Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Between A and B is a Three-Toothed Mechanic Named Anna

I have incredibly good fortune where cars are concerned.

A friend once gave me her 1969 VW Bug when she and her boyfriend bought a new car. That little bug rumbled its way to De Anza College for 2 quarters before it finally retired itself with one final poof of non-regulated exhaust fumes, sputtering to a stop in front of my apartment building. I had transferred to San Jose State University (2 blocks from my house) by then, so all was good when the tow truck came to take it off my hands.

My current vehicle was similarly bequeathed. Three years ago, a friend of mine from Barnes & Noble told me his friend had bought a new car and was looking to gift his old one to a needy candidate.

So it was I came into the possession of a 1993 Suzuki Swift.

“Swift?” you say.

Never heard of it? Neither had I until I owned one. It looks exactly like a Geo Metro. The absolute tiny whiteness of it has earned it the name “Tic Tac,” and one of my coworkers’ favorite pastimes is making fun of its utterly ridiculous nature. (I like to think they’re just jealous).

Sure, it’s a deathtrap…a bloody mangled wreck just waiting to, begging to happen. But it gets me from A to B.

And it has no major structural problems.

There are, however, two functional problems with my Swift. The first is rather unfortunate because it happened at the hands of a friend who was trying to help. When I first obtained the car, it needed new brakes. This friend volunteered to help change them but in the process broke my door handle. So for the past 2 ½ years I’ve had to roll down the window and reach out to open the car from the outside when I get out. I don’t mind this; it actually gives me a humbling chuckle when I have to do it in front of people.

The real problem is that my car doesn’t idle. This means I have to put it in neutral at stops or it will stall.

At least that was the case until a month ago when I was rear-ended by a deranged holiday shopper near the mall. Miraculously, my rinky dink car showed no signs of damage on the outside. In fact, the only evidence that I had been hit (aside from the frighteningly loud crashing sound) was that my old school anti-theft radio (the kind you have to physically pull out of the console and take with you) flew out and landed in my lap.

But the best part of getting rear-ended was that it actually somehow fixed my idling problem. Now I can stop and sit at a red light for at least 2 minutes before the shaking begins and the car calls it quits.

Still, though, my car has begun to run poorly.

I thought an oil change would be a good idea. So I took the car to Jiffy Lube last week, where the young fellow taking down the car’s vital stats asked me questions that made me smirk in owner-sanctioned entertainment at the expense of my car.

“Suzuki Swift?” he asked. “Do you happen to know if that’s a 1.3 or 1.6 liter engine?”

I glanced at the back of the car, where stick-on numbers read “1.3”

“Um,” I said, knowing well that a 1.3 liter engine is just half a step above a moped, “I’m not sure. Do you think that 1.3 on the back means anything?”

“Oh, yeah,” he said. “Yeah, that would be 1.3.”

“Now,” he added, “this is your air filter. It’s black here, and that’s bad. It can affect your gas mileage.”

“Oh,” I said, “you mean I’ll no longer be getting 45 miles per gallon? That’s gonna suck.”

They replaced that for an added 13 bucks. The sad part was when the girl who rang me up explained the other service they’d performed.

“We checked your tire pressure,” she said, with thinly masked, well-deserved disdain for people like me. “You had some serious problems there.”

“Oh yeah?”

“Yeah. Your tires are supposed to be at 35 pounds. One was at 54, one at 43, one at 19, and one at 14.”

Ouch. Dad, if you’re reading this, don’t kill me. And I’ve sinced figured out that my average tire reading between the four of them was 32.5 pounds. Only 2.5 pounds off…not too shabby.

Anyway, the car’s been acting up all week, post-oil change, and today it stalled on the road and wouldn’t start again, leaving me to finally make use of my AAA membership.

My savior was a sparsely-toothed, contracted mechanic woman named Anna…boy did she know her stuff. She got me started and back on the road in about 10 minutes, adding that it would be a shame for me to have to pay the $10/mile it would have cost if she’d ended up having to tow me.

There are some honest mechanics out there, it seems.

But anyway, my fear is that I will—Anna or no Anna—be needing to invest in alternate transportation options soon. That’s a painful thought, mostly because I’m trying to save money right now and a car was not what I had in mind to spend it on.

Still, though, I do have good luck in this category. My most ambitious hope is that the Tic Tac will hold out for another 100K or so. But if the Swift decides to put itself to sleep, I’ll be prowling Craigslist for another piece of crap that oh-so-gracelessly traverses the space between A and B.

I just love a car with character.


Anonymous said...

Oh, cool an update...

Personally, I'm in love with my red little civic. It hums and it purrs when I speed in the carpool lane and that makes feel like less of a criminal.


Kevin said...


Doug said...

Hi Monkey, we missed you.......Good luck with your car situation.....Remember to check and change all fluids at regular intervals and your car will treat you right.