This is an offshoot of the original Liam & Janet blog. That blog has become overrun by Liam's inability to keep his mouth shut when something annoys him. The serious rants there seemed incongruous with the humor columns. The plan for the humor columns continues to be to post a new one every Friday, plus occasional extras when the mood strikes.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Really? So That’s What a “Tranny” Is?

[There's been a grammatical error in this essay since I posted it that I have really wanted to update, but I was afraid if I did, the mailing list software would send it out again, so I figured I'd do it at the same time as I posted a new essay, so at least if it does repeat, it doesn't give people the false hope of new humor. However, there's little different here from the one you presumably read when it came out almost a month ago, so if you are receiving this in your e-mail again, you may safely ignore it as substantively the same.

For true purists, there's also one new paragraph. Well, three, if you, like my oldest son Andrew, feel the need to be a wiseass and therefore insist on pointing out that this paragraph you're reading right now is also, technically new, but I mean one in the actual body of the essay, containing a joke I made at the time which came back into my head a day or two ago, and never one to let a joke go to waste, no matter how bad, I had to come back and include it. --Liam]


There are mornings when you wake up and think to yourself “I have just too much money. I should find some poor, hard-working mechanic and give some of it to him.”

Starting yesterday morning, my family has been on the long awaited extended weekend trip to Washington, D.C. to pick up our oldest two children for the summer and show all of the kids around the nation’s capital. Yesterday morning we began our drive, packing Dagny, Darby, Liam and ourselves into the minivan and setting off. A bit over half of the way there, in Bloomfield, NJ, there was a sudden “whoosh” and the van which had until moments before been happily bearing us southward at a rate of speed I will only describe as "vast" (in case any employees of the state of NJ who wear blue uniforms and might happen to notice us passing back through on Monday should happen to read this) was suddenly refusing to provide us much in the way of "oomph", while doing a lot of whining like I’ve not heard since my Dad taught me to drive a “stick” and I took it out on the highway and forgot to shift out of second until well over the legal speed limit. That is to say, a lot of loud whining (come to think of it, his car made a similar sound as well).

Fortunately, this happened literally yards from the entrance to the “South Brookdale” rest area on the Garden State Parkway, and so we were able to pull into the parking lot, pop the hood and stare forlornly at the cloud of slightly-sweet smelling smoke which emerged and the very wet looking surface of the engine that looked as though it had recently undergone a full oil change by a monkey having an epileptic seizure.

I was pretty sure it was the transmission. It will turn out later in the story that I was right, but the truth is I was pretty sure it was the transmission because that’s about the only part of a car engine I could think of at that moment, other than “manifold” and I’ve never been quite sure what a “manifold” does. Therefore, it had to be the transmission, and as I said, it turned out that “whoosh” had been what we would later learn to be that life-blood of the automatic automobile, the transmission fluid, spraying hither and perhaps yon, but no longer spraying at all into the places necessary to allow the car to shift gears or even travel under its own power.

We found a local police officer (the specific one I hope to avoid running into after he takes a guess at what “vast” meant, above) who called us a tow truck, and while we waited, a nice gentleman came up and poked around under the hood for a bit. By “nice gentleman”, I mean “man dressed in leather biker duds with something that looked like used motor-oil in his hair and various and sundry tattoos, including on his knuckles”, but he was very nice about all of it, even if his only real talent was to look under the hood and make a lot more informed sounding guesses about just how screwed we were.

Finally, he said “I don’t think there’s anything I can do for you” and made the sign of a cross in front of the car, saying it was all he could do to bless the car and hope it made for a simpler and cheaper fix. This would not be the sole confluence of religion and mechanical repair the car would experience this day.

Some short while later (in the sense that it was still, technically, the same day) the tow truck driver arrived. He announced to me that he was going to tow us to a nearby garage, and that this was going to cost me $68. This sounded very reasonable to me until he got the van up on his truck and pulled out, driving about 1000 feet down the Parkway to an exit and another 500 feet into the Shell station at the base of the exit ramp. So essentially this works out to a rate of approximately $272/mile, which is still a bargain when I think of how much gas we would later burn in the rental vehicle, but I am getting ahead of myself.

At the garage, they spent several hours looking over the car. There is nothing particularly humorous about this, although I did learn that if it turns out my car is possessed by demonic forces, it is in good hands, because Dan, the friendly mechanic who worked on my car confided in me that on the weekends he’s a pastor at a local church. This being the second instance of Christianity and the art of Van Maintenance, I began to wonder if that had been Holy Smoke issuing from the back of my car, or perhaps whether that puff of white as I opened my hood had signaled the ascension of a new Pope.

I should also say, Dan has quite the sense of humor. When he first looked at the car, he asked what was wrong with it. I described what I’d observed and said “So I’d guess the transmission, but that’s why I brought it to you, because I don’t really understand these things.” “You and me both,” he replied. What a kidder… I hope.

