My pride and joy ... or the bane of my existence? Mike Freeman ponders his love/hate relationship with his automobile. (Photo by Michael Freeman)
There are a lot of things – and I mean a LOT – to have a love/hate relationship with.
For some folks these days, it may be their house – the one they bought at the height of the real estate boom that they now can barely afford.
Or it may be their neighborhood, ever since the family that moved in next door started playing loud music half the night and has a barking dog in the back yard.
Or it could be their job, now that half the staff got downsized, your workload just doubled, and your salary went down.
For me, I can say that in recent days, I’ve had a genuine love/hate relationship with … my car.
Ah, the great automobile … the symbol of America’s love for freedom and desire to be on the open road. It takes us great distances, and let’s us chart our own schedules and direction in life.
But there are other times when the car can seem like a huge burden.
For example, take last Monday. Let me tell everyone, just in case you were wondering: No, Interstate 4 is not a lovely place at 2 o’clock in the afternoon when you’re broken down on the side of the road — especially in September in Central Florida.
Driving home from a long luncheon meeting at ChampionsGate, my car did something it’s never done before – it overheated. That little temperature gage sailed right off the charts, and the next thing I knew, that burning smell emanating from my engine prompted me to pull over and find comfort – if you want to call it that – in the breakdown lane. And “breakdown”is the operative word here, folks. I opened my engine and had a pretty good sense I wasn’t going anywhere.
Sitting in your car wearing a long sleeve shirt and tie, with the air conditioning now history, is not one of life’s more exotic experiences when it’s 90 degrees out. At least, while calling AAA, I had time to ponder what folks did in the age before cell phones. I could even check my emails while sweat poured down from my brow.
Now, have you ever noticed that the second you get off the phone with AAA, a Road Ranger magically appears. Couldn’t he have shown up just two minutes earlier? Sigh.
I was hoping my car was just low on water, and if he could simply refill the radiator – and when he pulled a jug of water large enough to fill Lake Erie, I was quite assured he could – I would soon be on my way. But he was forced to break the bad news: the belt on my water pump had gone bye-bye. This was something an auto repair center needed to do, not him.
So I waved him on his way as I waited for the AAA folks to show.
Fortunately, they didn’t take too long. I’ve long since learned how to deal with a AAA operator when you call for a tow. Even when my car has broken down in my driveway and I’m lying on the couch, sipping champagne and eating munchies and wearing fluffy slippers and watching old movies on the tellie, I still read them the riot act when they ask that crucial question ….
“Are you in a safe location?”
“Honey, safe is NOT the word,” I say with passion and angst, my voice trembling amidst barely contained terror. “My engine just caught on fire. The flames are soaring into the sky. And a group of Cossacks just spotted me and pulled over, knives drawn. They’re walking toward me now. Sweetie, I can’t say this loud enough – HURRY!
Always works.
Anyway, the tow truck arrived. Inside the cozy front compartment was not one but two tow truck operators, both of them slightly larger than the Empire State Building. Before they attached my car, I couldn’t help but ask if they wanted me to sit inside it. I had no clue how I’d fit up front with both of them.
“Nah, we’ll all sit up front,” one of them shrugged.
Oh my.
Well, somehow we did it. Good thing I’m thin, because they sure didn’t leave me much room. I also couldn’t find the lock on the door, which I was firmly pressed against, and I spent the entire drive in mortal terror that if we hit a big bump in the road, my door would fly open, sending me headfirst into speeding traffic. Mercifully, we avoided that sorry spectacle.
Both men were unusually quiet the entire way to my garage. Although they were both Latino, they played thumping rap music on the radio. I was now officially a boy in the ‘hood.
When you think of how easy it must be to repair a water pump belt, I’m always amazed at how many “other” things the mechanics find wrong with my car when it needs repair. When I finally got the bill, I was horrified: until I checked to be sure, I was certain my mortgage was lower.
All would have been fine if, the next day, I could simply have driven to my office in peace. But no.
First, my car started bucking.
Then it began stalling.
Then it conked out altogether.
“Hello, AAA ….” I said into my cell phone. “The Cossacks are back.”
The second bill wasn’t so bad. I think the mechanics know I’m a member of the National Rifle Association and were hedging their bets.
Now my car appears to be running fine. Today, anyway.
I wonder what tomorrow will bring.
More freedom on the great open roads ….
… or another chance to watch trucks speed by me so rapidly that what little hair I have left flies away with it, drifting off into the warm summer air.

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