'Matter of Laugh or Death,' the award-winning humor column
By Bill Dunn
Interesting observations on this thing we call life
(appearing each week in the Republican-American newspaper, Waterbury, CT)
GOOD SAMARITANS SAVE CAR REPAIR BUMBLER
This week’s automotive maintenance helpful hint: Whenever your car’s exhaust pipe breaks away from the engine and starts dragging along the road, do not, I repeat, do not assume that you can disconnect the muffler from the back of the car, separate the entire exhaust system from your vehicle, and then limp to the nearest service station.
I know. I tried. While driving home from work the other day, I heard a sudden thump below the center of the car, which was quickly followed by two different sounds: the metallic clanking of a pipe dragging along the road, and the roar of a Sherman tank on steroids, which was the car engine no longer connected to the muffler.
As I pulled over to the side of the desolate road, I remembered that I had my AAA Membership card in my wallet—a good thing. Then I reached for my cell phone to call for help—a bad thing, because I was in Burlington, Conn., a community that apparently thinks cell phones are just a passing fad. Then I remembered that I had a tool box in the trunk of my car—a good thing. So I decided to get out the tool box and solve the problem myself—a bad thing, a very bad thing.
The broken exhaust pipe was hanging down, facing forward. If it had been pointing backwards I would’ve just continued driving. But facing forward it looked kind of like a pole vaulter’s pole about to be planted into the ground for a jump. If I continued to drive, I envisioned the pipe planting itself into a pothole and thrusting my Honda Civic airborne in an impromptu forward somersault, which I’m pretty sure is not good for the car. Or I envisioned the pipe planting itself into a pothole and sending parts of the exhaust system ripping though the floor of the car and into my liver. I’m pretty sure that’s not such a good thing either.
So instead, I got out my tool box and went to work. I disconnected the muffler from the back of the car, thinking I could then pull the whole exhaust system out and away from the car. But the exhaust pipe on the car had a weird Z-shaped zigzag to it. After wrestling with it for about an hour, I simply could not get the pipe past the rear axle. So I not only had a broken pipe hanging down on the ground in the front, I now had a muffler hanging down on the ground in the rear. Then it got dark.
I wandered down the road for a while and knocked on the front door of a house, which turned out to be the home of my new best friends, John and Cindy. They are my new best friends because even though I was standing on their porch looking like something out of a Stephen King novel— breathing heavily, covered in sweat and grease, and a little spooked by all the strange woodland sounds at dusk—instead of shooting me, they invited me in, gave me a glass of water, and let me use their phone to call for help (their real phone, not a useless-in-Burlington cell phone).
Then I walked back to my car and met my other new best friends, Tim and his son Michael. They are my other new best friends because they’re the only people in over an hour who stopped to see if I needed help, and they stayed with me chatting pleasantly until help arrived, and also not minding my horror novel appearance.
The final bill to repair the car was about double what it would’ve been if I had left my tool box in the trunk and done nothing.
Moral of the story: don’t forget your AAA Membership card; don’t keep a tool box in the trunk (it’ll only tempt you to try something stupid and expensive); and don’t ever break down in the cell phone-free zone known as Burlington, Conn.
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