The Five Stages of Car Repair Grief

It was a Saturday like any other.  After breakfast, we decided to head out to some stores – Goodwill and Sally Beauty.  Nothing crazy, but better than sitting around the house.

We both got into the car, settled in and fastened our seat belts.  Dave turned the key, the car started and then immediately died.  I wasn’t alarmed; I thought maybe he didn’t turn the key all the way or something.  He tried again, and the same thing happened.  And again.  And again.  Finally he sighed and said, “Give me about ten minutes.”  So I went back upstairs, not bothering to take off my coat or shoes.  I figured I’d just be putting them right back on again.

It didn’t take long for him to come back upstairs and ask me to check online to see if other people had the same problem.  That’s when it began … when we entered the Five Stages of Car Repair Grief:

1.     Disbelief

Well, there can’t really be anything wrong with the car.  I mean, we drove it yesterday!  What in the world could have happened overnight, while the car sat innocently in the garage, to cause it not to work today?  It must be something simple like maybe a connector on the battery got knocked loose or something.

Yet, nothing is working.  All the Googling points to something ECM related.  No, I don’t know what an ECM is or what it stands for.  I just hope it’s not expensive.

2.    Despair

Oh my God.  This is going to cost over a thousand dollars, I bet.  Or maybe it’s going to cost so much that it’s not even worth fixing the car.  I mean, it’s ten years old now.  How are we going to pay for this?  Why is all this car stuff happening right after we get rid of all our credit cards?!  (Seriously, the A/C in the car went out a month after we ditched the credit cards.  Then we got all new tires and wheels in January, when one of the tires stopped holding air.)

Dave starts talking ominously about how we are going to need a new car, because we need something reliable.  It’s not like we have a second car as a backup.  We start pricing used trucks (because Dave really, really wants a truck).  We spend the weekend morosely sitting around the house, because it’s 18 degrees outside and too cold to walk anywhere and WE DON’T HAVE A WORKING CAR.  Sigh.

3.    Anger

At 9 am on Monday, Dave calls State Farm’s Emergency Road Service number so we can have the car towed to a shop.  The first thing they ask is, “Are you calling from a safe location?”  Dave is caught off guard a bit, then recovers and explains that our car is in the garage, won’t start, and we need a tow.  He answers a bunch of questions, they verify our coverage, and confirm the location of the shop we want the car towed to.  We’ve never used these guys, but they have great Yelp and Facebook reviews, and they’re only three miles from our house.  If we have to, we can walk there to pick the car up.

We’re told the tow truck will be here in less than an hour.  It’s St. Patrick’s Day and we’re planning a breakfast scramble with potatoes O’Brien; we decide to wait until the tow truck leaves to start breakfast.  (We always wait to eat until after 10 am anyway.)  At about 10:15, we get an automated call from State Farm, confirming that our service has been completed.  No, it hasn’t … so Dave is connected to an operator.  He explains that the tow truck still hasn’t arrived; she puts him on hold, talks to the tow truck guy, comes back to Dave and says his previous job took longer than expected and he’ll be here in 20 minutes.

Twenty minutes comes and goes, and Dave calls State Farm again.  Again, they put Dave on hold to talk to the tow truck driver; he says he’ll be here in no more than 10 minutes.  I set the timer on the microwave, just to be a smartass.

Ten minutes comes and goes.  After about 15 minutes, the tow truck guy calls.  He’s asking what’s wrong with the car, which is kind of weird.  Then he tells Dave he’ll be here in about 20 minutes.  !!!

By now we’re freaking starving and super freaking pissed off that this guy has been lying about his arrival time for almost three hours.  I’m ranting and raving about how screwed we would be if we really had needed roadside assistance.  Or maybe they’re taking their sweet time because they know we’re at home?  In any case, I’m apoplectic and Dave is calm; as I’ve mentioned before, usually when one of us is furious, the other keeps their cool.  I pause in the middle of saying extremely unkind things about this tow truck driver to recommend that we get started on breakfast.  “Otherwise it’s going to be noon before we eat!” I shriek.  Maybe there’s a little low blood sugar going on here.

Just as we get the eggs cooked and sprinkle cheese on top of our potatoes, pretty much at noon on the dot, the tow truck finally arrives.  Dave tells me to start eating and runs down to deal with the car.  About ten minutes later he’s back, shaking his head.  “You know that druggie congressman on House of Cards, the one they think killed himself?” he said.  I nodded.  “This guy looked exactly like him.  Acted like him too.  He kept trying to get me to let him take the car to his shop in Schaumburg.”  (Side note:  Schaumburg is about ten miles away.)

“Did he give you any paperwork?” I asked.  Dave shook his head, in between bites of his breakfast brunch.  “Oh my God – we need to make sure he really takes the car to RCN instead of his own shop!” I fretted.  Anger has melted away and is now becoming:

4.    Bargaining

Once we verified that the car did, indeed, get towed to the correct shop, it was time to start worrying about the actual repair.  This is the point where you promise God, or whatever Higher Power you believe in, if any, that you will do anything if the cost of the repair can just be under, let’s say, $400.  Please please please.

5.    Acceptance

Well, what’s done is done.  We can’t afford to buy a different vehicle right now, so we just need to keep this one working.  Whatever it costs, we’ll figure out how to pay it.  Hopefully it won’t happen again.  And at least it happened while we were at home, and we didn’t get stranded anywhere.  Even better, we have nothing going on this week so we can handle being without a car for as long as it takes to fix.

For a lucky few, there’s a sub-stage called Relief.  That’s what happens when they call on Tuesday to tell you the problem was a crankshaft sensor, it’s been fixed, and the total was under $188.  So you order a taxi, it arrives promptly, and it costs a mere $8 to be deposited, safe and warm, at the car shop.

I’m not sure how long it takes to stop holding your breath when you start your car.


About wendiwendy

I'm a real-life bionic woman.

Posted on March 19, 2014, in Not Related to Hearing Loss and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. Wow this was my life just last week. We just got a new van, well new to us, after I totalled our other vehicle. Had it for about 2 weeks and all the power steering fluid poured out. I was thinking OH NO how are we going to pay for this and on and on. Well my husband just popped the hose back on that popped off and put new fluid in. Oh how I wish all car repairs could be that easy. So glad you have your vehicle back. My college roommate and wonderful friend lives in Palatine. Must not be far from you when you mentioned Schaumburg.


  2. When you said, ” I set the timer on the microwave, just to be a smartass.” I boated my gut! You are so funny! 🙂 I loved this in so many ways!


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