Car Troubles - More Like Car Comedy

Some People have told me that I need a new car. I say they need a new sense of humor.  What some people might call problems, or set backs, I call adventure and great stories. I have heard it said that, “the worst decisions make the best stories.”  

Well I guess my first worst decision with my car was naming it “Back Pearl”. I had bought it for a great price from a guy in Lake Oswego moving to Texas. He had to sell fast, so I got a good deal. Now I call her Black Pearl because it’s a black car with silver lining, resembling a Black Pearl. Little did I know that naming it Black Pearl would put a curse on my car for life.


Now BP (I would call her that for short), was a great car for the first year and a half I had her. A solid working horse. Terrific A to B car, “A” being school and “B” being home.


When I think of BP’s over all life, I remember what my EMT instructor said about Shock. There is always three sages to shock. 1) Compensated Shock, 2) Decompensated Shock, and 3) Irreversible shock. Stage one your blood pools to your vital organs leaving your arms, face, and legs almost white. Your body is compensating. Then stage two, this is when your vital signs start to diminish, slower heart rate, low blood pressure, etc. Last up is the irreversible shock. Due to it’s name it’s what you might think. Shock that is irreversible. Organ failure, and when this happens little to no hope is left for the victim. Now in adults they have a very defined three stages they go through which makes it easy to treat and fix. When you are in compensated shock it’s not always easy to detect. Now children on the other hand are very good at compensating. However when they are done compensating they almost immediately move to irreversible shock. Very hard to detect and treat when it’s too late.


So the point of this science lesson is to explain that BP is really a big baby. Compensating her whole life until one day she decided to show me the comedy of life.


Because she had been reliable and a great car I thought it would be ok to take her across country, 4234 miles to be exact. Not really your typical A to B run I know. However I had great AC, great gas millage, and I would need a car when I was in Florida. “Why not” I proudly said.


I went with a good friend of mine, Nick Fukuda. I still remember one conversation we had before the trip.




Nick: “Does it have AC?”

Me: “Oh not just AC, but real cold AC.”

Nick: “Well is it fast.”

ME: “It will get us there.”




Why I didn’t do a quick tune up before the trip, or even check the radiator for leaks is besides me. I mean we were just going through the southern part of the USA in July, how bad could it be? Right?


So we load up BP. Gatorade? Check. Cheetos? Check. Chips? Check. Junk food? Check. Good AC? Priceless. We were as ready as any two bachelors could be for the open road. Two pairs of underwear are all you need for a road trip, I mean you are just sitting most the time, why bother pack more right? Probably too much information.


We made it through Oregon, then California, and then headed towards Nevada for VEGAS! When we stopped in the middle of the desert about 50 miles out of Vegas we noticed it wasn't as cool in the car as normal. “It’s just because it so hot outside” I said.


Arriving to Vegas area was easy. It was getting into that mad house they call Sin City that was difficult. At this point it was so hot that we decided to roll down the windows because the AC wasn't cooling us off. We really noticed that it “wasn't working” when we were in a parking garage away from the sun with it on full blast and only hot air was coming out. “Well that’s not good.” I casually sated.




Nick: “Not good? This sucks!”

Me: “It’s ok it makes the trip more exciting.” I always would try to put a positive spin on things, even though I was freaking out inside. I only brought two pairs of underwear!

Nick: “We should just ditch this car and get a rental.”

Me: “No that’s ok...”




So we had no AC. No warning. BP’s back up protectors had failed miserably and our heads were burning. Heading to the more cool Grand Canyon was much more bearable, but all day light hours made it a difficult toll. Getting there right before the sunset was a great boost in our spirits. “We can do this. It’s fine; we just don’t have AC, that’s not that bad. It could be a lot worse”. Really peter? You had to say that? That’s like bad Mojo. Even if you don’t believe in a thing called Mojo you just don’t say things like that. God has a great way of showing you how you can be wrong. Very comical ways.


So we get up early to see the sunrise at the Grand Canyon. It was beautiful and all that good stuff. But when we got back to camp our car started to smoke.




Me: “Umm...”

Nick: “What the heck?”

Me: “Well let’s look under the hood.” As if I knew a single thing about cars. If a terrorist came into our camp and said I had to jump start his car or else he would kill Nick with a butter knife...well let’s just say Nick would end up dead.

Nick: “It’s over heating.”

Me: “I can see that! Well let’s just let it cool off and wait an hour or so. It’s too early to call anyone back home for help. So let’s just sleep a little bit and then reevaluate.”




I was hoping that it was all a dream, and that if we went to sleep all our problems would be over...It wasn't. Still they’re when we woke up. We went to start the car, and now the car won’t even start. Didn't even make a sound. I don't know much about cars, but I knew this was not good. Ok so it needs a jump-start because it won’t start, I thought. We started to ask the other campers for cables because I of course don’t have any. Everyone we seemed to ask claimed they didn't have any. That, or they were scared of the two gross guys that looked like they would rob you if you weren’t looking. We got a lot of stares and glares when we asked. Even though we are actually two very nice gentle men, and any girl would be lucky to have us. Oh whom am I kidding. We would rob you in a second.


Anyway, lucky for us there were some Germans that didn't really speak that much English, or seem to know much about Americans. They were real happy when two complete strangers started to talk to them. We asked them if they had jumper cables, of course we had to play charades to do so. I looked even more like an idiot holding both hands up and making moving gestures and then pretending to get shocked. They got it! So they pulled out the cables from their rental and lifted up the hood. I almost cried when I saw what was under there. Not only do I know little about cars, but the new cars have one whole solid piece of plastic that sits under the hood that makes it almost impossible to see where anything is. We all started to look at each other in hopes someone else knew what to do.


Nick seemed to think it was no problem. “Oh yah just put that end there, and then this one here and your good to go.” I wasn't that convinced. But I had no other choice.


It was no success. So then I got creative (if that’s what you want to call it) and said “Why don’t we try that thing where we roll it down a hill and jump start it that way?” I think I had seen it in a movie once. It was a good idea (more like the only idea), so we got a few other locals to help move the car up the hill. Once there we all silently, and awkwardly, stared at each other. All realizing at the same moment that no one actually knew how to do it.




Nick: “Wait you don’t know how to do it?”

Me: “Well don’t you just put in 1st and let the clutch out?”

Nick: “Ok try that.”




Yah we were screwed. We tired that, and to no ones surprise it didn’t work. But hey, at least we all got our morning work outs in. See, positive spin. At this point we were getting a little more scared and worried about getting out of there in time. So I called a tow truck. After waiting an hour a service guy showed up.




Me: “Where’s the tow truck?”

Service Dude: “Well we wanted to make sure we couldn’t start it first.”

Me: “But I called for a tow truck?”




He somewhat ignored me and walked over to the car, hooked up a fancy contraption to the battery and waited a few minuets.




Service Dude: “Yup, the battery seems to be fine. Looks like something else is the problem. You will need a tow truck.”

Me: “...”




He packed up and left and we waited another hour. Now lucky for me I am a calm guy. So I just felt relaxed and started praising God and singing songs. I even helped deliver a baby in the camp when we were waiting for the tow truck to arrive. Ok so that’s not what happened. But I am not to proud of the fact I started to throw a tantrum in public, curse a little bit, and even consider taking a butter knife to BP for all the pain she had caused everyone. Yah not as honorable, I know.


Well we got “rescued”, if that’s what you want to call it and towed 90 miles to a town known as Flag Staff. At the mercy of one mechanic who talked about going to a bar for lunch and getting wasted, then coming back to work. This is the same guy that would be working on my car. This is when my “positive spin” attitude started to not work so well. He gave me a verdict after his nice “lunch”. It was costly, but I had enough money to fix it. So we did and were back on the road headed to New Mexico, “Land of Enchantment.” Bunch of hogwash if you ask me. Should be called “Land of Doom and Misery. Turn back now if you want your souls”.


Nick and I actually were feeling really good about the whole experience at this point. We actually felt great. Going through New Mexico was beautiful, especially during sunset.




Nick: “It’s like a chiastic structure! We started off really happy at the Grand Canyon this morning. Then we had really bad car trouble and now we are really happy again.”

