Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Roddy's Christmas Miracle

[Roddy The Wondercar]

It was a small puddle.

And Green.

A small green puddle. Under my car.

Every morning.

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.


stephen Hayes said...

This is a great story, and it really illustrates the benefit of always looking at that portion of the glass that's half full. But if you aren't yet convinced to take better care of Roddy I suggest you watch a movie about a car with a different name, Stephen King's "Christine."

Craig said...

FOOL!!! Don't you EVER IGNORE GREEN PUDDLES!!!!! Ever again!!

God let you off easy, Jimbo; take the hint. . .

Seriously - you're only asking for trouble (and, just between you and me, of all the things I really think it's worthwhile to ask for, trouble is WAY down the list. . .)

The instrument panel on Jen's car ('03 Cavalier, if anyone's wondering) gave up the ghost a few years back (and we're told that replacing it is a $500 bill; at 245K miles, I don't think we're gonna pop for that). The speedometer doesn't even work. All she's got are the odometer and the 'low gas' idiot light (and sometimes the tach); which, if you can only have two things on your instrument panel, are definitely the ones to have.

The 'check engine' light on my car ('06 Aveo; 242K miles) is stuck 'on'. So, I've become trained to ignore it. Which means that, one of these days, something really catastrophic is gonna happen, and I won't have any inkling. Which is why I spring for the AAA-Plus coverage; those 80-mile tows can get expensive. . .

(not necessarily your) Uncle Skip said...

Gee, maybe I should ask Grandma Skip if the Check Engine light ever went out on her '94 Mustang.

silly rabbit said...

Yay for Roddy! Further proof that God is merciful and has a sense of humor.
Like Grandma Skip up above me, the check engine light has never gone out in my "Clown Car" as it is affectionately named. I only get scared when it flashes instead of just being lit up. =:]

Jackie said...

I don't know if I should post this comment...'cause it makes me look like a silly girl, but I cried when I read this. A good cry.
This is one of the "bestest ever" posts to me.
'Nuff said.
I think you understand, Jim.

Mich said...

Good ol' Roddy! Sounds like a nice reliable car. :D And $300 at the mechanic's is excellent! Wish I could say the same for the Virus Pimp...


The Broad said...

For one ugly moment there I thought you had murdered Roddy -- well maybe you could have copped a plea for man-slaughter ... but anyway, so glad it was really God and all his angels teaching you a lesson -- AGAIN!!! Glad your Christmas was a happy one!

messymimi said...

Glad it only cost you an hour from work, and a small bill.

Happy New Year!

Matt Conlon said...

I'm not a very religious fellow, but I am a believer in a greater power, be it god, karma, murphy's law, or some combination of all three... But positive thoughts do create positive energies, and when someone prays, or believes, things do happen...

God (for lack of a more specific term on my part) was definitely letting you slide. :)

Our car is Sheila. My daughter named the car when she (the daughter) was three or four. We didn't know a Sheila, and there were none on any of her shows, she simply picked the name out of thin air, so... Must have been the car's name, I reckon.

Sheila's been good, but she drinks a little more than I'd like (gas, you see...)Fortunately, she doesn't pee on the driveway.

Buck said...

You definitely dodged a bullet here. Or there.

The Green Hornet's check engine light has been on for about a year now; the Mazda people say it's because I have a bad oxygen sensor. My reply? It's running fine and if that's all it is, then f*ck al-Gore. The mechanic laughed.

Jeni said...

Boy, what a relief the ending of this story was to me! I had visions as I began to read about your Christmas plans that he had croaked on you out on the highway someplace. But the best thing about this story too must be that you didn't lose face with your wife either! (That, plus you didn't need to apply for a small business loan to cover repairs and possibly even a new vehicle!)

Anonymous said...

God is truly good, isn't he? I had an old red minivan that I was babying along for years - near the end I kept a case of transmission fluid in the back and had to add a bottle before leaving to go anywhere. Old Red (not as creative as Roddy, I'll admit) puttered me home one last time and died in the driveway, bless its little heart. I thanked God, just as you did!

Pearl said...

Aww. Roddy did his utmost...


Ruby said...

Really great story! Sometimes we are just a teeny bit lazy - I did the same thing (ignored warning messages) with my (500GB data) external hard drive and it crashed :(( Luckily, got most of my photos from a friend :)

notactuallygod said...

You're welcome!

Though not actually god, I will accept thanks in his name -like the indian accepting George C Scott's oscar for Patten. (Though unlike that circumstance, I do not do this as a proxy promotion for native american rights. They get free casino licenses, which you and I will never get, and I think that's enough!)

Anonymous said...

When my daughter had my old Escort, she would turn up the music if she started hearing noises coming from the car. She was fortunate nothing terrible happened!
I am happy for you that you had a good Christmas. You had faith and that is what it's all about. :)

Reena said...

Such a fun story and thanks to Roddy for not ruining your holiday. What a thoughtful car!

Michelle H. said...

Roddy needs you to take good care of him. You're the only family he has. If you were leaking green puddles (and it wasn't St. Patrick's Day) don't you think Roddy would be worried over loose hose clamps? Of course he would. Don't have this lesson learned a third time. And don't leak green fluids, even on St Patrick's Day.

Happy New Year!

Chris said...

Only 300 bucks? You got off light my friend. I'm starting to think my local Pep Boys has a flat rate of 450 for everything from wiper blades to transmission replacement.

JudisJems said...

What a great story, lots of smiling over here. It is amazing how the Universe watches out for us; glad Roddy is OK.

I drive a red Prius - her name is Ruby, and my house also has a name - The Jewel. Maybe you can see the theme with my user name?

Happy new year, thanks for all your wonderful posts!

Peace, Judi

lime said...

very glad roddy's doctor bill was relatively cheap and the diagnosis was easily curable. all good news along with not being stuck on the side of the road on christmas day....which has happened to me. not fun but fortunately that year were were only a couple miles from my mother's house and able to pull into a completely empty parking lot.

Hilary said...

You sure do have a unique way of telling a car repair story. I'm glad Roddy didn't let you down. Or vice versa.