Sunday, September 24, 2006

Bad Battery Karma

The clock in the dining area died. I call it the dining area and not the dining room because the dining table is only nine inches away from the couch. But as I was saying—the clock is dead. When we came in from a day of frolicking some time past six in the evening, the hands of the clock indicated 3:39. The second hand struggled to rise up the left side, lurching at the 9 and failing. Lurching and failing. It was the kind of Sisyphean hopelessness Albert Camus wrote about, played out by a battery powered wall clock. This mechanical failure is just the most recent in a maddening series of malfunctions, and it’s the least significant. It feels a bit like the last straw.

We call my car the RBO—short for “Rolling Blue Oven.” It has no air conditioning, unlike Michele’s car, and has a tendency to build up heat quickly in the summer, even with the windows cracked. Well, a week after classes ended this spring the RBO stopped starting. The battery was dead for the third time in eight months. I’m no mechanic, but that indicated to me that there might be a deeper problem than bad battery karma. Since the problem was clearly electrical, and since Father in Law is a master electrician with a pretty keen understanding of the automobile, he offered to diagnose my chronically ill RBO.

In the meantime, we still had Michele’s car—a 1989 model she’d inherited from her grandfather—which was enough for us to get by with since Michele was busing to school all summer to do her research. Before too long Father in Law had the problem with the RBO figured out and fixed. It seems that inside my rusty driver’s door a couple of rusty wires had rusted apart and lay in a bed of rust, thus shorting out my electrical system and draining the battery. We decided to leave the RBO parked at their house for a bit, though, since it needed a brake job, an oil change, a new headlight, and new windshield wipers, and I didn’t feel up to all that.

Then, on my way to work one morning, Michele’s car died on me. I turned the corner and the engine just faded and died. While I rolled down a slight decline I laughed like a madman, pounded the hazard lights on, shifted into neutral, and tried to start the engine. Nothing. The starter whirred, but there was no catch. I took advantage of the slope and rolled into a parking lot, parking neatly in an empty space as though I had intended my journey to end there. I was still cackling, and my eyes hurt, they were so wide.

Mother in Law came to the rescue, with Demon Nephew in tow. Demon Nephew is actually a very nice soon-to-be-three-year-old who really likes me, really likes to talk, and is actually pretty sharp. He never stops moving, and when strapped into his car seat he makes up for his immobility by constant conversation.

As we drove back to get the RBO out of storage DN informed me that, “Jason car broke.”

“That’s right, Demon Nephew,” I said. “My car broke.”

“Jason car not work.”

“That’s right.” I took a deep breath. “It doesn’t work.”

“Jason car died.”

A very helpful lad, the Demon Nephew.

Eventually I got the RBO and got to work. Later I got the oil changed, swapped out a headlight and a taillight, and bought some brake pads. Future Brother in Law had volunteered to help me change them, and since I’m a mechanical imbecile, I accepted the offer. Him helping me actually would have amounted to him doing the work while I handed him tools and otherwise made myself useless, but even that didn’t go well.

We couldn’t get the damned wheels off the car.

We got the nuts off just fine, but the wheels were fused in place, so we bolted it back up and I took the car to Local Shop.

The verdict at Local Shop? I need new rotors. And the calipers and some other thingy are frozen. And my CV boot is “broken open and exposed.”

“Do you hear a clunk when you turn?” Mechanic asked me.


“You will shortly.”

I told them to just reassemble the RBO and that I’d have to wait on the other repairs. Mechanic looked as though he pitied me. He said the work would likely cost about $500. I figured I could get it done cheaper, now that the wheels had been broken loose, but I didn’t say that to him. He might cut my brake line like they do in movies and I’d roll over a cliff. I kind of wanted to.

So when we came home a week ago yesterday and the clock had died, I didn’t want to deal with it. I still don’t, and I’m not sure when I will. The second hand gave up its struggle before morning and I gave up my struggle with all things mechanical at about the same time. The clock only takes one AA battery, and we keep those in a cabinet about five feet away from where it hangs on the wall. The clock and the batteries are within easy reach. I just can’t take any more of this mechanical mutiny. The RBO still needs major repairs, and we still don’t know what’s wrong with Michele’s car. So I’ll let the clock sit there on the wall, unticking, until it learns it can’t mess with me. I’ve had it.


Just This Girl said...

You married a rocket scientist when you should've married an auto mechanic.

Well, maybe it's time you became Mormon.

Diana said...


Jason said...

I'm already a moron.

Wait--a Mormon? Why?

I think I married the right woman, but maybe I should try to convince her to go into psychotherapist school.