we'll have to go to credit card. Luckily, they don't have a machine, so I'm off the hook for the cheaper price. I have a feeling that I've inspired them to upgrade their technology to better fleece stranded motorists...they realize they can get more for their services if they take plastic. They then give me two sets of directions home, one hideously complex, one very far out of the way.

Yes, I eventually get home, and the car does work now. I didn't get to hit the grocery store, put up my window insulation, get a much-needed hair cut, cook my famous jambalaya, or do anything remotely fun. Instead, I stared blankly at the television for a while, thanked my wife a few times for being so nice and not abandoning me, and then went to bed, where I dreamed I was street-racing Santa Claus, and I disconnected his sleigh from his reindeer, causing Santa to tumble from the sky...

My car made it to work just fine this things are looking up, but I do realize it's still early.


Jennifer said...

aw dude, I feel your pain.

Car troubles cause me more stress & anxiety than just about anything (followed by computer troubles and pet health). The reason being because these require "experts" to diagnose the problem so I've lost control over the situation.

As the owner of an older car myself (1992), I commisserate.

I suppose the silver lining is the amazingly cheap cost of the battery & garage. If it were me, I'm sure I'd have to pay about $200 to have the exact same thing done.

Tell me you returned the dead battery to WalMart & got money back!!!

(I won't even go into why you shouldn't be shopping at WalMart OR McDonalds for that matter... )

Meredith said...

I hear ya on the car stuff. I think that cars are all computer-y now not to make them better, but to insure that you must go to a mechanic to get it fixed. I think that every time I walk into a repair shop the guys hear the "ka-ching, ka-ching" of cash registers. (And I'm not even saying that they're all crooks. They just have a skill that I don't, and they know I'm hosed.)
Of course, I'm saying this as someone whose care is just about ready to turn over to 99K miles and yesterday the speakers started to go out!

Jennifer said...

Very true Meredith. A colleague of mine told me once never to buy a new car because new cars now require specialized tools to fix them that only garages have so the average joe/jane can't fix their own vehicles...

themikedubose said...

See, this is exactly why I want a new car...every time I try to repair one myself, I end up feeling bad about my own thin skin of masculinity, as I am the most inept guy with tools I have ever known. If I had a new car, I wouldn't even try, which would save me embarassment.

My brother, who is good with tools, doesn't consider it a successful car repair unless he throws a tool at least 18 feet. Personally, I need to invent a new obscenity.