Archive for July, 2003

The RB Strikes Again

My 1991 Red Jeep Wrangler, otherwise known as The RB (Red B****), should serve as a warning to anyone who sees a Jeep drive by and says to themselves, “Jeeps are cute, I want one.” Let me put it this way: People at my work have begun calling me “Red Jeep” because they hear me calling the garage and saying, “Hi, I’m calling about the Red Jeep” so often. I am sure that anyone who read my previous article on the subject has already been scared away, so perhaps this column is unnecessary, but I feel that the story must be told.

About two months ago, I noticed that the Jeep was running a little rougher than usual. I’m not sure how I noticed this over the constant RAP RAP RAP of the engine (due to the previous replacement of the engine lifters), but once I noticed, the fact that the engine was laboring was unmistakable. The RB had no “getup” (it never had much, but this was worse), the engine always seemed like it was about to stall, and things just did not seem good. My suspicions were confirmed one day at lunch when the RB seriously overheated, but did not stall, on a hill on Route 2.

I exited the highway and parked the smoking Jeep in a strip mall. I let the engine cool down, filled the radiator (which was bone dry) with water, and then drove The RB to Smiling V’s Auto Repair. The mechanic, Smiling V, who I am convinced has purchased a plane named “Tim’s Red Jeep”, promised to investigate and test the cooling system for me.

The next day, Smiling V told me that he couldn’t find any problems with the cooling system, nor with the engine in general. I am always suspicious when mechanics can’t find anything to fix, but he refilled the radiator and I asked him to do a tune-up on the engine, in hopes that this would help the overall performance and attitude of the vehicle. With tune-up, the entire process of finding nothing wrong cost me $170 worth of gas for Smiling V’s plane.

The next day, to the surprise of no one, The RB overheated again on my way to work. I drove The RB directly to Smiling V, who popped the hood and immediately declared that I had a blown head gasket, which would cost over $1000 to repair. He suggested replacing the engine, and when I asked him what the cost of a new (used) engine would be, and he agreed to check it out for me.

I also began to suspect (yes, it took this long) that Smiling V was either leading me down the garden path, or he was an incompetent boob. He wouldn’t charge me $170 for a tune-up on a car with a blown head gasket, would he? Is it possible that he didn’t KNOW that the head gasket was blown on one day, then immediately detected it the second day? I suppose that there is a slight possibility that the head gasket blew, due to the overheating, between my first and second visits to the shop, but then what was causing the overheating? Smiling V certainly didn’t know. I was leaning towards, “boob”.

It turns out that an engine from a 1994 Jeep with 70,000 miles on it was going to cost $1500. After thinking about it, I went against the advice of everyone I know and decided to have the engine put in . I also asked Smiling V to put a new clutch in, since the engine would be out of The RB and there would be no additional labor involved. I knew that if I didn’t put in a new clutch, the chances were 100% that the clutch would fail the first time I drove The RB with the new engine. All told, the bill came to $1650 worth of landing gear for Smiling V.

I was excited to get The RB back. The new engine didn’t make the RAP RAP RAP sound, and The RB actually accelerated when I pressed on the gas pedal. It was almost like having a new car. My euphoria lasted until the first Saturday after the engine was replaced.

I was exiting the Mass Pike on my way to a softball tournament 60 miles from Boston, when I suddenly couldn’t put The RB into gear. If I tried to put it into gear, a loud grinding noise would be produced, and the top of the shifter would transform into a big middle finger. Luckily for me, the exit ramp broke into two lanes, so I coasted into the right lane and came to a stop. I shut off the engine and started it again. More grinding. I will neither confirm nor deny the rumor that it was at this point that a fist shaped dent appeared in the dashboard of The RB.

As the ramp traffic whizzed by us, we called the State Police on the Megger’s cell phone. After we told them exactly where we were, the State Police promised to show up to protect us from the traffic, and to call a tow truck for us. Neither the State Police, nor their tow truck, ever showed up. I’m sure that there was a good reason for their no-show; for example, the South Boston Police might have needed help handing out street cleaning parking tickets. We waited for them for about a half hour before calling AAA (yes, I know we should have called them first).

While waiting for AAA, I called Smiling V and explained to him that I was more than slightly unhappy with the quality of his workmanship. He actually managed to sound apologetic, and excitedly began to give me detailed instructions about how to fix the problem. With his foreign accent, the static on the cell phone, and the passing traffic, I think he was telling me to that the first thing I needed to do was to rape a fire hydrant. I didn’t see any fire hydrants nearby, so I thanked him for the help, told him I would drop by for a visit on Monday, and hung up.

INTERMISSION. I realize that this article is getting seriously long, so please feel free to get up, stretch your legs, go to the bathroom, watch Mexican Cat Juggling, sing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame”, whatever. ………………………………..Oops, the lights are blinking.

After a short while, the AAA guy, let’s call him Earl, showed up in an ordinary tow truck. Earl explained to me that he couldn’t tow The RB with his ordinary tow truck because The RB is a 4-wheel drive vehicle, which would require a flatbed truck. Being something of an expert where the towing of The RB is concerned, I know that what Earl said is complete horsepucky, and I told him so, but he just didn’t feel like working, so we waited for the flatbed.

Once The RB was on the flatbed, the flatbed driver, we’ll call him Merle, tried to convince me to have The RB towed to his garage, about 20 miles away, which would cost me $$ because it was well outside the range of my free AAA tow, and where they MIGHT be able to work on it Monday. I thanked him for his suggestion, and suggested that we could find a garage just off of the highway. Merle thought about this for a minute, scratched his chin, ran his tongue over both of his teeth, adjusted his cap, and agreed.

