The RBDing Dong, the RB is dead.  Ok, well maybe she’s not clinically dead, but let’s just say that I finally broke it off after a tumultuous 7-year relationship.  All of my friends told me that I should have done it years ago.  She wasn’t treating me the way I need to be treated, and so I dumped her.  After 7 long years of pain, unmet expectations, unfaithfulness, and general unloving behavior, I am finally free of my RB burden. It’s a good feeling.

I was trying to milk as many years as I could out of her, but the end of our relationship came into focus in the weeks leading up to my wedding.  The latest chapter of the RB started one day about three weeks before my wedding when I was leaving for work.  I tried to back up and couldn’t put her into reverse.  I was able to achieve reverse after a few tries, and went on my way to work, but I noticed on the trip that it was getting more and more difficult to put the RB into gear.  I couldn’t believe that I was having problems with the clutch, since it had been replaced less than a year before by my good friends at Smiling V’s Auto Repair (slogan “We may not be good, but we ARE conveniently located”).

One thing I should explain about the RB is that every time it broke down, I would get ruthlessly overcharged by whoever was involved in the process, whether or not these people bothered to actually fix the problem.  I’m not sure if there is a medical name for it, but dollar signs would actually appear in the eyes of whatever person I was dealing with, and I would end up paying way too much for every little repair.  The RB would generally be totally inoperative at these points, and that, added to the fact that I am lazy, limited my options for bargain shopping.  The RB’s usual mechanic, Smiling V, has perfected the art of charging premium prices for lousy work.  I’m convinced that he owns a private plane named “Tim’s Red Jeep”.

Because the RB was breaking down on a very regular basis, you would think that I would be proactive about it and simply find a new car during the periods that the RB was running properly, but then you would show that you don’t know me very well, because I am not wired that way.  During THOSE times, I was happy not to have a car payment.  I’m not well.

Anyway, by the time I approached work on that particular day, I was practically shoving the RB into gear and it was obvious that something was quite wrong.  I turned the corner in the crippled Jeep and right in front of me was Smiling V’s shop.  Anyone who has read this site in the past might ask me, “Tim, you freaking idiot, why in God’s name are you bringing the RB back to Smiling V?!!”  It would be understandable if they also slapped me around while asking the question.

The reason is first of all, laziness.  Smiling V’s Shop of Horrors is walking distance from my work, and despite the cloven hooves and whippy tail, Smiling V himself seems like a nice guy.  Besides that, HE had replaced my clutch when he replaced the engine the year before and I figured he would cut me a break on the price.  I pulled the RB into the spot painted “Tim’s Jeep”, and handed over the keys as Smiling V flashed me a wide smile over his pointed chin.

After spending the day poring over his golden goose, Smiling V called to inform me that the fluid in the slave cylinder was low.  It’s always a simple problem the first time he attempts a repair.  For some reason, I believed him and went to pick up the RB.  He showed me where he added the fluid and sent me on my way.  Everything was fine for the commute home, but on my way to work the next morning, I was suddenly unable to put the RB into gear as I approached a tollbooth on the Mass Pike.  This is a very uncomfortable feeling, because I was very close to being THAT guy, broken down in the tollbooth.  I was so distracted by my attempt to SHOVE the stick into gear (“Come ON you #@$%@#$%@#$!!!!”) that I went into the wrong tollbooth lane.

I have a FastLane transponder, which enables me to glide through tollbooths without rolling down my window to pay my $1.10.  I had accidentally gone into a non-Fastlane tollbooth lane.  I tried to explain this to the toll collector, who was very kind.  “$3.25,” he said, flashing his best “I know someone at the State House who got me this job that pays more than you make despite my 3rd grade education, halitosis, and lack of front teeth” smile.  I handed over the dough with my nicest “Toll-takers have a very high suicide rates.  Good luck” grin.

Violently jamming the RB into gear only worked until my progress was interrupted by a red light about .25 mile away from Smiling V’s shop.  Luckily there was a Mobil station right there that, it turns out, is owned by Smiling V’s cousin (no, I am not making this up).  With dollar signs in his eyes, Cousin V helpfully towed the RB to Smiling V’s shop for $25.  For a quarter mile.  I wonder if they talk about my Jeep at family reunions.

