Breaking Down in Gig Harbor- Part Two

Because everything that happens is part of some bigger story, because I try to capture bits of that story as they fly by, because, objectively, it is kind of an interesting if not unique tale, I did write about my work van breaking down in Gig Harbor. I will check out the version I wrote for the Quilcene Community Center Newsletter, then, more than likely, make some… changes.

                                                Another Chapter in the Serial

I was driving my van home from the repair shop, and I was… anxious. Very anxious. There was a noise like a nearly worn-out fan coming from the front of the van. I had checked. It wasn’t, thankfully, the blades hitting the radiator. There was another sound, like sheet metal vibrating and clanging. And then there was the occasional clunk.

Clunk, like the engine was taking a breath, like the automatic transmission couldn’t decide which gear to go into. Clunk.

My hands were gripping the steering wheel. The rain was coming down at a just-under monsoon volume. The wipers were not quite keeping up. My breathing was overwhelming the defroster. The traffic was at the race-stop-slow-race-repeat phase of the afternoon retreat from the major cities, Tacoma in this case, that starts sometime before four pm and ends sometime before midnight… depending. 

I called everyone I have on my contact/speed dial list on my supposed-to-be-stealth flip phone. None of my contacts, almost exclusively family and other surfers, picked up.        

Trish, who had driven me to Gig Harbor, was ahead of me, somewhere, headed for our daughter Dru’s house in Port Gamble. Dru had picked me up a couple of weeks before, on another rainy night, when my van just stopped running. I would have turned on the radio for the distraction if I wasn’t so concerned, wasn’t listening so intently for some sounds that might suggest the van might make it the sixty-some miles from Gig Harbor to… home.

Clunk.

What I know about vehicles making that dead air hiccup is that one only gets so many clunks. I know this because my father, a mechanic, supplied me with a stream of almost-dead vehicles from the time I got my license; rigs that would break down for a variety of reasons: Overheating, lack of oil, abundance of speed; and after a variety of warning signs, the random clunk being one of the most dire. The direst. I learned to be the guy steering the car at the dumb end of the tow chain. First but not the only rule: Don’t hit the lead vehicle.  

I continued the habit of buying cars and work rigs, each with a variety of the problems associated with high mileage and advanced age. Cheaper. I have been given several vehicles. Each was almost worth it. Few of my discount vehicles have survived me. In fact, more than a few people have told me I should write a book about my life as a serial vehicle killer.

There are many good stories if good means entertaining for someone other than me. Perhaps you read about my recent black ice experience. The damage was enough that repairing the rig with mega miles and many little quirks and dings, a vehicle I bought for four hundred dollars, (practically a gift) didn’t seem like a reasonable choice, money-wise. Tragic, nonetheless; I never got to take it on a surf trip.

I need a work rig. Replacing even an older vehicle has gotten expensive. When the van broke down with electrical problems that are inarguably associated with high mileage and a lack of a recent tune up, the repair costs didn’t seem too onerous. That is, when I finally found a garage that would work on a vehicle built in the last century (computer thing- diagnosis). When thieves stole the catalytic converter in the garage’s lot, caught on camera, and slammed into my van to evade the local Gig Harbor Police, also caught on camera, doing additional damage, and escaped; and the garage, which had total control of my van, informed me that their insurance wouldn’t cover it; and the Gig Harbor cop who called me (when the garage didn’t) to ask if I wanted to be a victim (“No”), and if I would press charges if the perpetrators were caught (“Hell, yes”), and I asked him if they even got, like, a license number or something from the red truck, with trailer, featured in the above-mentioned video (“It was probably stolen”); well, all that just adds to the intrigue, the excitement of the story. For just a bit of added color, or fun, with a one-hundred-dollar deductible, there was almost three hundred dollars the garage wanted, over what my insurance company would cover.  

Oh, and the broken lights and front-end damage, from the thief crashing into my van to (successfully) evade the cop; that could be dealt with, my insurance provider said, on a separate claim. The assumption is that the crooks in the possibly stolen vehicle (with trailer) were most likely uninsured.

Makes sense, I guess.

When I did make it home. I immediately investigated as to whether a replacement catalytic converter needs a break in period. Yes. This, Google and YouTube agreed, is accomplished by getting the engine up to running temperature, then racing the engine at high rpms for about four minutes. This, quite obviously, had not been done. Worst thing, according to Google, is to just drive a vehicle home, ever so slowly.

Clunk.

The repair shop manager had not even told me there would be a needed procedure. He might have if I hadn’t said something sarcastic (a comparison with Les Schwab and vacuuming) when he said the mechanics had not replaced the “Doghouse” (in garage talk), the cover for the portion of the engine that extends into the cab of a van (in regular talk), because they hadn’t taken it off. True, that was Stephen Davis and me, hoping the fix was something simpler (it wasn’t).

I did get an automated text from the chain repair shop’s corporate level just as I was hitting another storm cell at the bottleneck at Gorst (which is right before the bottlenecks at Bremerton, Silverdale, Poulsbo, the Hood Canal Bridge). How would I rate the service I had received?

I’m still thinking about it.

“Vehicles I Have Killed. An Incomplete List.”   

Photo borrowed from Bing. Something about therapy for folks with meth addiction issues. Issues. Perhaps I assumed it was tweakers who stole my catalytic converter. Perhaps I’m wrong that they won’t get caught, won’t face charges. Perhaps it is wrong to believe that there might be a downhill spiral associated with some addictions; but shit, man, you fuck with my work vehicle, you’re fucking with my livelihood. I really don’t care how hard you work at stealing shit, it still isn’t a job. Good luck, get help, and, meanwhile, fuck you!

If you’re still with me… it’s like ALL the buoys are down. No, I don’t blame tweakers.

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