He presented them as somberly as a surgeon explaining why some beloved relative had needed organ transplants. (That is, if surgeons were to actually present immediate family with their beloved’s old worn-out organs, withered lungs or deflated hearts, in the waiting room.)
Though he wasn’t the actual “surgeon,” just the boss of the garage. There was no grease (blood?) on his hands. He was only the bearer of a mechanic’s bad news.
And my Honda Odyssey is not my beloved. And I didn’t need to see greasy car parts, or hear the nasty details about how as well, some big-long-belt thing had to be entirely replaced.
“Can I have them?” Big Bro asked, his face aglow at the sight of greasy parts. He likes to “tinker.” He wants me to promise him the old van once it was truly “dead” so he can dismember it. As he takes a hammer to ancient computers on his bedroom “tinker” table:
Back to my ailing Honda Odyssey: I’ve been taking my minivan to this same garage for regular 3,000-mile-oil-change-“wellness” visits since I acquired it a good nine years ago. Just before Big Bro was born. Before I spilled a bottle of clorox, bleaching the back a tie-died white. Before all the Goldfish were ground into the seats’ creases. Before the stickers Little Bro plastered on the windows….
I reminisce. As if I’m actually attached to this piece of aging machinery whose most recent “transplants” were costing me $2000 plus.
A price tag that I stupidly hadn’t requested before the “surgery.” And the reason Mr. Boss Man probably was handling this all with a certain delicacy; that included the actual proof of the broken parts.
But even if I had asked, so what? Am I going to buy a new car? No.
Mr. Boss wore little round spectacles. If it weren’t for the car-organ parts, he would have struck me as a librarian I was consulting at a reference desk.
Or maybe a cognitive behavioral therapist trying to retrain me how to think: “You’ve hit 100,000 miles. This stuff happens.”
I must have looked near tears.
At the core of cognitive behavioral therapy is the fact that our thoughts control our feelings. So if you’re thinking bad things about your car, then you will feel angry and/or depressed about said car – and about the $2000 you would have preferred to blow on an extravagant weekend-getaway with poolside bars and spider monkeys (thinking Costa Rica).
Mr. Bespectacled Boss was kind and soft spoken. “Honda is a good car. You should get another 100,000 out of it. This is all just a bump in the road.”
By “all” we both knew he meant more than just these recent transplants; the $600 air- conditioning hose replacement last fall due to a pinhole leak (a pin hole). More recently, the $486 replacement of leaking power-steering hose.
I looked at the greasy parts on the counter with great chagrin matched by my son’s enthusiasm (“so cooool” ), and wondered where I’d be now if I’d remained in denial. If I’d never stopped in to have a simple brake light replaced and mentioned casually how creaky the car had become.
“Creaky?” Mr Boss had seemed unduly alarmed.
“Well, hey, don’t we all get a little creaky with age?”
It was a joke that he didn’t get even though we were clearly contemporaries, and he probably remembered as well as I did growing up with actual roll-down car windows.
That somber look transformed his face, a shade pulled down. “Let’s go for a test drive.”
And that’s when he’d made the dire diagnosis: If we didn’t replace these broken organ parts, as well as that belt which could snap on the road, the engine could be ruined.
I do regard Mr. Bespectacled Mechanic Boss as upstanding, as he actually has discouraged me from repairs too pricey evidently even for a price tag – Like fixing the one automatic sliding door that no longer is automatic. And the rear air-conditioning if that ever goes…
This most recent rear-air-conditioning conversation came up just yesterday, as I was dropping off the car because the front air-conditioning once again wasn’t working.
Another pinhole. In another hose. As there are evidently five hoses to air-conditioning systems.
I was despairing. “A pinhole? You can’t just patch a tiny pinhole?”
That somber look was gone. Mr. Bespectacled Mechanic Boss Man laughed! “It’s not like a band-aid fix….”
I wasn’t laughing.
The shade once again came down. Not a chance that it might snap back up and let in the light: “It’s too much pressure going through the hose for just a patch.”
Whatever. I didn’t need any more surgical details. I needed a vodka martini. Straight-up. With three olives.
So today, while they’re replacing this second air-conditioning pin-hole-pricked hose, Mr. Boss said they might as well replace the front tires which were now quite “bald”….Well, why the heck not? I mean, I can’t drive on bald tires, right?
On a brighter note: My 2003 Odyssey has been recalled! Yes! Something’s wrong with the ignition so the car could actually slide backwards while in park or something… Whatever. Who cares. Because the repair is actually free!
Life does have its bumps in the road. But also its free rewards. Free fixings! As well as car organ parts for tinkering: