Stalled on the Fourth of July

Today was my first July 4 as an American citizen but I didn't have much time or inclination to be patriotic.

On Friday I made the mistake of trying out the accelerator on my American-made car and it completely lost power. As I meandered at 20 mph into a strip mall thinking it was just my luck to break down next to the worst Mexican restaurant in the neighborhood, I had plenty of time to reflect on what a heap of crap my car was and to allow myself to dream about Japanese cars or German cars, Korean cars even. And I'm talking North Korean. By now my disenchantment with American cars was complete. Had the former East Germany been within handy reach I would have kicked my way in screaming: "Give me a Trabant."

At least I was clever enough to break down within sight of the only AAA repair center for 20 miles, although I'm not sure if repair is the right word.

The next day some guy called Eric cheerfully informed me the timing belt had shattered which annoyed me no end as I had it replaced 20,000 miles ago.

Apparently the timing belts shatter all the time on this make of Chevrolet, Eric said.

"On the Chevrolet Bollocks," I thought about saying.

On yes, enthused Eric. You only have to look at these cars in the wrong way and bang - there goes another timing belt. Still cheerful he informed me it would cost me about $200 for him to take off a cover to establish whether I would need to pay another $500 for a new timing belt or about $3,000 if all the cylinders were all bent and twisted.

I'll get the call tomorrow. Being an eternal optimist my money's on bent and twisted.

I found myself annoyed that Detroit at the dawn of the 21st century is still not up to the task of manufacturing a car with a timing belt that doesn't shatter. This may have been complicated by the fact this car was actually made for Chevrolet in Korea, so I didn't even have the chance to have the compensatory thought: "It may be a heap of crap but at least it helped keep an American worker in a job."

I'm not sure if my car is a metaphor for modern day America but I find it a bit ironic that the nation that first mass produced the car now has a reputation for making vehicles that break down ever time you cough. Don't even get me started on our Ford that's already had a transmission meltdown that cost half of its value to repair.

So I didn't get to see much of July 4, not just because I was driving round parking lots staring wistfully at Japanese cars and driving off before a salesman came sprinting out to ambush me, but because we're in the process of moving house and taking bits of junk over in a halfhearted way and hanging out in furniture stores.

The furniture store experience can be extremely time consuming because my wife usually has a list of about 200 items to buy and I insist on one and we spend the next 24 hours beating out a compromise. Salesfolk don't realize this. Salesfolk like Chris with his Perry Como dress sense and big old chummy southern twang. It's amazing how the world's most placid salesman can be transformed into Jame Gumb, the psychotic killer in The Silence of the Lambs, in the space of two short hours.

Still Chris kept coming back for more. The chairs and the coffee table. And throw in the love seat - whoever came up with that expression? Sounds like something from a 70s porno movie. A different coffee table. Chris kept going away and coming back to tell us how he'd got us a special reduction on the furniture, how he'd give us a couple of feet of fabric free - and presenting us with a final bill that was far higher than anyone anticipated. Then he went back to get an even better deal that turned out to come to the same grand and unfathomable total.

More prevarication took place. Chris had to drag over a coffee table from across the store to see how it looked next to the chair. Hopefully that popping noise wasn't his back going out. Then we opted for a different design, then I lost all interest and said we should leave altogether before a compromise was ironed out which involved a sofa and the rather unpleasantly termed 'love seat' but no coffee tables whatsoever. Thus I had spent two hours beating the argument back to my starting point although if it was down to me we wouldn't even buy new furniture because we have a couple of old grease stained deck chairs.

By the time we stumbled out of that place the moon was up and we kept tripping over clumps of Chris' hair that he'd spent the afternoon pulling out.

Later it occurred to me that the new furniture probably wouldn't fit in the door anyhow and the area that we were moving to was starting to look run down and there were some ominous sounds.

"Listen. Gun shots. We've moved to the ghetto," I said.

But it turned out to be firecrackers. Apparently it was the Fourth of July.


  1. Just spent the Fourth at the in-law's annual family picnic, and was down your way over in Virginia Beach. Sorry to hear about your car problems.

  2. Happy 4th as an American... this would be my 2nd.

    Can't wait to hear the story when you do finally decide to buy one of those foreign vehicles. Your furniture experience has no doubt prepared you for the ordeal.

  3. Ha now you've been baptized into American consumerism. Happy 4th. Tripping over Chris's hair made me laugh. The ending too.

  4. Wow, what a day! I have a Chevy too and I am not happy with it at all. However, I used to have an Oldsmobile and I liked that a little more.

  5. Sorry your Independence Day was tainted by miserable car problems that suck overwhelming amounts of money from the unsuspecting car owner. What a huge headache, and to top if off with furniture shopping -- I'm surprised you still have your hair.
    Hang in there and I hope the move progresses as smoothly as possible.

  6. I could feel the immense frustration in there nevertheless I enjoyed reading the painful events of your day. Hope your timing belt or what have you isn't completely shattered. Oh I'm really lost with car Happy 4th of July David!

    things will get better, you'll see.

    Maria a.k.a. Andresa

  7. Sorry, I meant I enjoyed the way you narrated the *painful events*

  8. what a day!
    sorry to hear about your car problems...but i really enjoyed your post.
    great ending, too. :)

    hope you have a good rest of your day,

  9. Ugh, I'm so sorry about your car. This story is hilarious, but I do feel your pain. For me, having my car go out is the worse thing in the world. (Mostly because I don't have any money).

    My parents lost faith in American cars 15 years ago. They always owned a Dodge van and a Ford sedan. But both kept breaking down over and over and over again. Now they won't buy anything American. We now have a Honda, Toyota, and Suburu in the family. (Although Toyota now scares the shit out of me after that whole "not being able to break" fiasco a year ago).

    Good luck, David!

  10. Sorry to hear about your car problems. Sometimes it seems like all we get done is repair the car. I hope the hunt for furniture and house moving goes smoothly for you.

  11. You are truly a brave man to have dealt with not only car troubles but the nightmares of furniture shopping all in one weekend. Perhaps next 4th of July you'll opt for a nice day at the beach instead?

  12. wow Denise = hope you lived Va Beach. It can get crazy at this time of year. I dunno Lidia - it would probably be quicker than buying furniture. Glad you liked it Shopgirl, yep = you have to love consumerism. I know Jennee, Chevysleave much to be desired. Thanx Robyn, but July 4 has left me completely bald.

  13. Thankd Ramona and thanks for visiting. Good to hear from you Betty as always. I know Jennifer, have to get something Japanese soon = am renting a Toyota soam waiting for the accelerator to stick andto generally kill me. cheers Daisy - the repair will cost a mere $2,000. Sounds like a plan Empress. I'd probably get eaten by a shark.


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