Mechanical Failure

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I have a 1987 Hyundai Excel named Pedro who is an absolute piece of garbage. He knows it, too, and he seems to have a mischievous, pixie-like attitude about the whole thing, randomly breaking down or blowing up just out of sheer adolescent immaturity. Also, I’m pretty sure he’s possessed by the devil.

The most recent trouble started when Pedro began running sluggishly, refusing to go more than 60 mph on the freeway. At first I thought this was because he had been in Utah too long and was merely trying to fit in with the rest of the cars, many of which never go above 50, except in the Food-4-Less parking lot, where they go 90. But then I realized there was something wrong with Pedro.

And so I decided to take him in for a tune-up, mainly because I found a coupon for a place that would do it for only $24.95. I figured a tune-up might solve the problem, and even if it didn’t, at least the mechanic could tell me what the problem was.

The thing is, the place offering the $24.95 tune-up was a place I had not heard of, called “Idiot Brothers,” or something like that. (LESSON #1: Never go to a mechanic you’ve never heard of.) It was way down in south Provo, pretty much in the back of some guy’s garage, next to his outhouse. This made me nervous, but I figured: It’s just a tune-up. How can you do a tune-up incorrectly? (LESSON #2: You can do a tune-up incorrectly.)

Somehow, the Idiot Brothers managed to give Pedro a tune-DOWN by mistake. He ran worse afterwards, and now the air-conditioner didn’t work. I did not realize these problems until after I’d already left, of course, and the Idiot Brothers were already out back shootin’ possums and sippin’ sun tea with their sister-cousin.

Before I took the car, Idiot Brother No. 1 told me an elaborate story detailing all the things wrong with my car. My, was it ever a fanciful story! I don’t remember all the details, but I do remember “wheel bearings.” He said the wheel bearings were so bad that I shouldn’t even be driving it. He seemed REEEEAAAL worried about the wheel bearings. He said, “I shouldn’t even let you take the car.” And I thought: “Well, it IS my car. I can pretty much take it wherever I want.” But, oh, did he ever want to fix those wheel bearings!

(LESSON #3: Mechanics want to fix everything, including things that are not broken.)

(ADDENDUM TO LESSON #3: They have no desire, however, to fix the way they speak or groom themselves.)

To hear Idiot Brother No. 1 tell it, if I drove another mile, all four wheels were just going to fall off the axles, right there in the middle of the street. But that’s how it always is. Mechanics are so melodramatic. “If you take this car another 50 feet, the engine will burst into a ball of flame, and YOU WILL DIE!” is a typical mechanic statement. So you learn to take whatever they say with a grain of salt.

Anyway, I took Pedro and immediately noticed the aforementioned new problems — problems that did not exist prior to the “tune-up.” Also, I noticed a smell. My car smelled like Idiot Brother — sort of a B.O./cigarette/grease monkey combo, and it wasn’t pleasant.

(LESSON #4: When you leave your car at the shop, leave the windows rolled down.)

Once I realized the air conditioner had quit working, I was faced with a dilemma. I KNEW it did not need to be recharged, because it had just been recharged last winter. You see, last winter my heater quit working. (Winter is traditionally the time of year when heaters quit working.) So I took it to a place and had them fix it. Then, when I came back to pay for the work, they said I also had to pay for them to recharge the air conditioning. I said, “The air conditioning works fine. It didn’t need to be recharged.” They said, “In order to work on the heater, we had to discharge the air conditioning, and then recharge it when we were through.”

This has puzzled me ever since. Can you imagine such logic in other situations?

“Well, we were able to rotate your tires, but you’ll have to pay for new windows, too, ’cause we busted ’em all.”

“Mr. Johnson, as soon as the anesthesia takes effect, we’ll remove your appendix. But first, we’ll break both of your kneecaps with a sledgehammer.”

“We’ll have I-15 up and running in time for the Olympics, don’t worry about that. But while we’re at it, we’ll go ahead and tear up all the side streets, too, mostly just for fun.”

The point is, I knew the air-conditioner did not need recharging. I figured one of the Idiot Brothers had just knocked something loose, either accidentally or on purpose. I also figured that if I took Pedro back to the Idiot Brothers, they would scratch their heads, or perhaps each other’s heads, and say, “Golly, we didn’t work nowheres near the air-conditioner. But we’d be glad to recharge it for ya, either for money or cornbread!” And I didn’t want to go to the trouble of explaining everything to the Idiot Brothers, drawing pictures and watching them furrow their brows as they tried to comprehend the situation.

So I didn’t go back to the Idiot Brothers, and that’s pretty much where things stand. I learned a few lessons, I spent a few dollars, and I chalked a few things up to “experience,” which I hate. And Pedro’s attitude is worse than ever. Man, that car needs a good slapping.

I had mentioned Pedro on numerous occasions, but I had never devoted an entire column to him before. He had a lot of fans -- I'm not kidding about that, either -- so I thought this would be a swell little treat for them.

One of the nice things about my life is that when something stupid and frustrating happens, I am at least usually able to get a good column out of it. Sometimes, that almost even makes it worth going through whatever the bad experience. (Not in this case, however, since the tune-up and associated work cost me a great deal of money.)

In the paragraph where I emphasize the backwoods-cracker-hillbilly nature of the Idiot Brothers, I refer to one of their kin as their "sister-cousin." Originally, I had "mother-sister," which I think is much funnier, simply because it's a much more horrible thought, if you actually think about it. But someone in the review process objected strongly to "mother-sister," so I changed it.

The bit about the Idiot Brothers furrowing their brows as they attempt to comprehend the situation is stolen from a "Simpsons" episode (I forget which one). Just thought you should know.

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