Tuesday, December 30, 2008


This is a sight you don't like to see first thing Monday morning - or any morning.

That would be the sight of the car you drive, up on a tow truck with a man named Rahul.

The poor car had been acting up since the battery died in Dreyfus's driveway on Christmas Day.

Dreyfus got it going again with his supercharger.

But on Friday morning it was dead again, so I cabbed it to the yoga studio.

SportMarty and I replaced the battery that afternoon.

On Saturday, it started OK but stalled on the way home after looking at an apartment (Yes! I looked at an apartment!). It did not want to re-start.

Other drivers on Ashland Avenue honked in anger as I motioned for them to go around.

The car turned over and over. Finally, it started. Then it stalled again, just as the engine light came on.

After some time it started again, and let me drive it home and park it in a safe place.

That night I looked up possible problems on the Internet and talked it over with Dreyfus; perhaps the idle was off because of the dead battery. Perhaps we'd installed the wrong battery. Perhaps we'd crossed the connections.

The next day the car started, and I drove it to class. The engine light came on, and it stalled as I pulled into the parking space.

When it finally re-started, the engine light blinked on and off, and there was a clicking sound coming from the shifter console that coincided with the blinking. It would not shift out of park, and the brake would not engage.

It was a case for Car Talk, but I had to teach.

Just before I did, the car stalled for good, and refused to re-start. It tried and tried but the engine never caught.

A lovely student drove me to my next class. Afterwords, I took the El to the car and tried to start it. Nada.

The next day I used the newly-renewed AAA membership (thank you, Mrs. Dreyfus) to tow the car to the mechanic.

At Dreyfus's urging, I told the mechanics, in detail, about the sequence of events and the car's current symptoms. They said they'd never heard of anything like that.

Some hours later, they called to say they needed to put in a $450 distributor in order to start the car. They could do nothing until it started. Once that happened, they could try to figure out the blinking and clicking problem.

I reluctantly gave the OK, after telling them I could not afford to spend a fortune (especially on top of last month's $500 brake job and next month's $110 rent increase).

Plus I was beginning to enjoy not having the car. The combination of taxi-subway-bus-bike-walking was wonderful.

I got plenty of fresh air, and being with other people made me feel like a part of something bigger than myself, rather than alone in my little pod. Plus it was a relief not to have to deal with traffic and parking. It slowed me down, and made me feel rather sattvic. I decided I liked it, and even started entertaining thoughts of getting renouncing Coche-Coche (my name for the car) and joining the local car sharing service.

Later the mechanic called to say that a new relay had solved the clicking problem. It was only $58.

After hanging up, I looked online, and learned that the relay could have been the problem all along.

So when I picked up the car, I asked as much. "Couldn't the relay have been the cause of all the problems? Why did both things go bad all at once, plus the battery? Are you sure the distributor was bad?"

The proprietor's eyes became somewhat vacant. He sputtered a bit, and said that yes, ahem, the distributor was bad, and that's why the car had been stalling. Or something to that effect.

And I wondered if I'd caught him in a $450 lie.

And I thought, Well, if he did lie, it hurts him more than it hurts me.

Karma again.

And I more or less let it go.

More or less.

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