Friday, July 29, 2011

My Car Is Trying to Kill Me: Part Two

Read the first half of this saga here.

I made the mistake of thinking everything was going to be okay.

My car has what my brother has affectionately termed, "ghetto brakes." The name comes from his former roommate, Jerome, who grew up in what Fort Wayne has that passes for a ghetto. Since I have a friend who was shot in the face just for opening his front door in Fort Wayne*, I'd imagine it sort of does have a bad part of town, and if Jerome says he grew up there, I suppose I believe him. But I will never let him pull my teeth when he becomes a dentist, even if he does think up ingenious solutions to problems. This is because, despite his claims, pouring a cup of water on the floor and stomping on the liquid does not count as washing the carpet. I don't know what the tooth equivalent of that is, and I don't want to find out.

My brakes got their nickname due to the squeaking. Screeching, really. I had them taken apart and reassembled three times before I gave up and accepted the noise as a part of life. According to Expert Opinion, the screech occurred due to dirt and grime that became trapped in the rotors. They would get cleaned out, but the screech would come back a few days later. You would have given up too, if you had to go without your car so much.

Noisy or not, they were good, reliable brakes. They worked well, even if they were so loud I stopped going through drive-thru windows out of shame.

When Mom's brakes went out last Saturday, I got into my car with confidence, knowing that MY brakes were loud but TRUSTWORTHY. My car would never hurt me. My car LOVES me.

That is a lie.

Today I left work to drop off my car payment. See how responsible I am? But after I handed off the check, I noticed a change in the behavior of my brakes. By that, I mean they weren't behaving. At all.

Again, when I pressed the pedal, it swooshed down to the floor of the car with no resistance. The car continued to roll forward determinedly, leaving me grinding my teeth down to nubs from my place in the driver's seat.

"This can't be happening," I said out loud. "It is too much of a coincidence for my car and Mom's car to fail within the same week."

But sure enough, it WAS happening. At the next stop light, which was (mercifully) green, I continued to roll into the intersection. There I waited to make my turn, then made my way into a parking spot at the library. Once there, I applied my emergency brake, put the car in park, and turned it off. Still sitting inside, I started making phone calls.

The first was to my dad, as it is each time a horrible car-related thing happens. Who knows why. It isn't as if he can fix cars or tow them or even offer reassurance, but he changes a mean tire, and his jumper-cable skills are legendary throughout the county.

I reached his voicemail, and the message went something like this:

"Hey Dad. You know how Mom and I have identical cars? Well. We also have identical car problems, because that brake thing that happened to her car is now happening to mine. My car is like death on wheels. It is like one of those Loony-Tune giant snowball things, only in summer instead of winter. I don't know if you want to pick it up and drive it home or have it towed. You can do either. But I wouldn't drive it if I were you. You shouldn't drive it. Just have it towed. Don't drive it. It's deadly. I am not even kidding you. This car will kill you dead. I'm parking it and leaving it. You shouldn't touch it. Anyway. Bye."

Then I hung up the phone and called my car guy. I reached his voicemail.

"Hello!" I shouted into the phone because my car guy is basically deaf, which is why he could not hear the screeching and therefore why the screeching was never repaired. "It's Laura! Kelly's daughter! You fixed my mother's car! But now my car is having the same problem! Can you come tow it?! It is at the library! Call me back if you have questions!"

Except the instant the beep sounded, the voicemail box said, "Goodbye." And I talked for a few seconds and moved the phone from my ear, only to discover the voicemail box thing had hung up on me while I was talking. So it recorded nothing.

I stared at my phone. Then I called home. Mom answered.

"Mom?" I said. "My brakes failed just like yours. And now it is at work. But I will need a ride home at five."

Of course, Mom cannot drive anyone anywhere, including herself, because she let her license expire.

"Paul?" Mom called. "Can you drive Laura home at five?"

There was a mumbled response.

"Paul will come pick you up at five," Mom said.

"Thank you," I told her. Then I hung up. I then sent Dad a text message.

"I called the car guy, but his voicemail box must have been full or something, because it hung up on me. So I didn't reach him. But I will try again. But maybe you should try too. And you can call me back at the work number. But make sure you ask for me so they will transfer you. Also I have a ride home."

It must have been longer than that, because it sent as three text messages and not one.

Moments later, I was calling my car guy again. This time his voicemail let me leave a message. "It's Laura. Can you pick up my car from the library? It's Laura. Kelly's daughter. The pastor. That Kelly." It went on for a while after that, including references to Mom's car, brake lines, towing, and how to properly reach me via the library phone system ("call the library. Ask for Laura and they will transfer you. Or you can ask for the Children's Room. That would work,too. But make sure you don't just talk to the first person who picks up, because they will have no idea what you're talking about...").

Then, Dad called back. "I will come and get you," he said.

"No," I replied. "Paul is coming. And anyway, I am not going home until five."

"Oh," Dad said. "I will try to reach the car guy. But he might be in Indy. He goes there practically twice a week for auctions."

"Okay," I said. "I will just leave my car here."

"Good. We shouldn't drive it around like that."

"No," I said.

"But I hate to tell you this," he continued. "You're going to have to leave your car unlocked. And put the keys under the mat."

Now. The library isn't in the most horrible neighborhood on Earth, mostly because this is not a big town or even a small one. It is more a settlement than anything. We are lucky to have a Walmart. Or a zip code. But what we do have is drugs, and lots of them, especially heroin. You would be shocked to find out how much drug activity there is in this area. SHOCKED. Needless to say, if anything of value is left in a vehicle in our parking lot, and, if said vehicle is left unlocked, the thing of value will no longer be there when its owner returns to the car.

The good news would be, if someone stole my car, it would be easy to find. My car would be a block or two down the street, wrapped around a tree or telephone pole, or embedded in a shop window or brick wall.

"Dad," I said. "I can leave my car here. I can leave my keys inside. But I cannot leave my keys in my car if I want to come back and find my car again. Either it will be stolen, or people will get inside it and smoke and drink and maybe do unspeakable things in the backseat."

"Okay," Dad said.

"We can drop the keys off tomorrow. And I will leave a set here inside the building with a note on them."

We hung up. Then he called back, the car guy was going to try to come today, before five. This was good news. Then he called back again to tell me the car guy was on his way. This was better news.

As of now, I have a set of keys in my pocket, ready to be handed off to the car guy the instant he comes for them. Hopefully, I will get my car BACK before I need it for something important, but it has grounded me for the weekend, trapping me at home with Netflix and Star Trek: Voyager instead of allowing me to do what I'd WANTED to do, which was head to Best Buy to use my birthday money to get the radio fixed. Now my birthday money might go toward replacing the brake lines. Yay.

Grown-up birthdays are no fun.

*This was a couple of years ago. He made a full recovery. The motive was robbery. The guys stole a VCR. Really. Not even a DVD player

Birthday cake picture © Will Clayton


  1. Oh, that's so scary! Is it fixed yet?

    And heroin where you are? Seriously? Yikes. This world we live in.

  2. First answer, it was fixed THE NEXT DAY. That is how amazing my Car Guy is. He must have cleared his schedule just for me. Perks of being a pastor's daughter!

  3. SECOND answer: Yes, heroin here. Lots. And so much meth, it breaks my heart.