Skrip - tyur' - i - ent: adj. Possessing the violent desire to write.


#004 In which our hero describes his ailing automobile.

I drive a 1996 Dodge Neon. I love this car. It was the first new car I ever bought. It has two doors and five speeds. It's red! The problem is, it's dying. Not the belching smoke, leaking oil sort of dying, but a much more subtle one. Things, small things, keep breaking. And when I say breaking, it's more that they just stop working, and weeks later I finally notice. Nothing fatal, just inconvenient.

The first thing that stopped working on my car was the LCD display on my radio. I had only owned the car for about a year at this point. It wouldn't work sometimes, then it would magically came back to life sporadically, then it finally gave up the ghost altogether. Not a big deal, it just meant that I had to look at my watch for the time, and had to guess at what station I was listening to.

Then, sometime in year two, my gas gauge stopped working. This was actually very alarming. I filled up my tank, and as I was driving away the needle began to drop. I hurriedly pulled over, expecting to find a hole in my gas tank and gasoline flooding the sidewalk. But that wasn't the case. With this one - unlike every other thing that went wrong before or since - I actually took the car to the garage. Turns out something was wrong with my "float," and I was holding gas just fine, the dash just gave me a false reading. And since it was a $600 repair, I figured I could live with it.

At first I just tried to remember when I fueled up and when I should get more gas. Being that I have a memory like a colander, this didn't work very well. I would often go to fill it up and only be able to put in $1 of gas, and on three occasions stranded myself when I ran out of gas.

I finally realized that I could set the trip odometer and track my gas consumption that way. I figure I get around 300 mpg city, 350 mpg highway before I need to worry. And this has worked great for me... until recently.

The A/C doesn't work very well, either. However, it's not like it doesn't work at all, just doesn't blow very cold. I had this looked at, and was told I have a leak somewhere in the system. Since I live in Cleveland and it's too cold more often than too hot, this was something else I could live with.

The speedometer was the next thing to go. And like the gas gauge, it was a little frightening. Driving down the highway at 60 mph, suddenly the needle dropped to 5 mph. Being that I didn't change speeds, I assumed that it was broken - by this time I had gotten used to things suddenly stopping. To make it more fun, sometimes the needle would hover at 20 mph, sometimes it would bounce around from 0 to whatever speed I was really going... it was something new every time! Again, this was more of an inconvenience than a worry. And it didn't happen that often. But, in the last half a year, it has started happening more often.

To work around this, I tried to figure out my speed via the RPM gauge, which was still working just fine. By my estimations, when I'm in fifth gear, right around 35000 RPM's is 70 mph. I haven't had to test this with the police yet, but I'm pretty confident.

However, I did notice something else: when the speedometer isn't working, neither does the trip (or regular) odometer. This means I can't accurately measure my gas (as accurately as I ever could with this method, that is). So now I take a guess as to how many miles passed while the speedometer wasn't working.

The next thing to go was my radio. This was only a couple of moths ago. The display hadn't worked in years, but now it stopped playing music, too. Even the tape deck wouldn't go. I just put a boombox in the passenger's seat and called it fixed.

Finally, just last weekend, the RPM gauge stopped working. This throws everything to hell because now not only can I not measure my gas, but I have no means of measuring my speed.

To review, the only gauge on my dashboard that works is the temperature. I think! I mean, it goes from 0 degrees at rest, to midway between the too cold/too hot icons when it's running. I'm assuming it's correct, but I could be very wrong. An Apollo 13-like disaster may be in the making at any moment.

And once that last gauge goes... I might have to think about getting a new car.


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