My car has been making a screeching noise that sounds like I’m dragging one of those folding aluminum lawn chairs with a cat attached to it. Since my husband and I are both half deaf and have one good ear between the two of us, I cannot, for the life of me, pinpoint if the sound is coming from the front of the car or the rear. His inability to hear high pitched tones complicates the matter and he thinks I’m simply crazy, because according to him, nothing is wrong. It finally took a ten year old boy at the neighborhood bus stop to flag me down and tell me that I needed rear brakes. Thank God for young ears.
Now that we knew the problem and I had retained a child mechanic, my husband was headed to buy brake pads. I suggested that it might be a good time to buy spark-plugs, as well, since mine had never been changed in 168,000 miles. As he was headed out the door, he asked me what size engine I had. “Big,” is the only answer I have for such a ludicrous question. Big and gray. I think there is a number 3 on it, too, if that helps. The next thing he asked me was even more ridiculous…”Where are your spark plugs?” “I don’t know… in the glove box, perhaps.” We got the manual out and began to look for a chapter on spark plugs and engine maintenance. Out of a 191 page manual, most of it was dedicated to programming the radio and where to put fluids. I am well schooled in both of those arts. Liquids go in the cup holder and the radio is always programmed by whichever kid is lucky enough to sit in the front seat. I did notice some rather concerning material in the manual, however, as we thumbed through it. The first chapter began with “How to start the engine.” Okay, if you just bought a $40,000 SUV and you don’t know how to start the engine, you should probably just put the manual down and walk away. Another chapter was entitled, “Parking Over Things That Burn.” Really!?!?!? Was this a necessary chapter to write? If you figure out how to start your car and then park on top of the burn pile, you truly don’t deserve a luxury automobile or any automobile at all.
My curiosity was tweaked at this point and I reviewed the entire manual, only to determine that it is grossly incomplete. It is clear that many chapters should be replaced with information that would actually be handy to know. We can start with “The Spark Plugs Go Here” and follow that with a giant arrow. There should be a chapter entitled, “No, You Aren’t Dragging a Cat, That’s Your Brakes Screaming.” This is the kind of information people truly need. The chapter about parking over things that burn should be replaced with “Don’t Park On Top of a Tree Stump in Your Friend’s Yard Because You Think Your Car Stereo Should Be Close To The Pool.” This will be followed with “Why You Can’t Move Your Gear Shift and What Linkage Is.” A second manual should accompany this manual which instructs you how to call your father and explain that your car is pivoting on a dead Oak stump. Note that it does not help to tell him not to hurry because you’ll be catching some rays by the pool. Now that I think of it, it would have been useful to have had a chapter on “Eight Kids Riding On the Top Of Your Car Does Not Make it a Float.” This, too, would direct you to the accompanying manual on calling one’s father with bad news.
Learning from personal experience, additional chapters should include “How to Fit an Eight Foot Christmas Tree In a Seven Foot Long Vehicle”, “Don’t Leave a Chicken In Your Trunk”, “What To Do When You’ve Rolled Your Hair Up in the Window and You Discover This While Entering the I-285/85 Interchange at Eighty Miles An Hour” and “That Witch Just Stole My Parking Space, License Numbers, Internet and the Consequences of Retaliation through Social Media.”
These are the chapters that could have helped me out along the way. My kids have shed new light on automobile ownership and while actual chapters are not needed, I think a basic sharing of information could be nice. Perhaps a link to a website could be offered that explains how to negotiate front seat passenger seating without having full scale sibling warfare. It could share photos offering explanations on what that goo is in the third row back seat (no man’s land) that obviously melted there three months earlier and now resembles a silicone polymer, not unlike Silly Putty.
In fact, as the car manual is developed and addendums are created and links are published, a special tool should be crafted and added to the manual that goes with the chapter on “The Place of No Return and How to Fish your Debit Card Out from Between the Seats When Your Hand Will Not Fit, No Matter How Hard You Try.” The chapter after that will be “We Told You Your Hand Wouldn’t Fit, Now Here’s How to Start the Car and Drive Home with One Hand Permanently Lodged Between the Seats.”
Until, Detroit or Hong Kong invites mothers to assist in the development of their auto manuals, I will continue to drive with squealing noises, outdated spark plugs and a plethora of treasure located between the seats that will never come out of hiding. Luckily, I can take comfort knowing that the risk of my parking on burning objects has been greatly reduced now that I have actually read my owner’s manual. Thank you Acura.
Another great story!
Could you add a chapter titled,"Don't use a plastic cup to pour gasoline into the tank when you've run out of gas in the woods while discovering you don't like vodka."
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