When baby Ava came along, Jeff and I knew our days of owning a Mini Cooper were numbered. Our sporty little red car – which was much fun to drive, easy to park and got you lots of attention at stoplights – didn’t really fit a car seat so well. So the Mini was sold and a debate on what to buy next ensued. The debate came to an abrupt end when we realized we were going to be paying three times as much in insurance as we had in Colorado. This narrowed our choices drastically and we ended up with a Toyota Camry. This Toyota Camry is nothing to get excited about however. It’s very standard. It does not have keyless entry. Not all of the windows roll down. It’s mouse gray. It’s about as practical and boring as you can get. I call it the Yota because the “T” and the “O” of Toyota are broken off on the back, leaving just “yota” to remain… just trying to give it a little character people… To top it off, the Yota is old. 1992 to be exact. Ummm, that’s only a couple years shy of 20! But Jeff assured me it would be reliable. And I needed reliability assurance.
I will be the first to admit I have unfortunate luck when it comes to automobiles. This seems to be a reoccurring theme in my life. The stories to tell of my unfortunate driving experiences are vast. The list of animals that have met their fate on my bumper are numerous (and we’re not just talking about a few squirrels here and there… oh no, it’s much worse than that), the number of times I have been in a car accident would last three people a life time (it’s truly a miracle that I live to even write those words) and the number of times my vehicle has left me stranded in the middle of a busy intersection, the grocery store, etc, etc is a sad tale. I’ve had brakes go out, I’ve had my car overheat and the radiator explode… if you can think of it, I’ve probably experienced it. Which is why I needed reliability assurance from Jeff regarding the Yota. He assured me. The Yota would be reliable he told me. I wanted to believe him. I however, drawing on my vast repertoire of prior experiences, was not completely convinced.
Tuesday started out unassuming. Ava and I were on our way out the door to meet my friend Leslie for our morning walk. Having buckled Ava into her car seat, I hop into the drivers seat to start the car. I turn the key and… nothing. Absolutely… nothing. While annoying, this event does not phase me. This problem has happened before. Obviously there is some sort of problem with the Yota, but we have found if you keep turning the key enough times, eventually the Yota starts. I do so and on about the seventh turn, the Yota roars to life. Unfortunately it appears the emergency break light is now on. I try catching and releasing the break several times to no avail. The obvious next step is to turn the car off and restart it, in hopes the system will reset itself. I turn the key off and, oh dear, the car will not turn off. Instead it is making a horrific sound like it’s trying to restart but can’t! It’s that metal grinding on metal sound of a car that won’t start but is trying to. Umm, this is not good… In a bit of a panic, I turn the key back on and again the Yota roars to life as it should. In my assessment, this is a major problem so obviously I call Jeff. After several very detailed yet unsuccessful attempts on my part to reenact the sound the car was making, Jeff tells me to drive over to the church. My stomach is now in an array of knots. Memories of sitting in busy intersections in a dead car fill my mind. “Ohhh, you can’t just run home?” I’m thinking. My palms begin to sweat. “Ok,” I tell him, “but I’m taking back streets! If this thing dies on me I’m not going to be happy!”
Ava and I back out of the driveway. The Yota is acting funny. I debate about turning back but what good would that do? Yota won’t turn off which is why I’m driving to meet Jeff in the first place. I get exactly 1.5 blocks from the house when everything really starts to go down hill. By this point I’ve called Jeff to tell him there is a problem. As I’m on the phone with him, Yota’s RPMs begin jumping and the car is sporadically shifting. The check engine light begins flashing on and off. And then the Yota begins to loose power. We come to a sputtering stop at the curb. The Yota has seemingly died, yet it still won’t turn off! The horrid sound that started this whole mess is now heard again. My mind is screaming “ABORT! ABORT! Get out of the car NOW!! Seek safety elsewhere!!” I’m fairly certain the car is going to explode at any moment. Ava is yanked from her car seat and we scramble across the street. While we stand at what doesn’t really feel like that safe of a distance on the other side of the street, the Yota continues to make it’s horrid death sounds. Jeff continues to get a play by play over the phone. “It’s dieing, it’s dieing!” is my assessment. And then the Yota sputters into silence. Smoke begins to plume from beneath the hood. At least it doesn’t appear to be in danger of exploding any more.
Within minutes, Jeff pulls up. I remain on the other side of the street, still leary of what may be going on with the Yota’s inner workings. Having inspected what he can, Jeff decides to get in the car and try starting it. VROOOMMM!!! Yota roars to life once again. Jeff turns the key off. Silence. What the heck!?!? No horrid sounds of death, no smoke billowing from within; everything seems to be back in working order. He does this several times with the same result.
“There really was billowing plumes of smoke…” I tell Jeff.
For the rest of the week, I refused to drive the Yota, opting instead for the much more massive, yet reliable truck. Jeff drove the Yota for the rest of the week without any problems what-so-ever. On Saturday he installed a new starter just to be on the safe side. Unfortunately, Friday night we hit a pot hole in New Orleans and the Yota now has a sever shimmy. And so my saga of automobile petulance continues.