The Zen of Car Maintenance

So, my car broke down on Friday afternoon. I had gone to the local shop (which is actually a pub) to get the kids an ice block, and when I turned the key to return home the dashboard lights came on – then nothing. And then the dashboard lights wouldn’t turn off.

Damn! I thought to myself, ice blocks dripping in my hand. Well, this is why I pay my yearly membership to the NRMA (a roadside assistance service). Of course, there’s no mobile phone reception because I am near home, but still in the middle of nowhere…but there is a perfectly working phone booth, 2 metres away from my car. You know, those public phones where you drop 50c into the slot and then dial the number you want. I know, right.

The NRMA man will be here within the hour, I’ve tucked my ice blocks back into the freezer, and now there is nothing to do but wait. It’s hot, but there are wooden trestle tables under a long, deeply shaded wisteria trellis. The sign tells me that there is free wifi, but I haven’t bought any devices – nothing except my purse. So, I sit as comfortably as I can on the narrow plank of the seat and allow my mind to drift. There are a group of locals gathered around their customary table on the far corner of the verandah, and I can hear their laughter and good-natured ribbing filter across to me. The young man behind the bar is playing Kings of Leon on the sound system, and a man and a woman share a quiet beer behind me.

I’m trying to remember the last time I had to call the NRMA out, and I can’t. It was a different story when I was young…I was almost on first name basis with the operator :). I remember calling them out early one morning when I lived in Newcastle. I was on my way to work, and mysteriously, my car wouldn’t start. The man (they’re always men, and unfailingly polite, friendly and competent), opened my door, shifted the automatic gear shift out of drive and into park and then started the car. I gaped in horror and embarrassment – my flatmate’s boyfriend had driven the car the day before, turned it off in drive, and I hadn’t even thought to check :).

At one stage the Bear brings down my iPad and disconnects the battery so that the car doesn’t go flat while I wait and then returns home with the kids. After all, there’s no point in all of us waiting. The man arrives, takes apart the ignition under the steering wheel, rigs it up so that I can start the car with a screwdriver and sends me home, telling me firmly that it’s just a temporary fix, and to go and get a new ignition barrel as soon as possible. I grin at the thought of what kind of person would actually view this as a permanent fix, thank him, and go home.

It doesn’t escape my notice that on the eve of the Sagittarius new moon, as well as the Sun’s movement into Sagittarius (representing travel, freedom and adventure) I am effectively stranded. Sagittarius also represents the philosopher and higher learning, so I suppose I’ll be traveling in my mind. People, I live 25 minutes away from the nearest town, and there is no public transport.

The Bear asks me if I want him to handle it…I say no, I’ll do it. We have vastly different ways of handing these things and it will just lead to problems, of that I was sure. I ring the car repair place on Monday morning to book my car in, and they tell me that they are short staffed and can see me next week. Crap. Reluctantly I ring the mechanic who lives down the road – I don’t want to put him out, but I can’t see any other way around it.

He rings me when he gets home from work with it’s hot! it’s hot! it’s hot! It is – we’ve had days and days of over 35ºC, cracking 40ºC on Sunday and everyone is wearing a bit thin with it. He tells me to get the part and he’ll come and fix it after work. Awesome. I love that man :). I ring the spare parts shop and miraculously they have a new replacement ignition barrel for a 1996 Commodore. The assistant found this out for me after he had greeted my request with a surprised, we’re not the wreckers you know! Oh, actually – I think we have one of those.

John the mechanic pops in straight after work to put the new barrel in – and finds to his frustration that he can’t. No matter what he does, that barrel will not go in. Finally, he tells me that I need to get a steering lock, and this time I will need to ring the wreckers. So I do, and they have have what I want. The Bear won’t be able to pick it up until tomorrow afternoon. Sigh.

This is now 5 days of not having a car. The first four days I was accepting, curious and a bit amused – what have you got in store for me now, Universe? I do what I need to do, and wait for it to unfold. Today though, I feel defeated. I can see that the car isn’t going to be repaired in anything like the timetable I had hoped, through nobody’s fault. I can feel all of the emotions from the 12 months I was stranded without a car rising up – feeling alone, abandoned, like I have no help, frustrated and worst of all, trapped. I’m irritated that I’m spending money and time on a car that we should have replaced by now, but for various reasons haven’t. I am aware that none of these feelings are actually true, but nevertheless, I have a strong, irrational desire to hide, preferably somewhere warm and dark like my bed.

Anyway. It’s not solved yet people – I’ll keep you posted. When I come out from under my blankets 🙂

Meanwhile, please keep me entertained – what’s your best breakdown story?

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21 comments

  1. Interesting, you’re stuck without a working car and want to hide in bed. I’m stuck in bed with a respiratory bug and am Desperately Frantically trying to rest and get better so we can embark on our upcoming 4 day weekend quite a bit of which will be spent into the car!
    As for a car breakdown story, I haven’t had many – my Dad was the NRMA man, but a few years back we were set to leave for TA at 3 am on Christmas eve morning and the car battery chose then to pack it in. A little stressed and not expecting much, I called BMW Service and amazingly the man arrived in 20 minutes… he’d been on his way somewhere quite near, the fish markets I think. I didn’t care, we were on our way 20 mins later.
    Coincidentally my car is a 1996 model as well, I’ve had it since 2000 and I’d cry if I had to replace it, so attached am I.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Your dad was an NRMA man? I love those guys! Seriously, the way that some people feel about firemen, I feel about NRMA men 😍. There is definitely some weird energy around. Things have improved this afternoon…fingers crossed! I hope you feel better soon.

