Sunday, July 12, 2009


In Hindi films, you often see a character holding up their hand and saying, "Bus, bus, bus!"

It means, "Enough already."

I've had enough.

Of the bus....bus....bus.

I've taken the #11 CTA bus back and forth to the mechanic so many times over the past two weeks that I've lost count.

At least I finally figured out that you can use to find out when/if the !@#$ thing is supposed to come.

* * *


On June 25 I went to the new mechanic to have the AC repaired. He'd done such a good job on the control arm bushings, I thought I could trust him to fix the AC.

I thought wrong.

When I came to pick up the car, he explained in his halting way that there was a problem with the "switch," and showed me where he'd rigged up a new wire that ran around the periphery of the engine. "No problem, AC work fine," he said.

On the way home, I stopped at looked closely at the bill, which had seemed to high. It was. Many of the charges were not what he'd initially quoted me. Plus he'd charged for tax twice. A sense of dread came over me.

The next morning I had to teach a Mysore class downtown, then head to the South Side for a workshop. Afterwords I planned to drive to Wisconsin to camp out with the Dreyfus family in an an air-conditioned yurt. It was a hot, hot weekend, and I was pleased with the idea of all of that AC.

But when I got into the car after class #1, the AC didn't work.

Hot and bothered, I called the mechanic, who told me to come in right away, so he could fix it. I told him I didn't have time.

I also told him that I was unhappy with the math on the bill, which was not correct.

When I finally got to the south side, the car overheated.

I called the mechanic, who told me to pull over and let the car cool down. He said it was a fuse for the engine fan. He asked me where I was, and said he'd drive down (over 150 blocks) and fix it. (This led me to believe that the overheating problem was his fault, which of course it was).

When I finished the workshop, I found him in the parking lot, working on the car. He'd gone through about eight fuses before one finally worked. He said I the car was safe to drive to Wisconsin, and that if I brought the car in on Monday he'd fix the AC.

The car overheated again on the way to Wisconsin. I turned around and came home. No fun for me.

The next day I took the car to the mechanic, who said it had a short in the system (which he created, although he never copped to it). He had the car all day.

When I got it back, the short was fixed.

But the AC still didn't work.

And the next day, I realized the cassette tape that had been in the stereo was missing. And the radio no longer worked.

I was livid.

I brought the car in again the next day.

The mechanic had it all day.

When I got it back the AC did not work. The problem was the switch, but he didn't know which one it was, since there a four of them.

He'd spent all day... getting the cassette deck to work. But the radio was still broken. And my missing cassette was still AWOL.

I was not happy.

I demanded a refund. He wouldn't budge. I said I would dispute the charge for the AC, and tell the Chamber of Commerce that he was a lousy mechanic.

He started laying into me about how he had done all of this work for free for me (huh?) and just wanted me to be happy (HUH?). He said he would get me a new car stereo, which he would pay for, and that he had to take the car to a specialist to pinpoint the problem with the AC, since his machine was broken. He said he'd pay for that, too.

It took me some days before I could speak to him again. In the interim I called the credit card company and started the machinery for disputing the charge.

Finally, last Wednesday (7/10) I brought the car back.

I took the bus home.

The mechanic had the car all day.

During that time he put in a new stereo.

He also took the car to his friend, who told him it needed some small part. But none of the junkyards had this small part. When I came to pick up the car, he showed me a printout of what was needed, and said they were searching for it. He would call me as soon as they found it. He showed me the new stereo.

The next morning, on the way to teach, the new radio stopped working.

I called the mechanic. He said it was under warranty, and he'd exchange it for a new one. He assured me he would call me as soon as the part for the AC came in.

The next day I did not hear from him.

In the meantime, the brakes started acting up. At stop signs, the brake pedal would pull away from my foot and move towards the floor.

On Friday I called and told him that if he did not find the AC part by the end of the day, there would be very bad repercussions for him.

He called back a half hour later to say that he had found the part. But it was in Indiana, and wouldn't be in the city until Tuesday.

