Good writing, with a strong point and with life oozing out.

Back in Black (Coffee)

January 30, 2007

In an effort to find some fresh mental space, I’m at my favorite retreat, sipping some fresh Kenya and listening to some fresh the everybodyfields.

Last week was wall-to-wall meetings: lunches, coffees, desserts, and plain old talks. Which, if you live where I do, means lots of driving. Which, if you drive what I drive, means lots of nervousness. Crossing the magical 100K mark in the family steed means the beginning of the worry that the timing belt will snap, slapping valves with pistons and putting a bite in our bank account. I knew this repair was coming, which is why I was scouting around in December. I got the Commonwealth-required safety check at my favorite garage, and learned that my man Brian had finally moved on to greener pastures.

I don’t remember how I found Brian in the first place, but he was a rare gem. Slightly downcast and yet earnest, he was honest to a fault. He barely charged anything for his labor, would usually put my car on the lift as soon as I brought it in, and he called me as soon as it was done (usually, with a price that was less than his estimate). On a couple of occasions, he would find a simple fix for an apparently complicated situation, and would be completely forthcoming about all of it. I well remember one time that a mysterious electrical problem was fixed with a single fuse, and he would only charge me two bucks for the part, over and against my vehement protests. It was for reasons like these that I palmed him plenty of twenties over the years, and, in the end, it was his friendly insistence that I buy a newer car that meant the end of our regular relationship. Like I said, he was honest to a fault.

But he’s not there anymore, so I had to find another mechanic. So I asked the sharpest shadetree mechanic I know for a couple of recommendations, and made some calls. Noted who’s prices seemed high, who answered the phone, and who thought to suggest replacing the water pump, drive belts, and hoses while we’re at it. So I settled on the best bet, and waited for a good time to bring the car in.

Which brought me to last week. The tiny loss of coolant I had noticed last month was escalating to the occasional disconcerting waft of steam from under the hood. I couldn’t exactly identify the source, though I kept an eye on the thermostat reading and coolant level. With all of the very important meetings to attend, I’d top off the coolant, say a prayer, cross my fingers, and head off down the road.

Yesterday, I uttered a great prayer of thanks as I pulled it into the parking lot of the auto repair joint. Then I replaced my worry that I’d blow the car up with the worry that I’d be ripped off by the shop, or that the required repair would be outlandishly expensive. I paced around the cell phone this morning, waiting for the diagnosis of the coolant problem. And finally, it came: the leak was coming from… the water pump, which they were replacing anyway!

So I’m awash in relief, reminded that my irresponsibility isn’t always met with justice and that sometimes, high-stakes and potentially painful situations turn out just fine.

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2 Responses to “Back in Black (Coffee)”

  1. dstavlund@aol.com says:

    Mike:

    Odd that your sister went thru similar scenerio with her Honda which called for a new timing belt at 100,000 yesterday-her oil pump was also getting noisy and her serpentine and p/s pump”

    Dad

  2. Ken says:

    I am so jealous of your Kenya after a day of crappy instant coffee that only serves as a caffeine vehicle!

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