While Dan was performing his maintenance on or baptism of my car, Janet took the kids for a walk a quarter of a mile down the road to a local park, which turned out to be (no, I’m not kidding) the same Brookdale Park my maternal grandfather used to take me to regularly when we’d visit them when I was wee, and in fact the park he used to take my mother to when SHE was. A park I’d not been to since I was in my teens and my grandparents moved away from this neighborhood.

And, for anyone who doubts the power of karma, or Murphy, or just keeping your damn thoughts to yourself, I swear this is true, not two minutes before this all started, I’d seen the sign for the upcoming “Brookdale South Rest Area” and thought to myself “Brookdale Park was fun, it’s too bad I’ll probably never have a chance to show it to Janet or the kids”. No, I’m really not kidding.

Dan was quite chatty while working, at one point telling me we were really lucky that this had happened today (a definition of "lucky" with which I was not previously familiar), because several days earlier there had been record storms which they were still cleaning up from and an extended power outage which had only recently been restored. He also said that a lightning strike near the garage had set the pavement on fire, which had caused quite a problem for the local fire department. Now, having spent many a year in New Jersey, I remember it as being very crowded, vaguely odorous and having a local accent which could not exactly be described as "pleasing to the ear". But I do wonder at what point they added "flammable" to that list of attributes.

Finally, Dan determined that the leak seemed to be coming from something called a “solenoid” and that he was going to have to replace it, which would take a couple of days. Actually, he gave us several options. First, he said it seemed to have been a slow leak, and we might be able to make it to D.C. safely and have it fixed there. As though there were magical transmissions faeries in D.C. that were going to fix it more cheaply and better, to say nothing of the fact that Murphy was already kicking himself that he’d been tricked into making something go wrong in just about the most convenient place it could have, I really didn’t want to give him the chance to blow us out in the middle of the Jersey Pine Barrens or on the middle of the bridge over the Delaware Water Gap.

Dan actually suggested that maybe if we took a couple of quarts of transmission fluid with us, we could “top it off” if we needed to. This turned out to be some kind of practical joke on Dan’s part, when it turned out that the way to fill the transmission fluid normally was through a port you can only open with a special tool and the magical mechanical incantation of the day, which would cause Dan to lose his license if it ever got out that we’d learned it from him. But not to worry, you can also fill the fluid through the dip-stick slot, a hole so small that, in order to accomplish this feat, you essentially have to hollow out a tooth pick and pour a fluid with the same approximate viscosity as paving tar through it and down the slot with the same care and determination as a proper Irish barkeep lovingly pouring a pint o’ Guinness, but with a slightly better taste. (In my opinion there’s nothing like a good beer, but also in my opinion, real British Guinness is exactly that: nothing like a good beer).

In the end, after spending 5 hours in lovely New Jersey (“lovely” said with a level of scorn reserved for those who actually spent 12 or more of their formative years there before realizing that they were actually free to leave any time they chose) and the prospect of several hundred or more dollars in repairs, we decided to spend hundreds of additional dollars to rent a car. This was at 4:45pm on a Thursday afternoon, and our major requirement was that this vehicle had to be capable of hauling all seven members of our family, and the rental car company had just the ticket, something called the “S.S. Land Yacht”.

Actually, it was a Chevrolet Suburban, a vehicle that has the same approximate size, power and gross tonnage as a charging herd of rhinoceri, but with less fuel efficiency. This car seems to be personally responsible for at least 12% of the national daily gasoline consumption. I don’t mean this model of car, I mean this specific individual car that we are now driving around in tourist mode, getting a good 100 or 150 miles per tank load, said tank being about the size of a municipal water supply tower, but without the fun graffiti telling us which long-forgotten high school student loved which other long-forgotten high school student enough to risk life and limb and permanent ostracization by getting seriously drunk and rappelling down the side of the tower to misspell the name of the object of his desire and his undying affection for her.

In the end, we’re probably personally responsible for at least a half a degree of average global temperature rise and the purchase for an oil Sheik of a new small yacht for his servants to use driving around his large main yacht while scrubbing off the barnacles.

But at least we should have the most blessed van this side of the pope-mobile.

Copyright © June 13, 2007 by Liam Johnson. http://liam-humor.blogspot.com

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4 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh, MAN! This made me laugh so hard, tears came out of my eyes, and then my boss came running becuase he thought he'd have to perform the heimlich maneuver. (There go my web priviledges!)Sorry to hear about the van... Mare Astra

Monday, June 16, 2008 8:29:00 AM

 
Blogger Liam said...

Hmmmm. Sorry 'bout the web privs, but I'm glad you enjoyed it!

Liam.

Monday, June 16, 2008 11:58:00 AM

 
Anonymous Linda said...

Liam, you definitely have the gift for storytelling. They should make a sitcom out of your life. lol

Monday, June 16, 2008 1:37:00 PM

 
Blogger Liam said...

Sadly, only in print. I really envy those people who can take a nothing event and turn it into a half hour long "keep everyone in rapt attention" people at parties.

But I guess I'll take what I can get. Thanks!

Liam.

Monday, June 16, 2008 6:22:00 PM

 

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