For the last two weeks I have had trouble starting my car. I'd be running late, rushing to get my daughter to school, my partner already long gone to her job.
Click click click click click.
"Right mushroom, we're riding our bikes to school today."
"But I don't want to ride my bike daddy, I'm tired."
"I understand pumpkin, but my car is being naughty. It won't start."
Sometimes it did. And sometimes it didn't. For a while it started four, maybe five times in a row. I got careless. I got greedy. I got over confident. I did a big shop at the nearest mall, some three kilometers from our house.
I don't like to bother my partner, who's always busy with some major project,
but I do reluctantly call her when I have no other option.
"I can't. I really can't. I've got meetings though to 6pm."
"But the sorbet's melting. And the fish will go off."
"I'm sorry. Maybe you can catch a bus?"
We went back that night. Eventually after numerous tries we managed to start it with jumpers.
But the next morning - a cold clear morning with the first crisp notes of winter in the air, it wouldn't start. And so it went on all of last week, and this one. Sometimes I had to ask the neighbours for help, sometimes perfect strangers.
I saw mechanic after mechanic. Their diagnoses were, to say the least, ambiguous.
"Well your alternator is charging" said one, "it might be the battery, but its hard to tell with these modern sealed batteries."
"Nope mate" said another, "its your started motor. Its sticking. Could be the battery as well. I cant say til' you book it in and we can have a proper look."
"Can you give me a rough idea of what it could cost"
"Mate minimum labour charge is just 260 and 80 an hour after that. If its the battery and the starter then parts will cost you aound 700. Plus GST on that."
"And how many hours do you guestimate?"
"To get the starter motor out is big job.... have to remove the heat shield, and if the flex plate or
flywheel have damaged teeth I'll have to remove the transmission - I'd say 6 to 8 hours."
I was unemployed at the time. Still am as a matter of fact. The car itself was a third hand one I'd picked up for a few thousand shekels. It had looked sparkly and new in the used car lot. I couldn't believe it had done over a hundred thousand kilometers. It seemed to drive fine. The honeymoon lasted two months. Then the horn suddenly stopped working. Soon afterwards the switch for the driver's electric window popped out of its slot and would not go back in. And then the trouble with starting began.
I decided to wait with the repairs. Maybe the car would miraculously cure itself.
But it didn't.
I never knew if I was going to be stuck at my destination or not. I'd
take the dogs for a walk at a favourite park, and then, because the car
wouldn't start, have to walk home with them - a 40 minute exercise of
getting them out of other people's gardens, dawdling, sniffing,
wrestling junk food packaging from their mouths that people had carelessly
thrown down on the pavement.
Living with the uncertainty took its toll.
began drinking heavily. I took ice, cocaine, steroids, vitamin pills,
heroin, ecstacy , uppers, downers and diaganols. I began eating junk
food obsessively, something I had not done for twenty years.
I put on 70 kilos. My joints ached. I had mysterious shooting pains down my right leg. My xcma flared up fom nowhere, and I went though tubes of cortisone cream tying to stop scratching the red and angry skin on my flabby belly. My doctor said she could find nothing wrong with my joints and that I should stop coming to see her every four days. I became suicidal. I didn't form an actual plan but I thought I and everyone around me would be better off.
I ignored my partner or snapped at her. I sat staring at the wall, my brain a heavy mush.
"Sorry sweetpea" I told our daughter, "I'm not feeling very well, maybe you can just play on you tablet instead."
I ignored the dishes in the sink. I avoided looking at the laundy in the laundry basket. The dogs didn't get walked. Other than my partner calling to check in on me my phone never rang, but if it had I wouldn't have answered it.
The days were gray and the nights filled with sleepless worry. I lay in bed next to my snoring partner, seeing the last of our savings being spent on buying another car. I saw endless hassles tying to sell the lemon I had bought. I wouldn't even get half of what I'd paid for it. I was good at spending money but useless at making it. I imagined being car-less and having to use public transport. Visions of long waits at bus stops or trudging home from another failed job-interview pursued me. This was the beginning of the end. I should never have bought that car. Just one more proof of my incompetency. Scenting weakness, the sellers had taken advantage of me. Story of my life.
"Why don't you speak to Grant" said my counsellor, who I saw off and on, "he's my auto electrician. He's honest."
I went to see Grant. I had nothing left to lose.
"Its your battery" he said, "definitely. Just start the engine again please sir, and rev it a few times.
Yes, no doubt about it. Your starter motor's fine. Its all good. I can fit the battery right now."
One hundred and fifty shekels. That was all. And when I tuned the key the car immediately and obediently shuddered into life. And with it I too shuddered back into life. In that moment a huge burden was taken off my shoulders. I noticed that the sky was blue. Even though it was an industrial area I heard some birdsong. I looked at Grant with adoring puppy eyes and silently wished him a long and blessed life.
As I drove home, wind blowing in my thinning hair, the audio belting out some good times music, I felt reborn. What a difference a heavy plastic box about 25X10X15cms could make. New energy. New flow. Possibility. To go to wherever I needed to go. It was a simple as that. I was in motion again, empowered, free to find work and get my life in order
"I'll fetch you from school" I texted my daughter, "how about we take the dogs to Goloolies farm, and get some yummy pancakes there."
And on the way I stopped to get some flowers for my wife. I was maxing out the credit card but who cared? The future was rosy.