Monday, February 15, 2010

New Clutch

Everything came together just in time today. Rides materialized to get me from the mechanics’ shop to my customer’s house and then back late in the afternoon. I had a chance to speak with people I had met in the past, but with whom I had never had conversations. Though the problem with my car was expensive to fix, thanks to the efficient people at Premium Imports, my worn out old clutch was replaced, a new headlight installed and windshield wipers were changed by the end of the day. I had hoped the gear problem was a matter of topping off some fluid, but it was much more serious than that.

It has been a painful struggle to shift into first gear for the last couple of weeks. My right arm and shoulder were suffering from the battle with the stick shift every day. This morning I could not get the car into reverse. After several tries with that awful screaming of abused metal I jammed it into first and drove through the neighbor’s backyard, carefully rolled over the curb into the street and went straight to the mechanic’s shop. I was careful to park in front of the garage where the car would not likely need to be backed up.

I had communicated by email with the shop co owner the night before and been told they could check out my car today and give me a ride to work. Otherwise I had a trip planner route from the shop to my customer’s house all worked out. My printer is out of ink so I drew the map by hand on the back of an envelope; it was to be a 3.14 mile walk taking approximately 1 hour 15 minutes from departure to arrival. I had gone to the website for our city’s transit system looking for bus routes, but had been given a plan that included a stroll down the northbound side of our beltline; so I was glad to receive the email from Cathy in the morning that said “Come on in. We’ll give you a ride.”

The first technician arrived at 8:00, greeted me politely and opened the front door. He said he would take me to work “as soon as Cathy rolls in.” After turning lights on in the service bays and back office areas and speaking with another early customer, he went out to have a look at my car. By the time he returned Cathy had arrived. He said, “I started it in gear, so I think it’s the clutch.”

At that point I still didn’t realize that a major repair was called for. I thought clutch meant they could put a little fluid somewhere, or maybe bleed the hydraulic lines that powered the clutch. It wasn’t until Cathy called me a few hours later and said, “It is the clutch,” and the line fell silent that I finally asked how much it would cost. I could hear her tapping away at the little adding machine “$935.00.”

“Oh, that’s why we’re talking. Wow.” I was in shock. Time to dump this car I thought. I said so, “So wow, I guess maybe it’s time to talk about whether or not I should stay with this car.”

"Well, I don't know. Where can you find another car for $950?” she said. “I mean, you know the car.”

She was right, “I love that car! Ok, I’ll take my chances that it won’t need another big repair.” She explained that the clutch was an older type which is cable operated as opposed to the newer hydraulic that I had in mind, and said the repair would take all day because they had to remove the transmission to get at it. That changed my plans for cleaning a second house in the afternoon; this trip to the shop would not be a quickie for my little Honda.

I called my afternoon customer and told them I can’t come today; maybe tomorrow, and settled in for a good thorough cleaning of the dog hair on my morning customer’s red sectional sofa.

What a relief, I don’t have to go out and look for another car. Thank goodness for angel mechanics and credit cards.

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