Driving me crazy

It’s time for one of our periodic drives to Philadelphia for a stay with the in-laws. (And before you get all “Oy, vey, the in-laws!,” let me just say that I actually enjoy visiting my in-laws. I know, right?) We’re scheduled to depart at around 6 p.m. today.

The thing about driving to Philadelphia is that we actually have to drive to Philadelphia … and a 700-mile roundtrip adventure sort of demands a safe and reliable automobile. The thing is, keeping a 12-year-old Honda CR-V with 35 bazillion miles on it safe and reliable is becoming more and more of a challenge.

But both of our cars are paid for, and biting off a new car payment would be even more of a challenge right now (read: impossible) … so, instead, we have to pinprick ourselves to death with this repair here, and that repair there.

And there was more pinpricking last week, because the oil pan was leaking, and just as I was getting ready to take it to the shop for that repair, the exhaust started to go all Harley Davidson on me, and the thing sounded like a Sherman tank, so I had to get that fixed, too … to the tune of about $800, and can you say “How much room is left on this credit card?”?

So, yeah, that sucked, but at least we took care of it a week before our drive to Philly, and it actually seemed to be running and handling quite nicely in the wake of the repairs, and, my gosh, honey, I think we might still be able to milk some more life out of this thing, because it really—BANG-BANG-BANG-BANG-RATTLE-RATTLE-RATTLE-RATTLE.

Well. That’s a disconcerting noise.

And now the Philadelphia trip was looming larger on the horizon, and I was wigging, both because of the limited amount of time we had left before departure, and because, Hello?? Just spent $800 on repairs that we thought would put us in the clear for some time to come!

So I brought it to the mechanic Tuesday, and described the BANG-BANG-BANG-BANG-RATTLE-RATTLE-RATTLE-RATTLE noise we had encountered, and explained that I had only been able to reproduce that sound by traveling on the highway at about 65 miles per hour, so I suggested that they would probably need to do the same in order to properly diagnose the problem.

A few hours later, the trying-way-too-hard-to-sound-sincere shop clerk listed off a litany of things they discovered that might have been producing the troublesome noise … which disturbed me greatly, because I didn’t want a list of things that might be producing the troublesome noise; I wanted a single, definitive explanation for what exactly, precisely, specifically, beyond a shadow of a doubt was producing the troublesome noise.

“Are any of those things a safety concern?” I asked him in an effort to locate the fine line between fiscal responsibility and daredevil-like lunacy. He told me the one item on his list that was an immediate safety concern, particularly in light of our plans to drive to Pennsylvania, so I really didn’t have any choice but to tell him to go ahead and make that repair. The rest of his list would have to wait … until, like, never.

So they repaired what they thought might have been the problem, but when I asked if they had taken the car on the highway to see if they could hear the noise, either before or after making the repair, they said they had not. So, after waiting two days to get the car back, I picked it up this morning … as in, eight hours before we were due to depart for Pennsylvania. And I just knew I was about to drop $450 for a repair that hadn’t solved the problem. (And I knew this because I KNOW EVERYTHING. Sure, the guy at the shop is a former Honda employee who has worked on nothing but Hondas for decades now, but I am Daddy Scratches, and my inherent superiority therefore trumps his, you know, “real world experience.” Pfft.)

So I slapped down another credit card, signed the slip, climbed into my car and headed for the highway … and began accelerating … until I got up to 65 … then 70 … and I was certain the drive shaft was about to drop from beneath the chassis, spear itself into the pavement and pole vault me and my car into New Hampshire … but …

Nothing. Not a sound. Hmmm. Maybe I had misjudged my superior knowledge of auto repair.

Still, I can’t help but worry that sometime around, say, 11 p.m. tonight, while cruising down the New Jersey Turnpike with my wife asleep in the passenger seat and my children zonked out in the back, I will suddenly feel the engine fall out of the car, tearing off all four wheels in the process.

So keep your fingers crossed and an eye on the Twitter feed (a.k.a. Daddy’s Briefs, over there on the right), and I’ll let you know if we make it.

[UPDATE: For those of you who didn’t catch the “tweet” (could Twitter please think of something less ridiculous sounding than “tweet” to describe a text message? Speaking of which: could Twitter please think of something less ridiculous sounding than “Twitter”?), the Scratches family arrived safe and sound in the Philadelphia area at around midnight … and the Honda handled as beautifully as it ever has, if not more so. Go figure.]

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