Friday, September 5, 2008

This Truck Will Self-Destruct

Of the many things I have to deal with in life, one of the things I enjoy the least is getting a vehicle fixed.

The Davidson Gene insists that vehicles be driven into the ground, much like in that old Gordon Lightfoot song. Don't know why that came to mind. SO when my truck started having shifting trouble Tuesday night, I knew the inevitable was beginning: The visit to the repair shop.

I'm not a Catholic, so I've never done a proper confession, in one of those booths with the priest on the other side of the grille. But I think I know what it feels like, every time I have to get a vehicle fixed.

Oh, my son, the mechanic says. I have here a list of your sins. The list is a sheaf of printer paper, stained with greasy thumbprints, of the many, many, many things wrong with my vehicle. The list always contains a string of excalamation points, declaring each of my automotive sins worst than the last. I fidget in the confessional, wishing I had one of the fan belts hanging on the wall behind him to finger like a rosary. For each sin, a penance, an indulgence -- cash from my pocket to his will make the sins go away, my automobile will appear as white as the driven snow.

The punctuation is there to remind me that if I dare leave the cathedral of grease without seeking absolution, I am in danger of losing my soul, or at least at risk of having the lower ball joints on the front wheels break down completely and deliver me not through the green pastures and still waters but to the abominable field of misery and woe, where only tow truck drivers dwell. If absolution is not sought, the face of the priest darkens. "Oh, I should make you sign a paper," he says. The paper is to absolve him of any culpability lest I lose my automotive soul; lest the vehicle explode spontaneously as I pull out of the lot, determined to find someone who can fix the clutch hydraulic system for less than $140, the ball joints for less than $570. If I dare mention my blessed ignorance of my sins before I came in for confession as a reason to continue driving until I find another priest with more reasonable rates, his face darkens further. He has seen my oil, unchanged for 5,000 miles, and knows it is black. His head shakes. I see, in his eyes, the fear that the four mechanics of the apocalypse will descend upon my huddled form, broken down, miserable, on the side of some lonely highway, to whisk my soul to eternal damnation in a waiting room filled with the smell of grease and rubber, old golf magazines and a friendly dog who sheds loose hair on my jeans, forever.

"You don't owe him an explanation," my wife says, innocent of the sin of having the vehicle in need of repair, thus heedless of the misery of a soul unrepentant leaving a mechanic knowing his truck could self-destruct if the mechanic-priest wishes it. "Don't tell them you're shopping around," she says. "Just leave."

Just leave. The mechanic who knows the flight of a single loose bolt, the grind of a single underlubed differential, will follow me to the ends of the earth, even as I seek solace and absolution at another cathedral. He'll know I drove the truck home, doomed to explosion, death, endless torment and Hell. He'll know.

No comments: