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A couple days ago Xy reported she had trouble with the car starting, and sure enough the next morning it was dead. We packed Xy off in a cab. (When she got to her school on the West Bank, she discovered the cab wasn’t equipped to take credit cards (although the dispatcher had assured me that it was) so he ran her to an ATM, but it was broken, so she had to borrow money from another teacher. But I digress.) I asked Tommie, who runs the station across the street, to take a look at our vehicle, but he forgot, until I came home from work at the end of the day and reminded him. The battery was dead, so he charged it up ($10) and everything seemed to be fine.

“If it happens again,” he said, “I’m going to suggest a new battery.”

Later that evening I was planning to ride my bike to a FOLC board meeting, but as a storm was moving in I decided to drive instead. Before I even put the key in the ignition I noticed all sorts of funny clicking noises coming from the dashboard. The car wouldn’t start. The antitheft indicator was blinking, even after I locked the car up, and I had a flashback to the huge aggravation of our previous car. I started to get the chills. We never were able to fix that problem.

That was yesterday. This morning, Xy got a ride with a co-worker, and I dithered about whether to grapple with getting the car fixed or wait until after the holiday weekend. I decided to grit my teeth and go for it. I figured there was some sort of esoteric electronic problem that was causing the battery to drain — something obscure and high-tech that Tommie wouldn’t be able to fix. I figured I needed to take it to the dealership. So I got Tommie to jump the car for me. Actually one of his employees did it. He claims to have written a “Who Dat” book which he’s now publishing. The title is Whodat-Lagniappe! and it would seem to be an inspirational Christian tome. Not what I expected from an older guy of indeterminate ethnicity in a Biohazard t-shirt.

After dropping Persephone off at daycare, I drove up to the North Shore on the world’s (seventh) longest bridge, to Mandeville, to the Banner Ford dealership, which is where I bought the car on the last day of 2009.

(Why so far when there’s a dealership in Metairie? I happened to glance at some reviews on Google and there was a vast disparity in customer satisfaction.)

On the ride there I listened to Democracy Now on WTUL, an interview with Eli Pariser about the filter bubble.

I don’t particularly like cars, and so dealing with automotive problems is anathema to me, and sitting in the waiting room at a car dealership has always seemed like purgatory to me. I was bracing myself for a long, long wait. I had a cup of coffee, took a crap, watched some daytime TV, and rated some songs. (Xy found an iPod about a year ago and gave it to me.) I didn’t even had a chance to crack open my book (Dying Inside by Robert Silverberg) when the mechanic came out and told me I had a bum battery. They just needed to replace it.

What? I remembered what Tommie said and kicked myself mentally. But all those weird clicking noises?

Relays, I was told.

OK, so they replaced it, I paid $136.51, and I tried to head back home. Problem: It’s a toll bridge. I knew that, but I wasn’t certain of the amount. You can’t discern the toll until you’re right up on the tollgate. I only had one dollar bill on me, and (just like Xy’s cab) they don’t take plastic. I had to take the exit of shame and head back to an ATM where I paid a $3.00 fee so I could get the necessary cash for the $3.00 toll.

While getting the cash, I received a text from Xy advising me to get a tuneup while I was at the dealership. Too late, I texted back. I’m on the causeway by the time I get her next text: Omg! Brakes bad 2!

And then she had the unmitigated nerve to call me and fuss about it.

On the ride back I listened to Tommy Tucker (sitting in for Garland Robinette) on WWL talking about the petition to recall Superintendent Serpas.

When I finally got back to Mid-City and turned down our street, another vehicle got caught in my blind spot and I very nearly sideswiped it when I turned into our driveway. The driver honked at me and then she stopped in the street and gave me a good long glare as I climbed out of the car. I shrugged a sheepish apology.

I gave Tommie five bucks for the jump, and walked to work. Somehow I made it there around half-past noon. So the day was not completely wasted.

Published inLife with XyMiscellaneous


  1. My husband Dan says next time you’re short, go through the toll tag lane & have them send you a bill. Problem is, he did that for the CCC and he still hasn’t gotten it. One of these days, they’ll figure it out and it’ll be something massive with loads of interest tacked on…

  2. Garvey Garvey

    So with gas, tolls, and the bill itself, you spent over $150 and a half day on a battery? Occam’s Razor was dull that day, I guess.

  3. One thing to add, if you foresee going across the lake often at all; you can get your tag to work on both bridges with no extra fees; just keep $20 in the account and that’ll last a while at $2 a crossing – they might even let you get away with $10.

    On the other hand, not learning much about cars because you “don’t like them” is putting your head in the sand; you’ve probably been taken advantage of before and the best way to combat that is knowledge.

  4. Brenda Helverson Brenda Helverson

    I know a bit about cars (and a lot about their electrical systems), but finding a mechanic who you can trust is the best thing. The dealership could have invented some esoteric problem and charged you a lot and you would have never known the difference.

    My brakes started squeaking and I took my car to my trusted mechanic. I fully expected to pay for a brake job, but he readjusted the little warning squeakers and said that I had another 10,000 miles to go. A mechanic can always rip you off, but a good one is worth finding and keeping.

  5. Brenda Helverson Brenda Helverson

    Story time: At Tacoma Community College in the mid-80s, a young student from Oman mentioned that he was having trouble with his brand-new Rabbit. He took it to Ray at a local service station. Ray replaced the battery ($150), then replaced the alternator (another $150), and then told him that they problem was some mysterious short that he just couldn’t find (for another $150). As he was telling this story, Dan, another student and an experienced motorcycle mechanic, looked at each other and said “He’s getting fucked.” So we decided to pay Ray a visit.

    Out came Ray, a crusty old mechanic. I started off by telling him that our friend was concerned about his car and we realized that there was a language barrier and we just wanted to find out what was going on. Ray started to give me the run-around until I added that he might agree that it seemed silly to get the Attorney General involved in something that might easily be resolved between us.

    Ray’s transformation was something to behold. It seems that I had interrupted him while he was on the way to the telephone to call our Omani friend to tell him that they problem had been fixed and that there would be no additional charges. We thanked Ray and drove home in the newly-repaired Rabbit.

    Our Omani friend thought that we had hung the moon and invited us back to his apartment for a cold (non-alcoholic) drink. We asked him about Oman and said that we would like to visit some day. Oh no, he said, the Sultan doesn’t let any foreigners in. But I think that if it were up to him, we would have been the first.

  6. Brenda Helverson Brenda Helverson

    Another one: Same college with a Libyan student who told us that his wife was preparing to give birth. The next day we asked him if the stork had arrived. He fixed us with the most curious expression and finally said “the bird?”

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