Last Friday, I took my car back into the shop because it’s been stalling on me. I don’t just mean “sometimes it dies and I have to restart it,” either. If that were all it were doing, I could live with that. I had a Chrysler that did that for several years before its electricals finally gave up in the middle of an intersection in downtown Dallas during rush hour. No, I mean it stops and refuses to start for at least ten minutes, then belches forth the most noxious cloud of unburnt gasoline imaginable, and then has a fifty to sixty percent chance of stalling again immediately upon dropping the gear from park or neutral back into drive. It did this once as I was taking Jessie to work, and my mate was late because of it, so I figured it was time to once again have the thing in the shop.

Now, this is the third time since I’ve gotten it that I’ve had to have it repaired for various issues relating to stopping or not starting. First I had to tow it because it wouldn’t start at all. Then I had to drive it to the shop because it would stall and refuse to start. Then for a while it was fine, but after about two weeks it would start stalling on me. However, during this period it just restarted when I turned the key again, and I figured I could live with that until I had a job and could afford to get it into the shop or get it replaced. Now it’s doing exactly what it did before, and I have again put it to the shop.

This time, though, the mechanic said that he let it sit for two hours on idle, and he gave it some test drives, and he could never make it stall. He surmised that the transmission was b0rqed, that something called the torque converter was shot because late-eighties Chryslers were known for problems with whatever device in the engine exists for converting torque. He told me to take it to his transmission specialist to get this piece of repairwork done, and not knowing anything about cars other than how to operate them, I took his advice. 

The transmission mechanic called me back yesterday afternoon and said, “I had a look, and the transmission is fine, but did you know you’re in the danger zone as far as oil goes?”

At this point, I must digress and discuss an old RPG called Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Other Strangeness. This game, which I received when I was probably fourteen or so, is one of the things that strongly cemented my
interest in furry, and for the longest time I thought this game was one of the coolest on earth because you got to play an
animal. How cool was that? None of this boring human nonsense. Animals were cool.

If this wasn’t cool enough for you, the supplements they made for the game, with the exception of Adventures and Transdimensional, all related not to TMNT’s original world but to Palladium’s own post-apocalyptic update to the
setting, called After the Bomb. After the Bomb, or AtB, was the shiznit of settings. It had talking animals. It had magic. It had superhero powers. It had post-holocaust nuclear fallout. It had everything. It was Gamma World
for the kids who never got to play Gamma World, and for the kids that did, it was everything about Gamma World that was cool, without TSR. Mind you, it had Palladium instead, which was trading the hangman for the firing squad, but at least it was something.

Then, as if AtB wasn’t enough, Palladium released the supplement to, at the time, end all supplements: Road Hogs. This added the element of fast cars and vehicular combat to the game, meaning it could now appeal to the people who played Steve Jackson’s Car Wars as well, and if this didn’t get you, you were hopelessly outside the sphere of cool. I ate this stuff up with a spoon when I was that age, and I adored the ideas spawned by the game.
Never mind that ten years later I would look back at all this fascination and money and time spent and laugh my head off at my own foolishness. At the time, I was seriously all over this stuff.

Road Hogs gives all sorts of rules for various mechanics that you can have working on your car, all the way from apprentice in the craft up to the Lord God Guru Wrenchmaster or whatever they called the chief expert. One type, however, fell squarely outside the range of good, bad and guitarist: the mechanical empath. This person wasn’t really a mechanic, but a doctor of sick machines, and zie instinctively just knew what was wrong and how to make them work again. Zie could do stuff to an engine, a car or a water-recycler that would look totally unrelated to the actual problem, and have the thing humming along smoothly without effort. I always
thought these were the best.

Unfortuntely, the mechanical empath had one major drawback if you used that type of person to fix your vehicles: anything fixed by them would only stay fixed as long as they hung around. Outside some fixed radius, machines that they built or repaired would start to malfunction again, and ordinary mechanics couldn’t fix them. Only the empath had the know-how to figure out what they really wanted and make them happy again, and eventually if away from their loving masters for long enough machines would just up and die, fall to spare parts and used oil, and there was nothing anyone else could do. Often, even rebuilding them wouldn’t help.

There are times I fear that this is the power that Tanya’s father wields.

The mechanic to whom I’ve been taking this car since I received full possession of it has outright said to me, “I can’t figure out why it’s stalling.” Tanya said to me when she gave me the car that it had an oil leak, but that if I just put in a quart of oil every time the idiot light flickered, I would be fine. I actually put two into it every time, because I killed my last car by driving it without enough oil for too long. I still managed to get it so low that the transmission guy chastised me for it. 

I am hoping beyond hope that the problem of stalling is related directly to the fact that the car is leaking oil at a fast enough rate to have been keeping the engine below optimal running conditions but not so fast that it’s been taking the gunk out of the sump with it. I’m five thousand miles past when my sticker says I should’ve changed it, mostly because I figured if I was leaking oil
as fast as the idiot light indicated, I couldn’t possibly have a build-up of crap in the oil pan. I’ve known plenty of cars that operated on that very principle.

Not that I’m hoping I’ve been driving without enough oil, mind you. As I said above, that’s why the Escort—the car Kelly’s now driving until she gets her Firebird fixed—rattles like a cocaine baby with a plastic hammer and teething problems. I just hope that by fixing this leak, somehow miraculously the other problems I’m having with the car will go away until I can make it to and from Michigan for Jessie’s brother’s wedding reception and the start of my job. After that, I can start looking for a vehicle more suited to my style of driving. That is, something I can beat into the ground through neglect and that will love me for doing it.

I hate cars. I think they know that, and they fear me for it.