I’m a reasonably mechanically-inclined person. I’m relatively comfortable with building desktop computers and other reasonably complex electronics, and as a kid I liked to tinker with stuff, taking it apart in order to see how it worked, only to more or less get it working again once I put it back together. Well, my Nintendo Zapper might not have ever been the same since I unscrewed it and played with it, but I was terrible at Duck Hunt anyway.
However, I know fuck-all about the internal combustion engine – a relatively embarrassing tidbit of information in light of the fact that my grandfather literally made a living as a garage mechanic for years, and wouldn’t have been able to provide the wherewithal to support my father and his two siblings otherwise. That garage still exists today, handed down to the man who married my aunt; it’s still in the family, even if the last name on the shingle might have changed.
Me? I don’t even change my own oil. Don’t give me that look; there was a goddamn Jiffy Lube 5 minutes from the place where I grew up, and I used the same local mechanic my father has for years when I still lived on Long Island. Sure, I can do things like change a spare tire and change my windshield wiper blades, and I know how the car works in theory, but could I rebuild an engine myself? No way. I get exhausted just watching Wheeler Dealers on BBC America.
I’ve noticed that this has become a bit of a problem, now that I’ve moved away from home and into the wilds of southeastern Pennsylvania, especially after discovering that the check engine light of my 2002 Honda Civic turned on yesterday. This was enough to send me into paroxysms of anxiety, considering the dire fate of my last car, but I finally calmed down enough to take it to the local Advance Auto Parts to get a free diagnostic. They’re called idiot lights for a reason, after all, and the good news was it was just a problem with the super-complicated emissions processor for the Civic, and would result in nothing more than degraded gas mileage until I got it fixed.
I was busy breathing a sigh of relief when the guy who was running the diagnostic for me hit me with the bad news: his little hand-held computer was detecting a further problem, something that wouldn’t have tripped one of the idiot lights. Turns out there’s something up with my transmission, a possible clogged line that could result in some gears sticking. I’d actually noticed the car sort of misbehaving the other week, sometimes suddenly downshifting when dropping under 20 miles an hour or so, but it was intermittent so I wasn’t worried about it – until the Advance Auto Parts guy said that he didn’t recommend I take any long trips anywhere without getting it checked out first.
Now, my normal vehicle maintenance is to simply turn the radio up until I stop hearing the rattle coming from the engine, but I knew that that shit wouldn’t fly this time – especially with the second-ever Legacy event coming up this weekend. It’s a two-hour trip by car, and there was no way in hell I was getting both myself and my fiancée stranded out in the wilds of northern Pennsyltucky – and certainly not while dressed like rejects from the Renaissance Faire. Lucky for us, two of the amazing Legacy staff members came to our rescue and offered us a ride for the weekend, so we managed to dodge that bullet.
Still, I’m pretty annoyed about the transmission problem. It’s not likely to be a cheap or quick fix, and it’s going to be disheartening if the cash I’ve been saving up to put towards the wedding ends up going towards keeping the car on the road. It’ll have to wait until after the weekend, as I’ve still got errands to run during this week and I can’t exactly thumb a ride down to the local Piggly Wiggly for beer and pork rinds, but getting this thing fixed just has to take priority, even if it’s going to hurt like a motherfucker. Also makes me wish I had hung out at my grandfather’s garage more as a kid.