Me: “But that would mean that our car trouble is the main point?”




We were on top of the world. We were happy. We were two guys going cross-country. “Only 98 miles left until o-” before I could finish my sentence all the knobs and lights in the car started flashing on and off. Almost like a science fiction movie about aliens. Of course they always happen in places like New Mexico to. The car started to shake and flicker on and off. Then suddenly just dead. Compensated shock, to irreversible. No power left. Nothing. Not to mention our phones were about to die. And we were stuck in middle of nowhere. Literally. 50 miles behind us was a small town, and in front of us about 43 miles was a town. But they were both small with about 600 people in each town. It was night too. We were stuck.




Me: “So Nick. If it’s a chiastic structure, what’s this part?”

Nick: “I am gonna go see if I can get help.” Translation, I am getting out of the car to blow off some steam, away from you. There was no one for miles; there was no way we could get help.




After we both had calmed down a little bit more, we regrouped and decided what we should do.




Me: “Well let’s just camp out here for the night. We have always wanted to look at the stars in the south right?”

Nick: “Yah that sounds like a good idea.”

Me: “Lets just both try to calm down and then decide what to do in the morning.”




So we laid out a tarp on the ground and sat next to our car that would rock back and forth every time a semi truck flew by.




Nick: “Wait aren't there snakes out here?”

Me: “And bugs!”




We both freaked out, as if we were surrounded by wild life all of the sudden. We bolted for the car and I used up one of my pairs of underwear. We ended up calling a state trooper at 11:58pm, who was able to call us a tow truck. He then towed us to the next town where he dropped us off at a mechanics shop.




Tow Truck Guy: “Yah this guy is real good. He will treat you right.”

Me: “Yah we need a good mechanic.”




I am not going to lie though; both Nick and I were a little worried when we were dropped off at a place that looked like a junkyard. Not to mention if gave a feeling that at any moment a hobo would jump out of one of the cars and rape me or Nick. And he would have probably gone for me because I am better looking. Well we slept in our car, in constant fear of being at liberty of a homeless guy. In addition we couldn't get any sleep because a train would pass by every 15 minuets on the dot.


We woke more tiered then when we had gone to bed. It was 9:00am and the guy should have been open, but he wasn't. I for one was pissed because we needed to be at our next destination by 12 noon. So I started to ask around. The town was so small that everyone looked at us strange because we were outsiders. They also didn't know where “Mike the Mechanic” was. Going back to our car to wait for him we notice that we actually went through a time zone change last night and that it was actually another hour ahead. So we were even more behind schedule. What now?


Very slowly a blue dodge truck drove by the shop and slowly came to a holt.




Blue Dodge Guy: “You looking for Mike?”

Me: “Yes actually, you know when he will be in?”

Blue Dodge Guy: “Hahaha not for awhile. Mikes in the Hospital.”

Me: “That’s awful.” The Blue Dodge Guy took it as sympathy for Mike. But I was saying it was awful because now we would have to call another tow truck.




In total Nick and I were towed 156 miles. If you wanna save gas money that is one way to do it...You of course have to pay tow money. So we get towed to another mechanics shop and they seem to know everything about Mike.




Receptionist: “Why were you towed to Mikes shop? He is an awful mechanic.”

Mechanic A: “He never finishes a car. You seen all them cars in his lot?

Receptionist: “Not to mention he was convicted twice for rape.”

Mechanic B: “Yah there’s always that.”

Me: “Wait what?”

Receptionist: “Yah that’s strange the tow truck took you there. Not my first choice.”




They talked about Mike so casually, as if it was a common occurrence in this town. I for one was in shock that Nick and I had stayed a night at a sloppy, no good, deceiving, ex-convicts junkyard that he called a mechanics shop.


The damage was so bad to the car that we had to stay the whole night in that little unknown town. Didn't even come up on my Smart Phone. BP had oil damages, radiator damages, and the list went on. She cost me a lot of money. And the only thing BP could say was “This sucks. It’s eating through my vacation time”.


The next morning they were finished and we were actually able to make our Rio Grande rafting trip after all. Sadly it kind of ended up being a let down.


