Gut Rumbles

January 12, 2010

Dead truck, new neighbors

Originally published August 29, 2004

I wanted to go see my mama today. I loaded up a bunch of pictures I intended to show her, and I even remembered to stick a pocketful of Costa Rican coins in my cut-offs to leave for my Uncle Virgil's collection of international coins.

I went outside, hopped in my truck and heard nothing but a "click-click-click" noise when I turned the key in the ignition. WTF? I thought. Did my starter just die on me so quickly?

I did the elementary trouble-checks. The lights work. I tried starting the truck in neutral instead of drive. I rolled the truck a few feet forward, put it in "Park" and tried again. Nothing but "click, click, click."

I thought THEN that I could see a tow-truck or a lot of begging in my immediate future. I took a wild chance and hooked my battery charger up to the battery. The damn thing went straight to zero amps, which told me that it wasn't charging SHIT, because the battery already held a full charge.

I was pissed by then, so I went inside to call mama and tell her that I wouldn't be coming over. I tried to look on the bright side. At least my truck was dead in the driveway instead of dead in the middle of nowhere. I fixed something to eat and started making plans for tomorrow. I figured that I had a lot to do, but the first step was to get that useless battery charger offa my truck.

I did that. On another wild hair, I decided to see if the truck would start. Lo and Behold, it did! It fired up like a tiger. I took it for a 20-mile ride and watched the ammeter on my instrument panel. The alternator was working. The battery was semi-dead.

I took the truck back home and scratched my head. How could the lights, radio and everything else in the truck work if the battery was dead? I am no auto mechanic, but I have a theory: it just takes more juice than the battery had left to turn that engine over. Lights and radio are easy. Kicking that Bendix out on the starter and turning the flywheel on a V-8 engine is difficult.

That's how I met my new neighbors. They moved in yesterday and I saw them sitting on their patio drinking tea this evening. I was sick and tired of fucking with that truck, so I decided that now was as good a time as anytime to go introduce myself to them. So, I did.

They are extremely nice folks and as I bitched about my truck to them, Nathan (the husband) said, "I was meaning to talk to you about that. Did you know that the dome light in your truck just comes on by itself at night and burns for hours at a time?" I told him that I didn't know that. He said, "It does, trust me. I wondered last night if you kept running to the truck and back."

We walked over to my truck to check it out. The dome light was off. I opened the door and the dome light came on. I closed the door and the dome light didn't go off. I said, "It's got a 10-second delay." We waited about 20 seconds and the dome light kept burning. I started opening and closing doors and finally the dome light went off. As we were standing there, the dome light came back on again, all by itself.

I threw a cussing hissy-fit right in front of my new neighbors. "I've got a got-dam short somewhere and I ain't worth a damn at electricity. This has been a goodam good truck and Old Paint never let me down before! I'm gonna get rid of this sumbitch and buy me something else! You better BEHAVE, darlin' because I'm about to pull your fuse." I started to crawl under the dashboard.

Nathan stopped me. "What are you doing, Rob?" he asked. "I'm going to pull the overhead light fuse if I can find it," I replied. Nathan said, "You're looking in the wrong place. The fuses are right here," and he snapped off a compartment on my dashboard that I never noticed before. He pulled the guts out of it and said, "Do you reckon 'Illumination' is it?" I said try it and see.

He pulled the fuse and the light went out. I coulda kissed him. "Thanks a lot," I told him. "You just saved me a lot of money."

"That's what neighbors are for, right?" He just grinned at me.

I introduced Nathan and his lovely wife Victoria to a couple of the neighbors. I don't usually do that kind of thing but I saw the people out in their yards and I wanted my new neighbors to get to know the people around them. Yes, I was Social Director this evening. I kinda enjoyed doing it, especially now that I know what's wrong with my truck. Everybody was polite and friendly, just the way they've always been to me.

Did I mention that Nathan and Victoria are black? No, I didn't think so.

That's the racist in me.

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