It was a small puddle.
A small green puddle. Under my car.
A small green puddle under my car every morning. For the last month.
It was a small green puddle under my car every morning for the last month.
I noticed it, and MY WIFE noticed it. It bothered me a little. It bothered MY WIFE a lot.
"Daddy doesn't care about you, Roddy", she would say, as she got in on the passenger side.
"I check his fluids every day", I would reply, "And I only have to add water once or twice a week."
To which, she would query, "Well, do you remember the story of The Boy Who Didn't Get His Radiator Repaired?"
"Yes", I would say, shamefaced, because I did.
Back in 1995, we owned a different car. It was a Chevy Cavalier with a leaky radiator. I checked the fluids and kept adding water. Then MY WIFE's Father died. While driving to his wake, the leaky Cavalier died, too.
(I believe the car was only acting in solidarity. During the previous twelve months, my father died, MY WIFE's mother died, and now her father had passed away. The Cavalier was just trying to be one of the family.)
The engine seized on the Southeast Expressway. As a result, we ended up driving her father's pick-up truck to his funeral. It had a bumper sticker that said, "Follow me to Bub's Barbecue!", which was humiliating enough to MY WIFE, she being a woman who doesn't eat anything with her fingers, let alone having everyone else in her family know she was married to a doofus who could have saved about $2,500 if he had only brought his car in for a simple check of the radiator for leaks.
Anyway, we had to have the engine replaced. It was either that or buy a new car. Since I was still paying off the Cavalier, I decided I'd rather send off two payments a month for a car we still had, as opposed to sending $350 a month into the ether for a car that was living in a junkyard.
And now, let us return to the present day (more or less.)
It is December 24th. We are preparing to drive to Weymouth, in order to celebrate Christmas with my mother's side of the family. It is a drive of some 25 or 30 miles each way. As we get in the car, Roddy has his usual small green puddle underneath him. MY WIFE says something about getting him into the shop to be checked out. I say something about it will happen in a couple of weeks, don't worry, I've checked the fluids, etc., and she says, "A stitch in time...", etc., which I know she is right about, but it's Christmas Eve, for goodness' sakes, and I really don't want to think about that sort of stuff right now.
Then, as we are on Route 128, still about 20 miles from Weymouth, the "check engine" light comes on.
(You should know something about Roddy [aside from the fact that Roddy is his name, and if your car doesn't have a name, then one of you has no soul, and it ain't the car.] His instrument panel does not function. It hasn't for about six months. I could get it replaced, but it isn't a necessity. The odometer and trip meter still function, being mechanical rather than electrical, so I can always tell if I need gas. I can judge speed fairly well, so I don't really have to have the speedometer. And I check the fluids regularly, so most of those idiot lights aren't needed. Anyway, a car doesn't need a functioning instrument panel to pass inspection, and if I get a different one, it will not have the true mileage reading for Roddy. I'm not at all sure why this matters to me, since I am never planning on selling Roddy, but it does. So there you go.)
When the "check engine" light comes on, I am amazed. NOTHING on the instrument panel has functioned for six months, but now the "check engine" light flashes on? On Christmas Eve? Just after I've told MY WIFE, for the umpteenth time, not to worry?
Now I'm worried.
If Roddy's engine seizes, I may just as well hop out of the car and commit hari-kari in the breakdown lane. It would be a financial tragedy, but, more important, it would also mean that I never again would have any chance of convincing MY WIFE that I knew, in any way, shape, or form, what I was talking about. The be-all and end-all of any argument would be, "Do you remember The Story Of The Boy Who TWICE Ignored Green Puddles?"
So, having no better option as I drove, I said a prayer. I said, "Dear God, please get us to Weymouth. And then to church tonight. And then home again. And then to Brookline on Christmas. And home again. And I absolutely promise I will take Roddy in for a check-up on Tuesday morning."
(It was probably a bit much to ask for five successful trips, rather than just one safe arrival to our current destination, but I knew we would have to make all five. Those were the plans, and too many people were counting on us, and getting repairs on Christmas Eve or Christmas would have been near-impossible anyway.)
We made it to Weymouth. We had a wonderful time. We made it to church that evening. It was a beautiful service. We made it home, uneventfully. Then, when we were on our way to Brookline on Christmas Day, Roddy gave up the ghost.
Of his "check engine" light, I mean. It went out. And, lo, the driver (me) was mightily relieved. And thankful. And he said, "Thank you, God. I am still most definitely bringing Roddy in for a check-up on Tuesday, though, as promised!"
Fast forward to Tuesday. As usual, there is a small green puddle under Roddy. I am feeling a bit lazy, though, so I say to myself, "Self, the check engine light went out of it's own accord. I know Roddy has enough fluids. I'll definitely bring him in for a check-up, but maybe next week."
And I get into the car, put the key in the ignition, and start it up.
But Roddy doesn't start. He cranks, but sputters. I try a couple more times. No go. There is power, but it appears to be diminishing steadily with each attempt. I know I am going nowhere. I know I need to call AAA, to get a tow to the repair facility. Whether I like it or not, I am being made to keep my promise.
God will do that sometimes.
And I have nothing to say, other than "Thanks, God!"
Roddy could have crapped out on any number of highways. If so, our Christmas celebrations would have taken a hideous hit. So, also, would my wallet. Had Roddy died on the road, it no doubt would have been because of something far more hideous than a belt tensioner and a dead battery, which is what turned out to be the case once Roddy was inspected by someone who knew a bit more about his workings than whether or not he had enough water. As for the radiator leak, it wasn't a radiator leak at all. It was only a loose clamp on a hose. All in all, the repair bill came to under $300, which I consider a major victory any time a car goes into a garage.
Roddy failed to start in the best possible place, his own garage at home, and the only inconvenience I got out of it was making a call to AAA and missing about one hour of work. And this morning, no green puddle, and I drove with peace of mind and a knowledge that God likes me enough to have allowed me to get through the celebration of His Son's birth with no true inconvenience, even though I was The Boy Who Hadn't Learned His Lesson, Twice, But Now I Am (I Think.)
Soon, with more better stuff.