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Friday, March 19, 2004
Blog's Salute to the Automobile - La Venganza
If you didn't know, boiling radiator coolant smells exactly like maple syrup.
"How much to get the $#$@#!@! thing running again?"
"You're looking at $900 with the rental, sir."
"So be it, Jedi."
It was mistake I knew I was making. My beloved van is worth, roughly $3 and change. Pumping $900 into a vehicle worth less than a Hot Wheels car was insanity. I did it anyway.
Monday, while stuck in a traffic jam, the engine overheated. I barely made it off of SW Canyon to a safe spot next to a used car dealership. If you're not familiar with the layout of a 1984 Toyota van, the engine sits under the front seats. I lifted up the one on the driver's side and cloud of IHOP-flavored smoke wafted out, fogging the windows.
The problem is the water pump. The van has had "issues" with it in the past. I replaced it two years ago and this solved the problem, at least temporarily. It slowly creeped back in January. For years, I’ve made due with leaking pumps since the van seems to go through them like a fat man goes through pants. As long as the overflow bottle was kept filled, the van could go where other vans feared thread. Also contributing to my false confidence, my high school chemistry teacher once told a class full of skeptics, "If you’re ever in a tight spot, you could always urinate in your radiator." Although I've never tried this, it's probably the closet thing I’ll ever get to a mantra.
This simple solution to a complex problem has kept the van running for years. After the fiasco in February, I figured I could get by with the leaking pump for years to come.
The van wasn’t drivable so I walked home. A few hours later, I went back and checked the oil. So far, so good. If the overheating radiator had damaged the engine, the oil would have been milky white. I filled the overflow bottle and did a trail run. I guesstimated that, with the damaged pump, the van can drive five miles before overheating. An inch past that and who knows what would happen.
The good news is I can make it to the Plaid Pantry down the street. The bad news is that I can’t go anywhere else. I’d have to shell out another $500 to get the pump fixed, bringing the van's medical bills to a staggering $1400. Keep in mind that this is a 20 year old vehicle with a roof that looks like a Chia Pet.
With the van comatose, I’ve been enduring the slings and arrows of Portland’s nightmarish public transportation system. Eventually, I’m going to have to make a choice: fix the van and run the risk of it dying again two weeks later or, (GASP!) buying a used car…and running the risk of it dying two weeks later.
In short, I hate automobiles. I hate mechanics even more. And I can’t stand that line from "The Message" that keeps running through me head:
"Got to have a [car] in this land of milk and honey."
The missing word is "con." I always thought it was "car."