Before HARDBARNED! became a book in 2016, it was a blog I began in 2008. It still is, from time to time, and you have found its home. Scroll through it all here, or browse selected posts at Medium. In case you were wondering…none of this blog content appears in the book, which is its own separate thing and mostly about working for a living. The blog is usually about pop culture-type stuff. Cheers.

Wrath of the Car Gods

Whatever it is that I have done to anger thee, oh ye Gods of Vehicular Transportation, I'd like to repent. I give up, oh you Omnipotent and Omnipresent Lords of the Combustion Engine. You Ultimate Entities in Charge of Automobile Regularity and Reliability. You Bastards of Inconvenience and Collectors of Commuters' Complaints. I know not how I have offended thee, but I get the motherfucking picture. You don't like me. Well I don't like you either, assholes.

Here is the sequence of events, which began merely four months ago. My wife's Saturn decided not to start unless it was in the mood. Fairly often it wasn't in the mood when she was leaving work or a parking lot somewhere sketchy after dark. My wife didn't like this. Neither did I.

My local mechanic repeatedly asked, "when are you going to get rid of this thing?" My wife was understandably stressed out. We sold the Saturn; my wife drove my Toyota, and I went without a car for a while.

Then my grandfather unexpectedly and generously donated his old Lincoln town car to the family cause, and this car had very few miles on it for a 12-year-old vehicle. Not a car we would purchase otherwise, it was comfortable and clean and seemed to be a real windfall for us. My wife liked it and was happy to have the replacement.

Then the transmission started malfunctioning on my Toyota. Yes, my Toyota. Aren't they supposed to be bulletproof and indestructible paragons of automotive engineering? I guess not. Did you Lords of the Auto not create the Toyota in your own image, in one of your spectacular birthing chambers of omnipresent vehicular perfection?

I got several estimates and decided to drive the Toyota 200 miles away to save nearly a thousand dollars with a trusted family mechanic whose estimate for transmission replacement undercut all the competition. My kind step-father loaned me his Chevy truck. 

When I tried to drive the truck home, I noticed it was pulling to the right, viciously. I checked the tire pressure and evened all tires out, and nothing changed. I went to a garage and discovered that the truck needed almost $1200 worth of work to fix the brake pads, rotors, shocks, struts, alignment, tire rotation and balance, etc, before it would be in shape to drive the 200 miles back to my house. We had to fix it.

We got the freshly repaired truck home, while the Toyota remained in the shop. Then the Lincoln took a nose dive, losing power to one of its eight cylinders. Couldn't it just run on seven, you might ask? Well yes, but it wouldn't pass emissions standards where we live. It runs fine now but shivers a bit, perpetually flashing the check engine light. It needs an incredible amount of labor to merely diagnose the problem.

Couldn't your Great Bearded Divinities of Driving cut me a break and make the Lincoln all better without 21 hours of labor to remove the entire engine in order to access the cylinder in question and discover the true reason for the problem? Is it really that funny to watch us mere mortals struggle with machines beyond our comprehension?

So we decide to sell the Lincoln while driving the loaner truck and awaiting the conclusion of the discounted-though-still-costly repair job on the Toyota. My wife's parents stepped in unexpectedly and bought a fantastic used Nissan for her, and we are blown away by their generosity and timeliness. My worries are lessened considerably, knowing that my wife is behind the wheel of a comfortable and reliable vehicle. I'm not even bothered that the repairs on the Toyota have now taken over a month. I continue to drive my step-dad's truck.

The Lincoln still up for sale, we hear from our mechanic, three hours away, that the Toyota is "performing beautifully" with its new transmission and that it is ready for pickup. My mom and step-dad go to pick up the beautifully-performing machine, and my mom phones me triumphantly from her Volvo on the way home from the mechanic's garage to tell me that my step-dad is driving my Toyota back to the house, and that the mechanic had been singing the praises of my car, commenting on how well it was running with the used replacement transmission he had just installed. She and my step-dad were almost home.

Good to know. I returned to the stove top to finish cooking a spicy vegetable curry dish and drink a cold beer. Thirty minutes later, my step-dad calls, saying "I don't know what you've done to anger the Gods of Transportation, but I think you've rubbed one Car Genie the wrong way."

So he continues, telling me the story of how he drove my Toyota half the way to his house from the mechanic's garage with a real sense of relief, both for himself, I'm sure, as he would finally get his truck back, and for me because he's a great guy and has a lot of empathy for the fact that I'm the apparent recipient of the wrath of the car gods. 

Halfway home, he hears a catastrophic-sounding BOOM! from under the hood, followed by awkward shifting by the transmission, another BOOM! and squeals from the confused tires, unsure whether to follow the path of the car itself or obey the counter-intuitive instructions from the newly installed transmission that apparently has now abandoned my car on this fine evening, their first date. My step-dad was able to limp home with the seemingly mortally wounded car to tell the tale, and life goes on. 

The Toyota is returning to the shop, one way or another, to receive its third transmission. The pickup truck has been overhauled. The Saturn has a new home at CarMax. The Lincoln has retired with a collector who purchased her on Ebay (with full disclosure). My wife's Nissan is working just fine. The bicycle on my porch that I'd had since I was 15 years old was looking good, until some fucking asshole stole it last week.

As far as problems go, mine are petty and insignificant, as I am an extremely fortunate man to have what I have, but you lousy Gods of Vehicular Transportation, wherever you are, you can blow it out your goddamn radiator hoses. Oh how I miss my old Volvo wagon.

Someday I'll have to find another one.