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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.

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Kidney Stones and Starters and Ultimatums, Oh My!

Dave and I were watching The Carrie Diaries a week or so ago, and in that episode Carrie told her boyfriend Sebastian that she wanted to break up.  So they did.  Later on, she’s telling her friend about it and is shocked that he didn’t fight for her – he just agreed when she suggested they break up.  I was nodding in agreement with her as she said this, while Dave scoffed in disgust.  I turned to him and paused the show.

“You know, that really is how many girls think.”

He looked stunned, and I continued.  “The guy is supposed to know she doesn’t really mean it.  It’s just like a test for him – will he fight for her and their relationship?  Or will he just agree, which means he didn’t care enough.”

Dave disagreed, vehemently.  “NO.  If she says she wants to break up, she should mean it.  Why would he stay with her if she wants to break up?!”

I narrowed my eyes and challenged him.  “So if we got in a fight over something stupid, and in the heat of the moment I yelled and said I wanted a divorce, you would just DO IT?  You wouldn’t fight for us?”

He shrugged.  “Yeah.  If tell me you want a divorce, then I assume you really want a divorce.  Don’t say it if you don’t mean it.”

I shook my head.  “No, you should know I don’t really mean it and that people say things they don’t mean when they’re angry.  If you told me you wanted a divorce, I would never just accept it.  I would do everything I could to keep our marriage together!”

The show languished on ‘pause’ as we continued, although at this point we were kind of laughing at each other for getting so worked up.  Finally, I smacked Dave on the arm and told him he’s not allowed to ever agree if I tell him I want a divorce.  He grinned and acquiesced.  Luckily, I have long since outgrown my tendency to throw down huge ultimatums in the middle of a fight and, also luckily, we usually don’t fight.  We might have heated discussions, or disagree for a while before coming to a compromise, but it is very, very rare for us to have an actual yelling-at-each-other fight.  Still, it’s good to know that he’s so very literal!

In other news, last night I was playing Words With Friends when I heard Dave call out, “Honey?  Come here!” from the bathroom.  I ran down the hall, hoping he was going to deliver the news I wanted to hear.  He proudly wielded his strainer, which held…a dark gray kidney stone, much MUCH larger than I expected it to be.  I mean, I thought we might actually miss the thing, you know?  This looked like he’d plucked a piece of gravel from the road and tossed it in the strainer just to mess with me.

You know it’s true love when you’re high-fiving your husband and admiring the kidney stone he just passed at 11 pm.

It’s a good thing he passed it on his own, because when he called to make the appointment with Urology they told him the soonest they could get him in was May 20th!  Lord have mercy.

He kind of sighed this morning and told me, “I feel like I’ve been cheated.  I’ll never really know what the first week of Hep C treatment is supposed to be like…the kidney stone stole the spotlight!”

In one week he has not only started his Hep C treatment, passed a kidney stone and finished my mom’s kitchen (it looks great, mom!) but now our car won’t start [heavy sigh].  We assumed the battery ran down because when we got in the car the morning after his hospital visit, it wouldn’t start.  I figured maybe we didn’t shut one of the doors all the way, since it was so late and we were both really tired.  Dave put the battery charger on and we took our other car over to my mom’s.

But yesterday morning, when he was heading over there to finish up, it still wouldn’t start.  So he spent the morning taking the car apart, trying to figure out what was going on.  I suggested that we have it towed and looked at in a shop.  He looked as if I had just suggested we remove our clothing and do an interpretive dance on the sidewalk.  “No, of course I can fix it.  It just takes so damn long to actually get to the starter on these newer cars!”  He complained about clamps that needed to be removed and I nodded supportively.  I asked if he needed my help.  He made a little snort of laughter and went back to the garage, and I breathed a sigh of relief because, really, I know nothing about cars.

So now we have a new starter ordered and he’s going to pick it up in about a half hour.  After this, it would be helpful if we could get a little break on the crises.  *fingers crossed*

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