Tales from the car shop part one

Posted: January 11, 2012 in Uncategorized
Tags: , ,

I was held captive. There I was in a car dealer’s waiting room sitting in an upright black chair being bombarded with “Judge Joe Brown” and “Judge Judy.” I was stuck there. I couldn’t leave. Like the father of a sick family member in the hospital, I was on pins and needles wondering just what exactly was ailing my 9-year-old vehicle.

The car had some trouble starting, but it was getting worse. From years of operating these machines, I learned that this particular problem could leave me stranded at perhaps the worst moment. While there’s never a good moment for a car to fail on start-up, I really don’t want to be stranded far from home in a dark parking lot on a Sunday night. Indeed, AAA is there for me, but from past experience, they can take up to 10 hours to locate me in my sick vehicle for the long tow.

After more shaky starts, I arrived at the repair shop. I shut the engine off to demonstrate the problem to the service advisor. He jumped in the driver’s seat to start it up and it was dead.

“Uh-oh!” he exclaimed.

I’ve had many of those “uh-oh moments” over the years. That very reaction occurred to me when I brought my un-air-conditioned 1983 Toyota Corolla to the dealer for new brakes. After several hours, the service advisor finally appeared in the waiting room.

“Uh-oh, Mr. Nebel! Your car is blowing out chunks of rust and it won’t start! I’ve never seen this before!” the Cajun service advisor announced to me in the waiting room.

“What should I do?” I queried.

“Well, you need a new catalytic converter and exhaust system,” he replied. “That’ll kick you back over a thousand buhs!”

“That will cost me $1,000?” I translated from his thick Cajun accent.

My young hear sank. I was working in Atlanta for over a year and was not making much. I checked with a nearby independent shop specializing in exhaust repairs. I had AAA tow the tiny vehicle to the shop for a savings of about $400. When I got it back, the car was never the same. Perhaps “a $1,000 buhs” would have saved my car, but at the end of the day, I needed to get rid of it. The car was un-air-conditioned and it was my second Atlanta summer without the “magic auto Freon.” Driving that car in this area in August was pure torture.

I experienced several heartbreaking auto waiting room scenes over the years. This latest event was nothing new although I still cringed at the final price tag for a brand new starter. I never feel good after any auto repair including brakes, which I’ll have to take care of next time. For a 9-year-old car, I’ll put the money into it to get a few more years out of it. Perhaps I could hand it down to my young teen in a few years, who will then have her own share of heartbreaks and quotes over “a thousand buhs.”

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