See Ya Later Alternator

Monday August 20th, 2012 – Kenosha, WI

   Today’s detour on the docket of daily disaster is…car trouble! It’s been a while since I’ve dealt with that one, but it’s an all too familiar scenario. Car part pukes. Replacement part is completely overpriced. I have no choice but to pay it. That’s a formula I’ve been familiar with far too long.

On my way home from WLIP after The Mothership Connection radio show last night, an idiot light popped up on my dash I’d never seen before. It was a picture of a battery, and I had no idea what it meant. Sometimes idiot lights pop on for no reason, but more often than not it’s trouble.

The car was running fine, and there didn’t seem to be anything wrong with anything electrical. The lights worked fine, and the radio was playing without an issue. It was 1am, so there weren’t a whole lot of options other than to get home and deal with it in daylight. Maybe it was a fluke.

This morning I got in the car and it started right up. No idiot light. I drove it for a few minutes and the light popped back on. Trouble. I hoped it was only a loose contact or slipping fan belt or something, but that’s never been my fate. This was going to be something bigger. I could feel it.

Mondays are a traditional lunch day with my Kenosha friends, and it’s usually very enjoyable. It’s the movie crew of Mark Gumbinger, and usually includes Lou Rugani from WLIP and Russ Martin who drives down from Milwaukee. Depending on the week, others slide in and out also.

Mark and Lou are car guys, and know several places in town that work on theirs that have done them well in the past. It’s always a gamble to take a car into a strange garage, and I’ve been bent to my ball joints way too many times to count. We’re at the mechanic’s mercy, and they know it.

After lunch Lou had me follow him to a gas station he knew of to get my car looked at, and on the way I felt all power fade and immediately knew what it was – the alternator. I’ve had several of those puke in my day, and on a Chevy Cavalier I didn’t expect it to be a major deal to replace.

Of course, my 2003 model had to have THE rarest alternator in automotive history, and it was impossible to find any used or rebuilt ones within a 2000 mile radius of Kenosha, WI. I would’ve had to have been in the original Louis Chevrolet family bloodline to receive even a 1% discount.

Several hours later, after spending my afternoon sitting on a folding chair in a Mobil station in Kenosha, WI that wasn’t near any place I could relax comfortably, I received my final bill. $402. Ouch. In the big scheme of life, I suppose it could have been a lot worse. But in my itty bitty life, this was a huge hassle I didn’t need. I hadn’t planned for it, and it kicked me in the wallet – hard.

There’s never an opportune time for car trouble. Nobody has ever said “Hey! The sun is bright and life seems to be trouble free. I sure hope my car takes a big steamer on me today!” That’s not how it happens. Something or other seizes up out of the blue like it did today, and it’s yet another bill that needs to be paid. Nobody cares, and the world doesn’t cut any slack. And there isn’t one teeny weeny tidbit of an implied verbal guarantee something else couldn’t go wrong tomorrow.


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