Saturday, February 16, 2008

From Overheating to Maintaining Road-worthiness

This is the concluding part of the “overheating” episode that started here. As the episode developed, I returned to the service center two days later, after being assured that the part had arrived. The driving with a leaked coolant compartment during the intervening days went without any hitch, under my watchful eyes.

After dutifully depositing my minivan at the Toyota service center by Fletcher around 7am , I was driven to my work place downtown on the shuttle service, which happened to be a newer version of Toyota Sienna. The driver is a lady who has just moved from Missouri a year ago. With me was another elderly lady customer, seated in front, who works at the downtown Federal building.

Mindful of the morning rush, the lady driver, Lisa, decided to take the local route via Florida and Tampa. Along the way, she engaged us in idle talks, sort of breaking the ice thing. Before long we reached our destinations, the elderly lady's before me. Before parting, Lisa took down my work address to pick me up after work around 5.00pm.

Right on the dot, she called my cell at 5.00pm, having parked behind my office where she let me off in the morning. She was to pick up two more customers, but both the latter two were much closer to the service center. So for a majority of the journey she had nobody else to interact except me.

On my question regarding the largest difference between where she was and where she is now, she said without hesitation: people. We at Tampa are more friendly. Being a divorcee in her mid forties, perhaps she has had a less than memorable sojourn in the Show Me state. In return, I admitted that I have never been to Missouri, but its Gateway Arch at St. Louis, touted to be the tallest national monument in the United States at 630 feet, certainly precedes its name.

This image of the famous Gateway Arch at St. Louis, taken from here, shows the majestic rise of this engineering wonder reaching for the sky reminiscent of the Stargate movie. Our next tourist destination perhaps, I dream on.

Then the conversation turned to Tampa attractions, one of which is the recently concluded Gasparilla parade, a re-enactment of the the taking of the City of Tampa by the marauding pirates who sailed upstream into Hillsborough Bay in an armada. She had a blast, being invited to be on one of the ships taking part in the pirate invasion, while our last two trips there were on solid ground along Bayshore Boulevard.

Because of the evening rush traffic (she chose to drive on the Interstate this time, though she did defer to me on the best route and I might have nudged her toward the Interstate) and the two detours, we were at the service center way past 6pm.

Other than having to take one hour off from my work schedule for the day (here PTO, for Personal Time Off that I just learned not too long ago, replacing vacation/sick leaves, can be taken in hour increments, which is flexible enough for unavoidable errands to be run on weekdays. The flip side here is that there is no distinction between vacation and sick leaves, both are lumped together as part of employees' entitlements. Well, you take what you are dealt with and work with it. Isn't that what life is all about, or making a life is all about? But I digress), my wallet had also gone thinner, figuratively as it actually stayed the same because the repair bill was transacted via the ubiquitous plastic card. Recall the famous refrain, Don't leave home without it?

But in return, I have peace of mind, knowing that the car has just been given a new lease of life. As usual, the repair has gone beyond the original problem of overheating that precipitated the visit in the first place. Always trust the mechanic to unearth other chronic mechanical problems when given the chance, ostensibly for the road-worthiness of one's car.

In my case, there were the battery failing the load test (no wonder the digital display of the car's Radio/Compact CD was giving jumbled words , like those neon light advertisements with missing letters or missing parts of letters), which means a brand new one; cracked hose tubing, that may just open up in the most inopportune moment, the driver marooned in the middle of nowhere; and something to do with the electronic ignition, misfiring the ignition sequence in the cylinders perhaps, which will surely show up in the gas (short for gasoline) consumption.

And there were several other “ailments” that had shown up in the diagnostics as well. But mercifully, those can await my next scheduled maintenance service that is due in another month's time or so, Deborah (the lady at the service center counter) assured me, displaying empathy with the potentially drained state of my financial wherewithal.

No wonder some customers have likened the visit to a car clinic as would to a dental clinic: you will never know what awaits you. OK, perhaps that is my own analogy. But you get the point.


Kitty Girl said...

Ugh, car repairs suck... Well, having to pay for them does, anyway. I had my car fixed some months ago, as I told you guys previously, and now am driving very carefully! So hopefully it will last a couple more years at least; there still needs work to be done, but the majority of it has been taken care of. (Thanks, Brian!)

Say Lee said...

It comes with the territory of car ownership. But that would pale in comparison with human relationships that would take a whole lot more of adjustment, accommodating, and understanding to emerge on top of things.

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