Thursday, April 29, 2010

On Car Gremlins (Or, How many ‘70s and ‘80s pop culture references can I squeeze into one blog?)

*Author’s warning: Those under 40 may need to click on hyperlinks before finding this post even remotely funny.*

Yes, they really exist...those little creatures that live deep in the bowels of your car’s engine, waiting to mess with you just when your warranty is due to expire.

Case in point: I bought my Nissan Rogue in the summer of ’08, and as I quickly approach 36,000 miles, things begin to get sticky. I’ve loved this car since the day I bought it. No buyer’s remorse for me. Not one stinkin’ drop. (Not even after two recall repairs.)

And then, about a month ago, I notice my mileage dangerously close to 36,000, when much of my warranty dies. Since I was raised in a family that doesn’t believe in extended warranties, I’ve survived nicely with that philosophy through several cars already. But with this purchase, I was living on the edge buying a brand new model before Nissan had time to work out the kinks. And yes, there are kinks.

Okay, let me get down to brass tacks here. It makes a whining noise when I accelerate. Not much more to explain, particularly since this is not the interesting part of my story.

The real fun began yesterday, when I scheduled the time to stop by the Nissan dealer to let my techie guy hear the noise I’d been complaining about for over a month. He suspected a transmission problem (“We may have to rebuild the whole shebang.”) but said he had to hear it and so I should stop by when I could. “When I could” took a very long time.

So I’m driving to the dealer, psyched to finally be putting this baby to rest before I hit 36,000 miles, when it occurs to me that for the first time in weeks, I DON’T HEAR THE NOISE!

“Are you kidding me?” I irately ask the car gremlins.

Silence. But from somewhere deep inside my car, I hear the gremlins trying so hard to stifle their giggles.

I play with the gas pedal, gunning it intermittently and trying to recreate the sound that may indicate a transmission overhaul. No luck. Then I touch the pedal gently, goading it on with my playful touch, but the gremlins apparently don’t respond well to flirting. So I curse like a drunk sorority girl (I had my fair share of practice in my day), but the gremlins aren’t offended. They just sit back and whisper their wagers loudly enough for me to hear, “A buck says I can make her lose her mind before lunch.”

“Ya think so?” I yell back. “My time is worth much more than that, so get out the Benjamins, Mogwai, ‘cuz this girl ain’t goin’ down without a fight!”

The gremlins giggled some more.

So I headed to Nissan anyway, hoping that with the miles of driving I’d tire out the gremlins, thus revealing the nature of the problem. As Nissan approached on the left, my frustration got the better of me. I let my left turn pass me by, deciding to turn around and head home until later. (Lunchtime was approaching and I was actually very hungry. Plus, I had to pee.) As I passed Nissan again, now heading north, I heard an ever-so-faint whining noise.

“Yes!” I shouted, feeling sure the gremlins had let their guards down when I’d decided to head home. I turned around and approached Nissan, only to make my third pass by the dealer when engine silence took over again. My southbound approach wasn’t appeasing the gremlins, and I knew I was losing this battle. So once again, I made the U-turn and headed north, passing Nissan for my fourth time and feeling like Clark Griswold: “Look kids, Big Ben...Parliament!”

I went home, answered Nature’s call, ate lunch, headed back out to the supermarket, returned home with groceries, and STILL no noise. Now I was pissed off. I hopped in the car one last time and headed for Nissan. I figured the tech guy has been through this kind of thing plenty of times, so No, he won’t think I’m crazy, and maybe – just maybe – his ears will be immune to gremlin witchcraft and he’ll hear my noise and say, “Ahhhh!” Then the moon will be in the Seventh House and Jupiter will align with Mars. And peace will guide the planets, and love will steer the stars.

You know what happened? Determination paid off. Because when Tech Guy got into the car, the gremlins must have decided to take their afternoon siesta. And voila! The faintest trace of engine whining rose above the din of the road noise. Tech Guy explained to me what it was, assured me it was “normal” for the Rogue, and sent me on my way with the comfort of knowing my transmission was not going to fall out from under the car while I was driving it. He also pointed out that Nissan had recently decided to warranty the transmission up to 120,000 miles since it was a new model with potential issues. (Insert here Homer Simpson’s “D'oh!”)

As I drove home, I enjoyed the silence instead of being angry with it. Then the gremlins spoke to me in their creepy Munchkin voices and said, “We’ll get you next time (giggle, snort, giggle, snort).”

To which I replied, “Bring it on, boys. I’ve got a flashlight in my car and I’m not afraid to use it. And if that doesn’t do it, I’m not opposed to driving this baby into a movie theater and blowing the whole thing up.”

That’ll learn ‘em.


  1. Sorry about the car troubles! My computer used to do that. It would do some weird, bothersome thing until the moment the tech walked in the door then it behaved perfectly. ARGH!

    Can you believe I STILL haven't seen Gremlins? I've seen enough to know the gist of the plot, but I never got around to watching the whole thing. I should start a list of big movies I've not seen.....

    Enjoy your Thursday!

  2. Okay seriously...that was a great deal of references to a great number of old shows,and characters.

    It appears that those Gremlins are seriously making their rounds lately! I am sorry for all the craziness....

    Love this post!

    Visit My Kingdom Anytime

  3. What's your damage Heather!?!

    Loved this post, Wendy!

  4. Lola~ I have to admit I don't know "Heather" lines by heart (saw it once), but thanks for the in-your-face clue or I'd never have figured that one out.

  5. Griswold made me giggle. As did your frankness about having to pee. It's funny cause it's true.

  6. Hahaha - oh those pesky gremlins. They time their appearances well, don't they? :)

  7. I cannot get away from here. Some Peeps (you) can fabricate a distinctly interesting story from a simply whining engine noise.

    Others can live through a world-changing disaster, relate their experience, and it is --duh--borring

    You write very well, and with your background--well you should! But it still demands talent, and then discipline and practice to become good at ANYTHING. I know!

    "I'll be Bach"

  8. steveroni~ One of the nicest compliments I've ever received...thanks!

  9. Glad your car issues worked out, and enjoyed your 70s and 80s pop culture. I think there actually was a car called the Gremlin in the 70s, so great tie-in!

  10. Reminds me of several "interesting" cars I became acquainted with during the 70s (with my first husband). And the troubles I've had since on my own. I've heard "strange sounds." Sometimes I've been ripped off by dishonest mechanics, or could have been. Though I've had happy endings too, like yours. And now have an "older" "old fashioned" wonderful mechanic.

    And as steveroni says above: You write very well. I'd like to read your books. They're on my wish list (I live on a very tight budget but I try to support writers as I can.)

  11. Haha, I love the hyperlink help! Great story!