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Athens, Ohio, United States
"Art and love are the same thing. It's the process of seeing yourself in things that are not you."

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Mmm Smells Like Bailout

I drive a 2002 bright red Jeep Liberty named Bessie Lou.

I did my driver's test in Bessie Lou. The first time, Bessie and I got a little excited and ran a stop sign. The second time, we both kept our cool and passed with flying colors. Bessie Lou drove me my first day of junior year. Bessie Lou took me to my first girlfriend's house for my first date. Bessie Lou took me the 200 miles south to Athens, Ohio and served as the portal between my old home and my new home.

Now it looks like Bessie Lou may be dead.

And I'd like to tell you how she died.

Sometime in late-June, I was driving home from a Wal Mart grocery run. When I was about a block away from home I felt Bessie kick horribly and start to whine. Instinctively I pulled into the AAA franchise right near my house. AAA had been long closed but I needed a place to park and figure things out. I checked the engine but I had as much chance understanding the inner workings of a automobile's engine as Tiger Woods does monogamy. I decided to cut my losses and drive home anyway. Bessie Lou would start and she would drive but she wouldn't get out of first gear. A quick consulting of Google told me that this was more than likely an issue with the transmission and that it would be more than likely very, very expensive to fix.

But Bessie Lou was family and Bessie Lou deserved fixing. I consulted my benefactors (mom and dad) on the issue and they said they would front some money to fix Bessie since she was paid off anyway and 2,000 bucks here or there isn't a bad investment for a car.

With that in mind I did some research on where to take Bessie Lou. I stopped by a well-respected mechanic on Columbus Road. They told me that they could check it out themselves but if it WAS a transmission problem, they couldn't do anything about it anyway. They suggested I go down the road about a quarter-mile to Taylor Nissan, which doubles as a Chyrsley-Jeep dealership as well.

The people at Taylor Nissan told me that I had two options.

Option A) Buy a new transmission. $3,200
Option B) Buy a used transmission $1,800

I chose option B. They told me that they could not offer a warranty on a used transmission but promised that the company they receive transmissions from has never failed them. This put my mind at ease. I handed Taylor Nissan my keys, walked halfway home from Carpenter (a nice woman named Jane would pick me up and take me the rest of the way but that's a story for another time) and waited. And waited. And waited. And waited.

After roughly three weeks of waiting Taylor Nissan called me back. They told me that they had received my new (old) transmission. Problem was, the transmission wouldn't go into reverse gear.


They told me that they had another transmission on order and wouldn't charge me for it. They would, however, be forced to charge me $600 for "man-hours." I have no idea what a "man-hour" is but it must be very different from one of my "hours" because my hours are much cheaper I assure you. Anyway, I told them $600 more dollars was a paltry sum to pay to get my sweet, sweet Bessie Lou back.

A week and a half later they called and told me Bessie Lou was ready. I had a friend drive to down to Columbus Road once more to retrieve my car. They told me that Bessie had one more issue. Her "transfer case" was broken. I would need to get that fixed eventually and it would cost around $700. I declined to get said transfer case fixed and asked if I could take my car anyway. They said it would be safe to drive for the time being. Good. I gave them credit card information to pay $2,400, they gave me my keys and I drove off.

The moment I drove off I knew something was wrong. Bessie Lou's engine was making noises as though she were being carried up a roller-coaster track. TIK-TIK-TIK-TIK-TIK-TIK-TIK-TIK.

I shrugged it off. The man told me that the transfer case would make some noise and I believed him. Granted, she had never made those noises before but maybe it was only a matter of time before she did anyway? Then I pulled into my driveway. Upon doing so my odometer, windshield wipers, headlights, volume control and power locks all died simultaneously.


The next day I hauled Bessie Lou back over to Taylor Nissan. The mechanic there told me that they did not play around with the electrical cords at all during the transmission replacement and were at a loss for why this would happen. They said they would do a sort of car scan.

Scan away, I said.

So I waited in a hospital-like waiting room while mechanics ran more tests on my car. And much like waiting in a hospital-like waiting room it took forever and all the tests came back negative. Yes, Taylor Nissan had no more clue than I did while all of my electrical systems died at the same time. They did tell me that aside from the lack of an odometer and headlights that it should be okay to drive. If I wanted to get the other stuff fixed they could keep it overnight again but I was planning on heading home for the weekend and I couldn't afford up to a month without a car again.

Since Bessie Lou had no headlights, my girlfriend and I decided to head home to Twinsburg, Ohio immediately so that the sun wouldn't fall while we were driving. It seemed like a good idea in principle...until Bessie Lou died.

We had just gotten onto 7 North and were passing the restaurant/gas station "The Cool Spot" when Bessie Lou simply stopped. All the engine noises stopped, the RPM meter flew down to 0 and I felt the essence that was "Bessie Lou" simply vanish. I wheeled over the the side of the road before we could get smashed by oncoming traffic and gravely called AAA (see the story comes full circle).

A nice, if overly honest, tow trucker came to pick us up and take us back to Athens where Bessie Lou's corpse resides in the parking lot of Taylor Nissan.

This is part a story of a love-lost between a boy and his car and part a story of my run-in with the American auto-industry. The name on the building said "Taylor Nissan" but the company bears the symbol of Chrysler/Jeep as well. And at the end of the day, straight facts of it all boil down to this: I gave my car to a mechanic for more than a month and received it back in worse condition than I left it off with. When I tried to get those problems fixed, I was sent on my way yet again only for the car to die in 60 mph traffic.

I am assuming that for all intents and purposes the car is dead. I just want to know from you, the Internet, should I let her go peacefully or rage against the mechanics and company that in my mind, watched her die?