Smiling V explained that there was nothing wrong with the clutch, except for a lack of fluid.  He said this like it wasn’t a big deal.  Apparently it is normal behavior for year-old clutch cylinders to leak constantly, much like year-old children.  Right.  I see lots of people jamming their cars with year-old clutches into gear every morning on their way to work.  I held my ground and eventually convinced him that there might be a problem with the clutch, and he replaced the master cylinder for free.

I picked up the RB that night and drove off into the cool of the evening, satisfied.  Satisfied, that is, until I got about 300 yards away from his shop and wasn’t able to put the car into gear again.  Smiling V had gone home for the day, but I had by this point purchased some fluid for the clutch.  I filled up the cylinder (which was dry) and after pumping the clutch a few times to build up pressure, was on my way.

It only broke down about 4 more times on my way home, each time involving fluid refilling, clutch pumping and a fair amount of praying.  The cool of the evening had become 85 degree, 90 percent humidity, broken down on the side of the road heat.  The power of prayer got me to my apartment, where RB then died more seriously.  I couldn’t put her into gear, and the fluid was full.

Tired of Incompetent V (who was this time not conveniently located) I had the car towed by my good friends at AAA (slogan:  “It will be three hours”) to a Jeep dealership.  The Jeep mechanic looked the RB over and explained that the slave cylinder needed to be replaced (naturally, since Incompetent V had replaced the MASTER cylinder), and that it would cost quite a bit.  He was on the phone so I didn’t notice whether there were dollar signs in his eyes, but the dealership charged me twice for the diagnostic (to their credit, they caught it before I did and credited my card).

I called Smiling V, and he swore to me that he would fix it (he always tells me that, but he said the magic words…FREE LABOR), so I called AAA and had the RB towed from the Jeep dealership to Smiling V’s…and the (expletive deleted) AAA garage overcharged me by 50 bucks for the tow (I have since been reimbursed by AAA after only 17 phone calls and repeated explanations to people in the wrong department).  I’m telling you, it’s like some kind of curse.

So, anyway, Smiling V finally replaced the slave cylinder that he had installed last summer, and he actually had the stones to charge me for the part because it “wasn’t under warranty.”  The RB worked again, but I was beginning to have doubts about the future of our relationship.  This might have had something to do with the Megger yelling, “Sell it!” every time I mentioned my Jeep.  I figured that, at the very least, I would at least a short grace period of RB functionality.

Nope.  The muffler fell off.  Smiling V replaced the entire exhaust system (Yes, I went back to him.  Shut up.) and did such a great job that the there were only incredible noises coming from underneath the RB when she was idling or going up a hill.  Every time the man has tried to fix anything on that freaking Jeep, it has taken three to four attempts, and I just couldn’t bear to bring it back to him for this latest failure.

So the Megger and I bought a car.  It’s an as-yet unnamed 2002 Mazda 626 with leather seats, sunroof, alloy wheels, power windows, Bose stereo with CD and cassette, and 2700 miles.  This car is a bit of a departure from my experiences of the past 7 years; I almost don’t feel as if I deserve it.

We traded in the RB.  I held my breath while the salesman walked into the room to make me an offer on it, and the paper he put in front of me said $200.  I wasn’t surprised, after all, I know the RB is evil, but I was definitely unhappy.  Then I noticed that the paper actually said $2000.  Dollar signs popped into my eyes and I almost kissed the man.  “WHERE DO I SIGN?!!”

Later, the Megger asked me why I didn’t try to negotiate for more money on the trade-in, and I explained that I was afraid the salesman would say, “Well, let’s go out and take another look at your Jeep.”

So, she’s gone.  People have asked me if I am sad to part with a car that has been such a big part of my life.  I tell them, in all sincerity, “No.”  Sometimes while I’m driving to work in the Mazda, I will break out laughing with joy.  The Mazda is under factory warranty, so I never have to deal with Smiling V again.  Phew.

But, I don’t want to tempt fate by being too joyful, so now, ladies and gentlemen, I am proud to present Hall and Oates:

She’s Gone Oh I, Oh I’d
better learn how to face it
She’s Gone Oh I, Oh I’d
pay the devil to replace her
She’s Gone – what went wrong?

She’s Gone