The first place we went was a Sunoco station with a garage. I asked the kid behind the counter if the garage was open, and he explained to me that they didn’t operate the garage any more. He directed me to a garage down the road.

When I went back to the flatbed to tell this to Merle, he was quite agitated. It seemed that Earl has found another broken down vehicle which was he was “unable” to tow. I told Merle that I appreciated his situation, but that I needed him to take me to the next station, since my car wouldn’t drive there by itself. Merle was not excited about the possibility of upsetting Earl, but agreed to take The RB to the next garage.

The mechanic at the next garage told me that he did not work on clutches, but explained that the Firestone garage down the street might be able to look at it. Merle apparently had been receiving quite an earful from Earl over the radio, because he became extremely agitated and began attempting to unload The RB while advising me to call a different towing company. The mechanic (bless him) began shouting at Merle and telling me to call AAA to complain. I played the role of Switzerland and convinced Merle to take The RB to Firestone.

Before I could even speak to the mechanics at Firestone, Merle had unloaded The RB in the Firestone parking lot and rushed off to do Earl’s work. Luckily, the people at Firestone were very nice and agreed to work on The RB that very day.

They were able to fix the problem, which turned out to be an empty slave cylinder, which, in their words, “should have been replaced when the clutch was replaced”. Their work cost me $100, but I was relieved that it wasn’t more.

On Monday, I drove The RB to Smiling V and presented him with the bill. Smiling V promised to give me a “credit” for future work instead of giving me the $100 cash. He also explained that he shouldn’t have to pay because if I had simply raped the fire hydrant as he had suggested, The RB would have lasted the weekend and I could have had him fix it.

I told Smiling V that I was not planning to need $100 worth of work done, and that I would prefer the cash. This caused him to begin shouting at me, but I set my jaw and basically told him that if he stood behind his work, he would shut up and give me the money. I also explained that a number my work friends brought their cars to Smiling V’s Auto Repair. This comment brought out his alter ego, Frowning V, who told me to come back the next day so that he could, “take care of this.”

When I went to the shop the next day, Smiling V had returned. He handed me the cash and apologized for the misunderstanding. Apparently, he felt bad about our disagreement, because he then told me to bring The RB back in about 1500 miles for a “free oil change”. I’m afraid that in Smiling V’s native language, “free oil change” means “a chance to get even”, so I thanked him and left, vowing never to allow him to touch The RB again.

Since then, The RB has done its best to lull me into a sense of security. It has been running well, and has more “getup” than it has had in years. The heat began working for the very first time, and the passenger side speaker, which had been silent for more than a year, suddenly came to life. So, for now, for the first time in years, I actually have a working Jeep. My friend Matt has suggested that, before it is too late, I should take this opportunity to paint The RB green. It’s an intriguing idea, but I just don’t think that The GB has the same ring to it.

The Day to Day Grind Tim 25 Jul 2003 No Comments

Gof (without the L)

Mark Twain, who knew a thing or two about a thing or two, once said that, “Golf is a good walk spoiled.”

For me, since most golf courses don’t allow people to walk the course anymore, golf could be described as “Frustration a la cart.”

I am a terrible golfer.  I play just often enough to be frustrated by my lack of skill, but not often enough to actually improve.  I don’t believe that I have ever played with anyone worse than I am.

My level of dedication to golf is probably explained by the fact that I once left my golf shoes undisturbed in the back of my roofless Jeep for an entire summer.  When I went to use the shoes the following year, I was surprised to find that, after a summer’s worth of rain and sunshine, the shoes no longer fit.

Since I am a horrible golfer, the fun of golf for me is watching the people who play it.  Here are a few of the strange things I’ve seen on the course:

·        A guy named Billy once had one of his clubs positioned upside down in his golf bag.  When it was pointed out that it probably wasn’t good for the club to be stored that way, Billy responded, “That’s ok, I did it on purpose.  That club is on punishment.”

·        Billy also likes to have fun with my friend Brian.  He once wedged a 5-wood between the seat and the gas pedal of Brian’s golf cart.  As the cart began to trundle off on auto-pilot into the distance, Brian stood with his hands on his hips and said, “That’s not cool, that cart is in my name…I’m not going to get that…I’m not getting it…come on…OH NO!”  Brian took off running and just caught the cart before it drove itself over a small cliff.

·        My friend Dawn swung and missed at the same ball three times.  On the third strike, the three people in her group jumped out of their carts and called her “OUTOUTOUTOUTOUT!!”

·        I was playing once many years ago with my brother and his friend Rene.  Rene was, to put it mildly, not having a good round.  The only club he was hitting well was the 3-wood.  After a few holes, I heard my brother tell Rene, “I would keep hitting that 3-wood until the head flies off of it.”  Sure enough, a couple of holes later, Rene took a swing at a ball in the fairway.  The club hit the ground and with a SNAP, and the head of the club went spinning down the fairway (while the ball sat peacefully in the grass, unharmed).

·        I was in my golf cart on the fairway of the first hole in my family’s annual “just for fun” golf tournament.  Almost my entire family was watching as I drove up a hill, stopped, and got out without setting the hill brake.  My family then got to watch me chase my golf cart down the hill until it ran into a tree.  Luckily, there was no damage, except to my ego.

Maybe this will be the year that I give golf a real chance.  The last time I was out, I hit a few nice shots, so maybe I could be a good player some day.  Maybe I should start playing every week.  Maybe my game will get better and golf will be fun, not frustrating.

Maybe I should just go take a walk.

The Day to Day Grind Tim 15 Jul 2003 No Comments