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  2. My old commodore broke down on the middle of Sunnydale Bridge ( the bridge that links Southport and Surfers Paradise on the Gold Coast, in peak hour traffic. I had to leave my car and run (in my Seaworld Uniform) about a kilometer before i found a phone and when i got back the mechanic guy was there. When he went to open the bonnet the bonnet cable broke so he had to call a tow truck. I ended up having to get a lift home with the tow truck driver and sort it out the next day. I finished work at 7.30pm and it was near midnight before i got home. I cant even remember what was wrong with the car (besides the broken bonnet cable) but i do recall it cost me over $700 to fix!! Thats my car breakdown nightmare!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hey Trina! Omg 😳 that is a truly dreadful breakdown story. I remember breaking down on Broadway near Glebe point road, in Sydney right at the lights, which was embarrassing…but you definitely win in the trauma stakes 😧 thanks for entertaining me!

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  3. 1 break down story (amongst many! our cars have often be in the old and loved too long variety!): 2 kids & I on a hot day, hours from home, put the keys back in ignition after short break…nothing… called the RACV (re-joined even coz my membership had lapsed – extra $ added to the harshness of embaressment described next!). Lovely fellow arrived, had a quick look, and asked “do you have an immoboliser or something?” – I looked back blankly… he tried again…”a little button you push before the car starts?” A “ah ha, oh shit” light bulb went off immediately – its intensity matching that of my red face. (only saving grace for me was that it was a relativly new car). Rural areas and no transport are a tricky combination. For us it brings about all sorts of frustrations and noticings.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh no, Kate! Not the immobiliser! Lol 😄 I’m glad mine is not the only embarrassing ‘der!’ story. It’s probably the worst thing about rural living – our absolute dependence on cars. One day I will live somewhere I can walk to the shop or a cafe 😊.

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  4. Wonderfully put the most frustrating part of such incidences., vehicle breakdowns..it so happens when things goes wrong, everything goes out of control…We try our best and the worst things keep happening. Many times I have encountered the car breakdown situations, and especially on the highway and sometime in the middle of the pick traffic, the engine just doesn’t respond… pushed to the side and suddenly everything in the vehicle looks perfect…yes, this spare part conundrum, many times it has happened, you send the driver to the shop to get the replacement for the defect part and he gets the wrong part…
    We loose patience and get agitated, I have seen if we keep our cool, give our mind the chance to think coolly, the solutions is there in front of us and it so simple…in tension thinks get complicated.
    Excellent narration of the entire flow of activities that you went through…

    Liked by 1 person

    • Gosh yes, what about when you take your car to the mechanic because of the strange sound it’s been making – to have it suddenly stop! To then resume on your way home 😀 staying calm is the best, and I am calm, but I must admit to giving into despair today…although it’s looking up – I got the spare part this afternoon, and the mechanic is coming over tomorrow…fingers crossed!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Easier said than done…I fully agree, it is difficult to maintain the balance of mind when things go haywire, it gets into your nerve. But you have beautifully managed the scene and anybody else would have got completely upset and left is like that…things will now be done…cheer up!!!

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  5. When I moved from the east to the west coast (USA), I bought an old cheap pick up truck just to get across country and then I was going to dump it. Well, we moved a few times, and the truck came in handy. When we finally settled down and bought a house, we had a large yard so we kept the truck as a yard truck.

    One day when my son was about 2, I drove the truck down town. After doing a quick errand it wouldn’t start. I called AAA (US version of your NRMA) and managed to give them my info as my cell phone was dying. Just before the tow truck arrived, I managed to get a jump start from a guy nearby (I had jumper cables). So when the tow truck arrived, I said I was ok now, and he left. As I drove across the parking lot and stepped on my brakes, a hose blew, and I lost my brakes. At this point my phone was dead and I had my 2 yr. old in the truck.

    Then I saw that the tow truck driver had only gone next door to a fast food restaurant to get lunch. I ran over and told him I still needed him. After he got his sandwich, he pulled my wounded truck up on the flatbed while I strapped my kid’s car seat into the front bench seat of the tow truck. The man took us home and my truck never left the property until I finally sold it for scrap several years later. We never did fix the brakes.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Gosh, wasn’t it lucky that the tow truck driver was only next door? And no brakes…that’s terrifying! I haven’t had that scenario before…although a scene just flashed through my mind of my worst breakdown ever…the worst because I had just blown up the engine of my partner’s ute…thank you for entertaining me with your story!

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    • Thanks Therese 🙂 I thought there must have been other people to have had the same problem as me…I’m glad you fessed up 🙂
      A lady NRMA mechanic in Nimbin! Awesome 🙂

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