Thursday, December 29, 2005

Sputtering, gasping, dying...car trouble on EDSA

Arrrrrggggghhhhhhhhhhh!

One among the many phobias of driving maniacs like me is having car trouble in the middle of EDSA or the South Superhighway in the midst of bumper to bumper traffic. Arrghhhh indeed! Very few can compare with the aggravation, the humiliation, the frustration, the desperation (I could go on and on, but you get the drift).

First, it is so damn inconvenient precisely because cars do have this annoying tendendy to break down when one is running two hours late to a very important appointment, or when traffic is unbearably heavy and everyone's patience just broke 280 degrees. Lucky if its a simple case of the radiator overheating (luckier still if there is water nearby, or if the driver had the foresight to bring water to begin with for this kind of emergencies). Too bad if it is something like a fan belt getting torn or the injector pump getting twisted (the last one is a personal invention, also called poetic license - obviously my knowledge of car engines is zilch). Ah, but regardless, one has to stand under the car's open hood to try and pick on the machine pretending to tinker with it just to communicate to people that yes, your car decided to throw a tantrum to spite everyone else on the road!

Second, very few people empathize with drivers experiencing car trouble. Yeah, as if anyone wants to experience being stuck in the middle of a highway under a scorching sun to begin with! But other drivers do honk their horns behind you berating you for getting in their way. Those who are not openly annoyed lower their windows when they pass you and give you that patronizing stare that says "so you are the guy who did not conduct maintenance check on your car before you left your house and has therefore caused us to be late by 5 minutes."

And third, and worst, the vultures on the road circle and slowly descend on you. First, the traffic cops. What I want to know is who designed the training program to train cops to be so unfeeling? Not only is it automatically presumed that a car problem is your fault (why can't it be the car engine's? Or the car manufacturer's? or the mechanic's? Or while we are at it, why can't it be the government's fault for not taking care of the roads and lowering oil prices? okay,okay, got carried away there), they are actually trained to collect money from you. Goodness, nasiraan ka na nga, mumultahan ka pa! And then before you know it, there is a motley crowd gathered around you - towers (who will charge an arm and a leg to bring your car 20 meters away), enterprising people who offer to fix your car on the spot (for the cost of a total overhaul) and kibitzers who offer unsolicited advice and their friends and jueteng bettors. Arrrghhhhhhhh!

At this point, you simply just want to get it over with.

But to be fair, yes, there are some good samaritans who do inquire about what they can do; if you need water or a battery cable or whatever (perhaps a shoulder to cry on? another car I can kick?). There was a time my car actually sputtered, gasped, and then decided to just stop right in the middle of the South Superhighway. Three drivers actually stopped and offered help. Good thing, the car started up again after a few minutes and a serious heart to heart talk between me and the engine which involved some threatening from my end (I swear if you do not start I will trade you in for a beetle!) and all right, some shameless pleading (please please, will you at least get me to a gas station or somewhere a little more convenient?).

Anyway. I had car trouble this morning right smack in the middle of the Guadalupe Bridge while on the way to work. Good for me, the car did not actually die down so I was able to slowly, gingerly bring it to the Robinson's Mall on Pioneer Street where I was able to park it safely. But still, I caused some traffic as that part of the road is where the buses congregrate and make mayhem. And yes, there were two people who immediately approached me and offered all kinds of advice and of course, their services. Fortunately, I was in a safe place so I just locked my car and called someone.

Turns out it was just the aircon's fan belt. So I am driving without an aircon. Sigh. Happy new year!

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