I Want a New Car for Christmas
Cindy, my wife, was squeaking at me the other day. “Tim, I need a new car.”
“What’s wrong with your Camry?” I replied, scarcely able to believe my ears.
“It’s 15 years old.”
“So, it runs fine. And it’s paid for.”
“The tail light is broken.”
“It’s the lens actually, hon. The light still works.”
“Well, what about the passenger window that doesn’t go down, and the dome light that doesn’t light, and the big cloud of blue smoke that follows me everywhere, and…”
“You should be thankful that window is up,” I interrupted. “It could have been brok… er locked in the down position instead. Winter’s here, you know.”
“Yes. I know,” she said icily. “I might consider actually taking my car shopping today, but I can’t because my puny, 2-wheel drive car can’t even make it up our driveway in this snow.”
“You could throw on some chains,” I suggested brightly.
“About the only thing I’m gonna chain is my car to an anchor just before I drive it into the Sound.”
“Say,” I said with a lilt. “I’ve got an idea. Why don’t you take my Jeep — shopping that is, not into the Sound. It’s got 4-wheel drive and it’s a lot newer. It’s a ’95.”
“I hate your Jeep. It’s a piece. Is there any other family in America that has two vehicles, both with the same window stuck in the up position?”
“Such a triviality. Again, I remind you that it’s winter, darling. Up is preferable. Now, what say? Wanna take the Jeepster?”
“Okay, I’ll take it. But not because I want to.”
“Great! Now, remember I showed you how to lock in the front hubs and put it in 4-wheel drive? Right. But keep in mind, as soon as you hit pavement, you need to unlock them again and take it out of 4-wheel drive or you’ll wear out the transfer case. Oh, and if you need the emergency brake, the little plastic button is broken, but it still works if you pull out the nubbin with one hand and pull the handle up with the other. Oh, and remember, I took the engine’s thermostat out, so the heater takes quite a while to heat up… but once it does, boy, it heats like a blow torch! Yes, and one last thing, if you’re low on gas and you take a left turn too fast, sometimes it quits in the intersection. So make sure if you do that, there’s no cars coming the other way. Wouldn’t want an accident — not this close to Christmas!”
She replied with her eyes, only then stomped away. Probably grateful I didn’t tell her what was really wrong with the old Jeepster!
A few hours later the phone rang. It was Cindy. She sounded cross.
“Tim. I — hate — this — car.”
“What’s wrong, my little shopmeister?”
“You need to come get me. I’m at the mall and your car won’t start.”
“What? It always starts for me.”
“Well, when I turn the key it just makes this gggkkkkkggkkgkkgkkgkgkgkkgkkk sound.”
“Hey, you did that pretty well — I can tell exactly what the problem is! Bet you left the lights on, hunh? See, that sound is the solenoid trying to engage, but there isn’t enough amperage to lock the electromagnetic piston firmly against the slave plate, thereby completing…”
“TIM! I don’t care what the electromccallit solemajig does. JUST COME GET ME…NOW!”
I felt compelled to correct her, but thought better of it. “What should I come get you in?” I asked.
“Well, what about the Camry? It’s our only other car isn’t it?” I thought I detected a touch of sarcasm in her voice.
“We’ve got a little problem there, hon. Your key is the only one that will turn the Camry’s ignition switch. Mine fits in the slot well enough, but the tumblers must be worn a tad thereby not allowing the grooves to align properly.”
“Hon, you still there? Did you hear me… my key won’t…”
“YES — I HEARD YOU!”
“Good. Well, I’m afraid we’ll have to resort to Jeep-rescue-plan-‘B’. I’m pretty sure the old Lawn Rocket garden tractor has a 12-volt battery. I’ll just jump on it and scoot over. You’re approximately six and three-quarters miles away. At five and a half miles per hour, I ought to be there in just over 74 minutes.”
When we got home at about midnight, the neighbors happened to be visiting and they and my kids ganged up on me, insisting that I get my gal a new rig for Christmas. What didn’t they understand about the “But it’s paid for!” part? However, reflecting back on all the negative energy, wasted time and frostbite I’d endured over this whole car thing, after some more thought, I tended to agree with them.
Which brings me to the hard-hitting moral of this festive holiday story: Your crew will be a lot happier, not to mention more productive, if you keep them outfitted in good gear.
Tim Garrison of ConstructionCalc.com, is a professional engineer, author, and software producer for the building industry. Check out his new book, Cracks, Sags, and Dimwits, available at www.lulu.com.
Send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Tim reads every one.
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