Wednesday, August 20, 2008
Our friends, Virginia and John Paul, both enjoy fishing. On one of their recent trips, Virginia snared a large trout. MY WIFE and I were invited to share in the eating of this big fish. We're always happy to get a free meal, so we made our way to their place in Milton.
MY WIFE took the T after work, planning to meet me at the Central Avenue trolley stop. I drove from Newton. Once we arrived at Central Avenue, we would drive to Virginia and John Paul’s house, a mile or so up the road. On my way, I hit a huge pothole on Morton Street. When I did so, my right rear window fell four inches into the door frame.
Back-story: Three years previous, I lowered that window and then found myself unable to get it back up. The motor was burned out. At that time, I took the car to the repair shop and I told them that I didn’t care about replacing the motor and I didn’t care if the window could be lowered again. I just wanted the window returned to a closed position. They raised it, and somehow propped it, from within the door frame, to stay up. Whatever they had done had worked marvelously well until I hit the pothole on Morton Street.
Nothing much I could do about it now, unfortunately. I arrived at Central Avenue, parked, and waited for MY WIFE. While waiting, I got out of the car, walked around to the passenger side, and pushed the window up to the closed position, but as soon as I released it, it fell back to its four-inches-short status.
I thought about bracing it with something. Having nothing else handy, I took an empty cardboard cigarette package, flattened it, folded it in half twice, and then pushed the window up again. I wedged the cigarette package between the window and the door frame. As soon as I let go of the window, it again slid back down four inches, this time taking the cigarette package completely inside of the door frame as a bonus.
There was just too much play between the window and the frame to force it shut with anything short of an actual screw brace. Jamming my rubbish in there would only result in a door frame full of rubbish. While it was slightly amusing knowing that my door frame could be used as a litter receptacle, I also knew that whoever opened the thing up now, to fix the window, would find the empty and flattened Kool package. I imagined the conversation.
"Hello, Mr. Sullivan? We found something strange in your window. You’re not going to believe this, but somebody jammed an empty cigarette package down into your door frame. I don’t know what they were trying to do, but there it was when we opened it up."
"Huh! A cigarette package, you say? Imagine that! Wow!"
"Yup. Like I say, I don’t know what they could have been attempting to do, but there are 15 or 20 similar empty packs on the floor of your back seat, too."
At which point I would probably have to fess up to jamming the cigarette pack into the door frame myself, and then endure finger-pointing and snickering from the mechanics when I went to pick the car up, so I made a mental note to clean out the back seat before bringing the car in to the repair shop.
I gave up on any further attempts at do-it-yourself repair. MY WIFE arrived; we drove to Virginia and John Paul’s, and had dinner. The fish was both ginormous and delicious. They were cordial hosts, and MY WIFE and I enjoyed the evening very much. As nice of an evening as it was, however, the broken window kept creeping back into my thoughts. This was because I hate unforeseen obligations.
For the most part, I am a man of habit. I don’t care for breaks from the routine. I very much prefer to do the same things over and over. For instance, I could be a very happy camper if the rest of my life was spent watching The Three Stooges, eating cookies, and napping. Maybe throw in the occasional blowjob, but you get the point. When something comes up that must be taken care of, I cannot completely relax until it is taken care of. This window was one of those things.
Extenuating circumstances will keep me from fixing something, though, even if NOT fixing it will cost me some peace of mind. In order to get the window fixed, my car would have to be dropped at a repair shop and then I would have to take the bus to work. I would end up walking about a half mile on either end of that trip. As well, I was still involved in my softball playoffs, and being without the car would leave me at the mercy of a teammate for a ride to the field. I could get one, no doubt, but I didn’t want to have to get one. Combining these annoyances kept me thinking that not getting the repair done was preferable for now.
In the meantime, I had to keep rain (as well as insects, birds, squirrels, and maybe a particularly adventurous skunk or cat) from getting inside of my automobile. I put a lumpy sheet of plastic over the gap, affixing it with duct tape. My rather nice-looking Grand Am was now transformed into a semi-junker. A sheet of plastic over a window never looks good. I assumed that other drivers would think that I was too poor to have the repair done. That’s what I would have thought, if it was somebody else’s car. I now drove with shame as my co-pilot.
When our softball playoffs ended, the balance shifted. It now became much more important to my peace of mind to get the window fixed. So, I brought the car in for repair, sucked it up, and took the bus. As long as I was having the window done, I decided I might as well get everything else done that needed doing. I instructed them to do a tune-up, patch one of my tires that had a slow leak, and perform some necessary brake work.
As you well know, anytime you bring a car in for repairs, the mechanic is likely to find something else that needs doing. Such was the case here. I received a call at work.
"Mr. Sullivan? We did the tune-up, replaced the rotors and pads, patched your tire, and we’re working on getting that window up. However, the bushings are shot on your control arm."
I was glad he made no mention of finding a cigarette package inside the door frame, but this was discomforting news. I had only a vague notion concerning what a control arm might do, but having shot bushings didn’t sound pleasant. And I certainly didn’t want to be out of control.
"Yeah, it’s your call, of course, but we can replace the control arm and still get the car back to you today. It will run about $300, though."
Well, when you don’t know what the hell you’re talking about, it’s usually best not to argue. I wanted the car in tip-top shape, and having shot bushings in my control arm probably wouldn’t result in that happening, right? I told him to do whatever was needed.
I remember my first car. It was a 1965 Ford Falcon. I could do almost any repair that was needed. There were something like 12 moving parts under the hood, and six of those were hamsters. At various times, I replaced the battery, the alternator, the starter, belts and hoses, all without aid of a real mechanic. I look under the hood of a car now and I am mostly in a foreign country. Everything is jammed up against everything else and the whole shebang is connected in intricate ways to an on-board computer of some sort, and I can’t even see the hamsters. I could take some courses in auto repair, or pay $300 every so often for a control arm with shot bushings. The latter is much easier.
Long story short, I got Roddy back (that’s my car’s name – if your car doesn’t have a name, I’m sorry to have to tell you this, but one of you is missing a soul) and all was good. I had solid brakes, a control arm with wonderful bushings, fully inflated tires, and a window not covered in duct tape and plastic. Only one unsettling thing happened.
While I was driving home, and stopped at a red light, I turned to look at the window that had been repaired. I saw, out of the corner of my eye, some sort of inner piece of Roddy now sitting on the back seat floor. I looked down at it. It might have been a piece of the motor from the window, or maybe it was the mysterious control arm with its shot bushings. Whatever it was, the mechanic should have disposed of it. I suppose he wanted to leave me evidence that he had, indeed, done the work, but it was rather like having your gall bladder taken out and, instead of disposing of it, the doctor puts it into your back pocket. You then discover this on your way home from the hospital when you sit down and it makes a squishy noise.
I tried not to alarm Roddy. He had been through enough already. I would dispose of this whatever-it-was once I arrived home. And so I did. I parked Roddy in the garage, opened his back door, and took the offensive mechanical thing out. When I lifted it, I saw, underneath, a neatly folded Kool cigarette pack. So much for hiding my stupidity. There is now probably a note on the repair shop computer:
Cigarette pack found inside door frame. Try not to snicker the next time this dope comes in. We can probably tell him the cuffs are missing from his framistat.
Soon, with more better stuff.