My car is getting elderly.
It’s of 2007 vintage.
In dog years, that’s about 180. In car years, around 3,000.
Even though my car doesn’t have a lot of kilometres on it, (just under 124,000; some consider a vehicle hardly “broken in” until it reaches 150,000), I have noticed that it may be starting to show some small signs of aging.
However, as anyone could tell you, I am not one of those who must have a new auto every two years or so.
That sort of person actually pores through car journals and dealership flyers, salivating. He can hardly wait to lay his life’s savings down and drive off in the absolutely latest hybrid, voice controlled, computer driven, camera rigged, chromed and shiny car, hot off the assembly lines in Detroit, Berlin, Seoul or Tokyo.
Frankly, if all people purchased new or nearly new cars as often as I do, dealerships would be manned by skeletons. And the latest model out on the road would be an Edsel.
I tend, on the whole, to see a car as essentially one of those ‘necessary’ things in life, a product that you must purchase whether you truly want to or not (like refrigerators or toilet paper.)
I don’t think this attitude makes me cheap.
It just indicates that I possess other deep and sincere priorities in my life – universal health care, ongoing rural education, good, fiscally responsible government, world peace…
Alright, I’m cheap.
I tend to hold on to a vehicle for a long, long time. Possibly well after its ‘best before’ date.
One of my vehicles, actually the one even before the car I am currently driving, was known locally as the Ratmobile II.
The Ratmobile II eventually took on the look of a vehicle which had recently emerged from a war zone…and been on the losing side.
Dealers came to beg me, with tears in their eyes, to please, please, as a favour to them, take their business names off the licence plates of that car.
One thing I will say, in my defence, is that I am very conscientious about taking all my cars in for their regular physicals and check ups. I believe in preventative care.
(I also walk around my car regularly and kick each of its tires several times. I don’t know what this is supposed to accomplish in terms of car maintenance, but I’ve seen people do it in the movies and, frankly, it looks really cool.)
However, if I sense any sort of real problem, I make a point of calling a service desk and booking an immediate appointment.
It’s when I pull into the bay of the garage that problems may begin.
Mechanics are highly skilled, well seasoned, exceptional trades people. They have spent years learning how to maintain and repair vehicles and there are few problems in car care that these professionals have not faced.
Until I pull into the service bay.
The lines of communication just seem to break down at that point.
The thing is, unless you arrive with smoke pouring from the engine, or the trunk lid dragging on the ground because you have backed into the single, solitary tree in the middle of a completely empty parking lot (I did that: another unfortunate story for another day), there may be no obvious evidence of this ‘problem’ you’ve noticed.
As a result, the mechanics must rely on you to tell them what you suspect is wrong.
That’s where the breakdown in communications begins.
Things never start off well.
“When I’m driving I hear this ka-thumpty, thumpty, ping, click noise,” I say to the gathered mechanics.
A pregnant pause. “What?”
“Ka-thumpty, thumpty ping click. Only sometimes there’s also a brum, brum, grind, grind, rrrrr, thud sound, too.”
“Brum, brum, grind, grind, thud?”
“You forgot the rrrr,” I point out.
“Brum, brum, grind, grind, rrrr, thud?”
“Yes, that’s it! And there is often a squeak, squeak, clank, ping, ping with that too.”
“Brum, brum, grind, grind, rrrr thud, squeak, squeak, clank, ping ping??”
At this point even I realize that it sounds like we are having some kind of conversation in ancient Klingon.
And the mechanics are looking both mystified and really distressed.
“My car won’t go,” I finally say.
Miracle workers that they are, the service people eventually locate the actual problem and they fix it.
In no time at all, my elderly car will go.
Ratmobile III does still ping at times, but I like to think of it as the engine having a gentle case of hiccups.
I’m good on the road for years yet.