I told him about the brakes, and asked the work he'd done could have caused it. Of course not, he said. He said it sounded like the master cylinder, and quoted me a price... which was twice the amount I later found online. Nonetheless I made an appointment to come in the next day (Saturday) to have him take a look.

Sure enough, it was the master cylinder. After much hemming and hawing and calling Dreyfus and comparing prices with my old mechanic, I decided to let him fix the brakes. I can live (albeit unhappily) without AC. But not brakes.

The mechanic said that he would also exchange the radio while he had the car. The junkyard needed to have the old one in order to give him a new one, which meant it would take all day. Since I have no life (outside of taking the extremely slow and sporadic Lincoln Avenue bus to and from the mechanic), I agreed.

When I got the car back yesterday afternoon, after a rather entertaining bus ride (more on that tomorrow), there was no new stereo. Apparently they didn't have the right one at the junkyard. So the mechanic put my old (broken) one back in.

At least the brakes work. So far.

I still plan to bring the car in on Tuesday for the AC part. If he doesn't get the AC working, I'll demand a credit. If he won't give it, I'll dispute the charge til the bitter end and do a Yelp review.

In the meantime I'm taking the car in to a new mechanic tomorrow (after all, the car is my new full-time job).

I want him to tell me 1) what the problem is with the AC and 2) if the car is worth saving.

Although I think I already know the answer to the second question....

* * *


The lessons in this seem to be:

1. Control the anger. (The three greatest obstacles to enlightenment are anger, lust and greed). So far I've done surprisingly well. But it's been like the hell.

2. Don't be attached to objects. Apparently this was not learned when the landlord's electricians inadvertently ruined the TV and stereo equipment a couple of months ago, and had to be reiterated. Again.

3. Vasanas and sanskaras don't ever disappear, and can be triggered at any time. (Vasanas are the conglomerate results of subconscious impressions or sanskaras created through experience). In this case, past impressions from dealings with unreliable parents and men have come to the fore and invaded the mind. Again.

4. Don't move to a far-flung neighborhood where you will be almost completely dependent on the automobile.

5. Listen to Dreyfus, and know when to cut losses. He said to get rid of the car about two thousand dollars ago.


  1. Holy cow! (In a bad way, I'm afraid.)

    If the car in question is a Toyota, I know of a saintly mechanic in Skokie who can make these miseries go away. If not, taking shelter of vedanta philosophy is pretty much your only option . . .

  2. God what a saga! I had something like one-quarter of that a couple of years ago and was completely and utterly freaked out. And sold that car and dumped the mechanic!

    I think you missed one lesson on your list. The one about giving someone a (small) set number of times to get it right and when they fail, finding a new mechanic!!

    Good luck - I really feel for you!

  3. Anonymous9:37 PM

    good for you for disputing the charge. say no to perpetrators, and to victimhood.

  4. Thank you-all.

    The new mechanic actually feels sorry for me. He can rig up the AC for about $140, and says the other mechanic should refund the whole thing.

    He also said the radiator is leaking. I can't help but wonder if it's coincidence...or not. That's another $250-$300.

    I called the original AC mechanic today and asked if the part and new radio are still on their way. He never called back.

    I'm looking into a Hyundai Accent. I hear they come with an excellent warranty.

  5. Anonymous6:39 PM

    Don't get a Hyundai!! very bad!!!

  6. How is Hyundai bad? Is Kia also bad? How about a 2005 Corolla for $10,000? Aren't *all* cars bad?

  7. Cara, My car has a Corolla drivetrain and has served me well. We are at around 123,000 miles and going going going. :) It is a 2003. The Camry before this car was over 150,000 when I traded it in with no problems.

  8. Oh no Cara. Not again!!! I have to believe this is just another vehicle (ha ha!)for some very good storytelling.

    I could never match these tales.
    no. never.

  9. You have got to be kidding?

    Dispute the problem with the credit card company, and bury that car and get a new one.

    I doubt any one person can have worse luck with mechanical things than you.

    ps, if anyone jerked me around like that, well.