Wednesday, October 10, 2012

automotive hell

A couple of months ago I was driving my Volvo merrily down O'Shaughnessy, just about to turn onto the freeway, when suddenly the car lost power, including its power steering.  I maneuvered it across a lane of heavy traffic, wrestling with the wheel, and let it drift to a halt.  After a short moment of contemplation, I cancelled the appointment I was headed to down the peninsula, as my car did not feel highway-ready.  I gingerly turned the car back on.  Surprisingly, it drove me back home without doing anything else amiss, and there were no error codes.

We took the car to the Sober Husband's chosen mechanic, who did a variety of things, charging a variety of amounts, and who ominously told us to replace the transmission.  "They tell you," he intoned, "that transmissions last a long time, but that's not for San Francisco. That's for ideal driving conditions, you know, freeways."  He positively spat with contempt for the lazy driving ways of the non-San Franciscan.  "Here in San Francisco, you're driving up hills.  You're in traffic.  You're stopping and going.  You can't have a transmission last like that."

The Sober Husband and I paid him a large amount of money but weren't ready to fund a new transmission.  "I'd rather get a new car," I said bitterly.  I kept driving the Volvo.  

On one day I had some time to spare, while I waited for Iris ├╝ber Alles and some privileged friends of hers to take a sewing class in scenic Hillsborough, and I found a pleasant garage in Burlingame where I had my oil changed.  I asked the mechanic to change the air filter as well, but he refused.  "This one's still good!" he said.  I found this refreshing, as at my last oil change, a less honest mechanic had tried to bully me into getting a new air filter, and this one was that same, unchanged one.  "You could make a passenger sick with this filter," lectured the sleazy mechanic at me, but this good one held it up and said, "I'm putting it back in."  

This pleasant fellow replaced my serpentine belt for me and changed out my transmission fluid, after I saw for myself how murky it was.  He shook his head when I told him that the car had just been at another mechanic's a week or two before, who hadn't noticed that the serpentine belt was about to break (I verified this with my own eyes) or changed the transmission fluid.  

The Volvo drove me to Burning Man and drove my friend N. back (I felt like a heel giving it to her, but she had to leave early for reasons of child custody, and I wasn't going to be able to cram all of our camp into the Volvo, so she left me her spacious minivan).  But then I was rushing down O'Shaughnessy yet again, with the intentions of speeding merrily all the way to Iris's school for an important meeting, and the car died yet again.  Once again I managed to get across a couple of lanes of busy traffic, and I was shaken.  If that had happened just a few minutes later, I would have been driving 70 or 75 miles per hour in heavy traffic on 280, and it could have caused a horrific accident.  

I had the car towed to my favorite mechanic, the mechanic of my heart, who spent some serious time with it.  "My advice to you," he said, looking me in the eye more seriously than anyone has who wasn't proposing marriage, "is to sell this car immediately.  And I'm not charging you for today."  According to this mechanic, the car hadn't thrown an error code in months, and he could not find anything to cause this intermittent failure.  I got him to tell the Sober Husband all this on the phone.

Gingerly I drove home.  The Sober Husband and I began a debate which has raged on through today, the debate about whether I should get a replacement car and if so, what the hell should it be.  I refuse to drive the Volvo, no matter what pressure I may get from the S.H., who complains that "I spend ten more dollars a day on gas now that you're driving my Prius."  "Well then," I retort, "get me that Mini Cooper I want."  

"Why don't you drive the Volvo?"

"That car is dead to me."  

"Lots of people drive unreliable cars.  Poor people do every day.  I did when I had the Monte Carlo."

It took me a while to develop a proper retort for that argument, but my psychiatrist handed it to me on a plate.  Now I can hiss superiorly, "My psychiatrist thinks you do not value my life highly enough!"  This tends to lead to a silence, a satisfying one on my end.

While all this has been raging on, I've been driving the Prius.  Today the Prius failed as I was attempting to drive to the gym from Lola's school.  It turns out that the dealership had found a problem with the accessory battery, and the skeptical Sober Husband, thinking he was being ripped off, felt that he would prefer to wait until it actually failed before replacing it.  

"I hate this car now, too," I said.  The poor Sober Husband was apologetic over the phone.  "You can take a cab to a dealership and buy a new car," he cajoled me, but I wasn't falling for that.  "I'm not buying any car unless you're right there to agree it's acceptable," I said.  After all, our marriage, unlike the typical one, is largely based upon an unending competition for the moral upper hand.  The failure to replace the accessory battery had put me in a powerful position, and I was not about to throw that advantage away.  But these cars, yes.  I am prepared to throw them away.


Silliyak said...

NEVER take a cab to the dealership! End of the month is best time to buy, make it a WOW event in your mind, no prisoners! Trade in the Volvo. I always say "I'll sign over the trade in for free, just as long as the FINAL price of the purchase car is lower than the competition. Don't tell stories of your travails, you just THINK maybe you'd like a newer car. No desperation.

GodsKid said...

And yes, a MINI Cooper is a wonderful car! I'm on my second one (got a new one cuz the tires wore out on the first one. Yes, really). But they do require 91 octane gas. I have the Clubman (12" inches or so) and I sleep in the back on road trips.

GodsKid said...

err ... "12 extra inches or so"

hetherington said...

"you can take a cab to the dealership and buy a new car." !!! dude. more like automotive heaven! you are so lucky.

the Drunken Housewife said...

You are right, Hetherington, that is a privileged position to be in, but it's sort of not true. Our family lived way beyond our means this past year (in large part not our fault -- we had a lot of termite damage repaired-- but also due to an expensive vacation, the first one in over 7 years, which we took before we learned we had termites). We really can't afford to get me any car I'd want, and also, whatever car I get will be a used car, NOT a new one.

J9 said...

Jesus, your therapist is right, and that statement is helping me deal with my impending divorce, so thank this wonderful person for me!

the Drunken Housewife said...

Love and hugs to you, J9. Leave a comment and let me know how you are.