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Of cars and kidneys

April 27, 2012
By BOB SEIDENSTEIN ( , Adirondack Daily Enterprise

Last Thursday morning, on a whim, I checked my horoscope.

The complex nature of your personality causes people to misunderstand you, but it's also the source of your special charm. Harness that charm and you'll go far in both personal and professional realms. Today, with Venus in its fourth house and with Mars ascending, be wary of heavy machinery.

It was a perfect horoscope - in other words, a whole bunch of cryptic craperoo - but it made me smile, especially about being wary of heavy machinery. Me and heavy machinery? You've gotta be kidding me. The heaviest machinery I work with is a mechanical pencil, and I'd only be wary of that if I used it as a Q-tip.

I put the astrological absurdity out of my mind and went on with my day's work, which could've been more uneventful only if I'd been on life support.

I have a big break between classes and I went town to care of a bunch of chores. On my drive off campus I went over the first speed bump and the car stalled. It never happened before, but I thought nothing of it, denial being a wonderful thing. I restarted it and drove back to town, where I ran my errands and then went home and communed with the critters.

My interspecies special time over, I got back in the car for the return trip, and when I turned the key, my car did something I'd never seen a car do: It turned over, fired up for a second and then died. I cranked it over and it did the same thing, again and again and again.


How to deal with a dead Honda

I don't know much about cars, but I do know when they are not going to start, and it was clear my car was not going to start. It was also clear the problem wasn't the battery, because it turned over fine.

What to do?

I did the only thing I could think of, which was call Brother Ron Burdick and ask him if he could come over and give me a jump-start.

Which raises a cogent question: If I knew the battery was fine, why did I ask Brother Ron to come over and give the car a jump? Simple, I had to do something.

BR was there in a flash, hooked up the cables, and nada.

Not that I didn't expect it, but I was still disappointed, which says more about my powers of denial than anything else.

"You have to get back to school?" asked BR, interrupting the start of my pity party.

"Yeah. I've got a class in an hour."

"You want to take my car?" he asked.

"I dunno," I said. "Is it OK?"

"Sure," he said. "Just drop me off at work on your way out and you can pick me up when you come back."

I was on the horns of a dilemma. On the one horn, I don't like to borrow anyone's car. On the other horn, I had to get back to work and had no time to find another ride.

I chose Horn Number One.

I got back to school in time for my class, did the teacher thang, and then came home, called AAA and had my car towed to the garage.

And then what? Simple. I regard cars like I do kidneys: You need only one that works, but it's far better to have two just in case. Luckily, I've got two of each kidneys and cars.


Volvophiles, be wary

My main ride is my '96 Honda. It was a Florida car and when I got it, it had 40,000 miles on it and was in perfect shape. Since then, I've put 125,000 miles on it and by last year it'd been through enough Adirondack Winter Salt Fests for me to realize its Last Hurrah was on the not-so-distant horizon. So using my Kidney/Car Calculus, I bought another car, to keep in reserve for the sad day the Honda took its last cruise over the Rainbow Bridge.

My "new" car is a dilly - a Texas car. It's a 98 Volvo and the body - as opposed to the Honda's and mine is perfect. It's mechanically sound too. The only problem is it's a Volvo.

Now I can see all the Volvophiles reading this getting their Swedish up, but just hear me out, will ya?

Yes, Volvos are wonderful cars, no doubt about it. They're solid and safe. Then again, they should be, since they weigh slightly less than an Sherman tank. They're also well engineered. The only problem is when something goes wrong with them. Then, because you can get Volvo parts only from Volvo, about the only way to pay for repairs is to take out a second mortgage or sell one of your kids into indentured servitude. This is why the people who love Volvo's the most are the ones who buy them new and trade them in before the repairs start to add up.


Dubious joys of the unexpected

I knew this before I got my Volvo, but because I got a great deal on the car, I accepted that I'd have to sink a bunch of Kroner in repairs. But what I didn't count on was all the weird electrical quirks and anomalies I'd have to deal with. Dashboard lights come on, telling me all sorts of weird things: "Check engine." I did and it was fine-turns out it's some weird sensor in the transmission something-or-other that's freaking out. "SOG." I've no idea what it is and have given up caring. Then a flashing arrow appeared. This shows that my snow driving mode (whatever that is) is activated even though I never switched it on.

The button that controls the air flow into the car works sometimes; other times it doesn't.

The dome light had a nervous breakdown and had to be disconnected.

The point is I never know what's going to happen. With the check engine light, for example, since it almost always comes on but the engine's fine, how do I know when the engine isn't fine? And on and on.

Anyhow, after I sent my Honda to the shop, I went to start my Volvo and it was No Go. Sucker wouldn't do doodle. This time I figured it was the battery, so I called the Amazon Queen and she came over with her jumper cables. Still No Go.

So I did the only thing I could - bought a new battery. Put it in, the car fired up, and all was right with the world, right? Wrong. Because after driving around a bit I got two new Volvo thrills.

One was whenever I put on my right turn signal, the signal light blinked but so did the brake light - alternately no less! Or at least it did this for a while and then for no reason at all stopped and hasn't done it since (fingers still crossed).

My other thrill was the radio. It wouldn't come on -- instead, the word "Code" flashed on the screen. Huh? I assumed it'd been caused by removing the battery, but had no idea what to do about it. So I asked the expert himself - Mark Coleman, owner, CEO and stock boy of Ampersound.

"Yeah," he said. "You've got to put in a four digit code to get it to work again."

"So where do I find the code?" I asked.

"If you're lucky, the previous owner wrote it in the owner's manual."

"And if I'm not lucky?"

He shrugged, gave me a "Tough Noogies" look, and said, "Then you've gotta call Volvo."

I went back to the car, got out the owner's manual, and expecting the worst, looked in it.

Believe it or not, on the last page, were four handwritten numbers. I punched them in the radio and - Frabjous Day, Caloo Callay! - it came on.

So while the going was rough for a while, everything ended up all right.

Or at least almost everything did.

As for the repairs on my Honda?

Thank you for not asking.



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