After that we didn't really have any more car troubles. We were still very skeptical the whole rest of the trip, and extremely hot. Especially the 10 hour drive through Texas. My pillow actually started to smell like a swamp and became a host to new organisms, organisms that probably haven't even been discovered yet.


So really, to bring back the old BP from death (irreversible shock), all we had to do was replace all her organs. We did fail to realize she has “bones” though, which is what this next part is about.


I had been living in Florida for a few months and had been checking out different sites. I finally got the courage to venture to down town Miami (by myself) and check it out. I will often look at parks and other areas to get ideas for potential photography locations. I stumbled across the Bass Museum, which was okay to say the least. They had a whole “Nude” exhibit going on at the moment, which was kinda awkward walking through. Then I checked out the Egyptian exhibit, which was the best. I did fail to mention that when I first walked in there was no one at the front desk, so I slowly walked pass the entrance area into the museum. I latter found out that it was a $10 admission. I know I am a bad person, but the nude exhibit was not worth my support anyway. I was doing them a favor.


After a nice free tour of the Bass Museum in South Florida I climbed into my car (still with no AC) and tried to start it. Well it’s a stick shift so you have to put the clutch in to start the ignition. However the clutch didn't seem to do anything. From the point I had left my car, to the moment I came back, the clutch seemed to be disconnected or something. Again I know very little about cars, so I was not 100% sure, but I knew the clutch was not working right. Stranded in South Miami at 12 in the afternoon is not the best feeling in the world. So I did the only thing I was trained to do. The only thing I was familiar with. I called a tow truck.


He arrived in about 35 min. Best response time to date. He was a “cool” looking guy. Slicked back hair, full lips, and a well-proportioned noise. He looked like a guy from Jersey Shore. So I was very calm about him moving my car...


“You ridding with me?” He said. I almost looked behind me to see if he was talking with someone else. “Of course I am ridding with you.” Who else would I ride with?


The 45 minuets in traffic back was full of pleasantries. We talked about his life as a tow trucker. The long hours, the always being on call, the countless women he got to see topless. He had money, women, and a tow truck. Yes his life was the life to have. That’s what he tried to convince me anyway. I had other opinions about the matter, but I didn't feel too excited about sharing them.


Turns out, the bar that engages the clutch snapped in half. Apparently incredibly difficult to do too. How it happened while parked on a flat street is unknown to me. But it did happened and I had to deal with it. The guy quoted me $1249 for parts and labor. Said I needed a new clutch as well.


I wanted a second opinion to say the least. I knew a guy who was friends with another guy who owed him a favor. So this other guy fixed it for around $400 and I actually haven't had any problems since. With that part of the car anyway.


Over time my E-Brake started to “die”, or is it fail? I’m not sure what you would call it, but it was not working like an E-Brake should. To me, this is a little problem. I mean I live in a flat state, so is it that necessary to have an E-Brake? If I lived in San Francisco we would definitely be having another discussion. So instead of getting it fixed I just spend a little more time driving around parking lots until I find the flattest spot there is, then jam a wrench from my trunk under the tire so its doesn't move. Lots of people do that right?


Well it works and it has cost me nothing to fix. So I consider it a blessing. Of course I do get an occasional look when I am parking and hang halfway out of my door with one foot still on the brake while I reach out and put the wrench under the tire.


There was this one time when I went to the local Super Market and had to park at a greater incline then usual. So I decided to park really close to the curb so I could point the ties away so that when it rolled back it would hit the curb and stop. The way the curb was designed it has lots of bushes and foliage on it, almost acting like a four-foot tall wall. Well when you park that close to the curb one might find that they have some difficulties getting out of their car. So what normally took me 5 sec to get out of the car took me two minutes. An old lady pushing her shopping cart stopped to watch the whole thing as I squeezed through my car door. When I made it past I just looked up and smiled. Almost proud of what I had accomplished.


But when it all comes down to it I have had a heck of an experience with BP. We have been through a lot. So I am not going to get a new car. I am just going to enhance my sense of humor.


Peter Mahar - Destination Wedding Photographer - Portland OR