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Actually, Life Doesn’t Suck

Lucky or unlucky? The old man says, "Maybe so."

by
Charlie Martin

Bio

July 7, 2013 - 3:00 pm

mercedes

The nipple on the radiator failed, the big radiator hose fell off, and prodigious clouds of steam came from the car while gouts of green antifreeze spilled on the ground.

Needless to say, the car did not pass the emissions test, even though the car clearly had lots of emissions.

I went to a nearby auto supply store and got a screwdriver, and more antifreeze, hoping to at least patch it together. At the auto parts store I learned my debit card had demagnetized; I paid cash. I tried getting the hose back on, it wouldn’t go, so I had to have the car towed home. In the process, I saw how the nipple had broken off. The remnants weren’t in the hose. In other words, it had already failed and the hose — which was new — had been jammed on the remaining fragments in the hopes that it would hold for long enough.

Talking with the tow truck operator, it turned out he was from my old home town, Pueblo. In fact, we have about a million mutual friends and acquaintances, and in fact had probably met a few times — he’s about 13 years younger than me, so it wouldn’t have been often — and that he had been to the family music store many many times. He gets the car home, and looks at my old Mercedes’ body damage. He also does body work, and thinks the body damage can be repaired relatively easily. A commercial body shop would have charged me something like $3000, which was more than the car was worth, but he was very hopeful of doing it for much less. Since the best option I’d had so far was selling it to an auto salvage, that seemed good — either I’d have two elderly Mercedes, or I could sell one and probably net a lot more than I would have gotten from the auto salvage.

Got home, and after the tow and everything I had $2 in cash and a debit card that wouldn’t work, not that I could get to an ATM machine anyway — I live more or less out in the country. This was on Wednesday the 3rd.

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All Comments   (18)
All Comments   (18)
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I have a couple of acquaintances who are addicted to lives where nothing good generally happens. I steer a pretty wide berth, they will suck you into their soap opera. No quiet minds anywhere near.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Yesterday I was thinking that "dukha" might best be translated "disappointing." Everything is disappointing. So, curb your enthusiasm. Possibly, God has decided to have a laugh by sending me through this life to encounter disappointments one after the other. He would like to see whether I can remain calm and carry on without the lunacy of enthusiasm for ephemeral goodies which invariably results in a slapstick ending. "Sarvam Dukham" is deceitful, because if you can accept it as true you become able to achieve something which is not disappointing at all, something about which you can have the only harmless enthusiasm. So, possibly God chose this as the best of all possible worlds because only in the arena of its disappointments can a person attain something worth being enthusiastic about. In a better world we'd miss the point He's trying to get across. "If it were better it wouldn't be as good," Yogi Berra might have said.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Hm. I can see that, but I don't think disappointment quite works because duhkha also arises from experiences that are everything you imagined; it when something hurts and you want it to stop, and when something feels really good and you don't want it to stop, and when you are just thinking wow, I'm all existential, like Sisyphus.

But sometimes, after you practice a while, there's another feeling: that everything is all right, that all these bits of changing stuff really is an illusion, and the underlying reality is Really Really Cool.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Seems kinda unreasonable.

You "bought" the car in every reasonable sense of the word (I mean, you bought it enough to be putting it through DEQ yourself) - and $300 to replace your radiator is an amazing deal in terms of labor and parts.

I mean, yeah, if the paperwork wasn't 100% finalized or the law says "it has to pass or the sale is void", the law lets you off the hook... but it doesn't seem to morally/ethically make a lot of difference that the failure didn't occur the second after the emissions test passed. And the sale would have been "completed", then, wouldn't it?

Can't even really blame them for the failure, since the W124 Mercs (assuming that blue one in the picture is yours) are known for failing like that in general - but in a way that is naturally more or less impossible to detect in advance. "Failure is inevitable", as it says.

Are they supposed to proactively replace the radiator before selling a 124 to anyone because it will eventually break? Maybe in another 50kmi, because maybe it's already been replaced?

Frankly, from how you kept going on about how they sucked, I expected a lot worse than "$300 to replace the whole radiator, oh, and nobody was in the shop on July 4".
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
No, Mr. Martin paid for a car, not an ethylene glycol fog generator. The fact that most of the radiator nipple was missing indicates that the radiator had already failed and that someone, probably Sprinkler (otherwise they would have found it when they inspected their recent acquisition for common failures), tried to hide the deficient condition. Offering to fix a problem thay should have repaired or disclosed for a low price is no bargain.

And Mr.. Martin, you failed the first rule of buying a used car: Have a mechanic you trust and pay look over the thing before money changes hands.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Having replaced my share of radiators and thermostats in my day, I had to give you a hearty laugh for "ethylene glycol fog generator." Ha! I salute your wit!
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
My first car went through a phase where every single rubber hose in the coolant system sequentially failed. I quickly learned what antifreeze smells like when it hits a hot exhaust manifold. If I catch a whiff of it I feel phantom burns on my hands.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I empathize. Things I always look at on used cars:
Thermostat
Radiator
Hoses and belts
Do I need to put in a timing belt/chain and water pump?
Pull out the scan tool, test O2 sensors
New fluids and filters
Water remover in tank
Sea foam to de-junk the fuel system
Marvel Mystery Oil to de-carbon the oil galleries, valvetrain, etc (I didn't used to do this until I saw how many engine rebuilders swear by this)
Check all suspension and steering components
Load test the battery
Go through the brake system
Compression test
New PCV
Bosch 4 contact platinum plugs
Wiper blade replacement
Check glass for replacement
Check for oil in the water
Get emissions tested
Check transmission fluid to make sure it's sweet and pink/purple, not crispy and black

Like they say, paranoia is the result of painful experience. And experience is the result of not being paranoid.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Oh, and actually, the way it works here is that they *must* get an emissions ok to complete the sale, so they give you a coupon rather than take it through themselves.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I'm allowed to be unreasonable it's my column. The part that pissed me off was telling me they *would* fix it, then asking me for the money once I was in the office.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Well, that and the fact that (new hose and no fragments of the nipple) it was clear that they had already busted it and were trying to get it off the lot without fixing it.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
So far, these things you've been outlining are lessons I learned when I lived with chronic pain. I had chronic migraine for the better part of a decade, and during that time, there were two paths I could go down. I could either let my pain consume me or learn to endure with patience and live for the good days without taking them for granted or assuming there would be more than maybe one or two at a time (or even a few hours of good day at that).

Now that both medical science and my neurologist have gotten things more or less unraveled, my pain cycle has been derailed for the time being, but I am still aware that it wouldn't take much to get me back on the pain train.

Hello! Obamacare bureaucrat telling my doctor that treatment X is more "efficient" than a treatment that has been working for me ... But I can't worry about that now because stress is one of my triggers, too. So, oddly, none of this you're writing about is strange to me because I recognize it in myself even if I arrived at this understanding and acceptance in a much different way and out of a sense of self-preservation rather than because I actively studied Buddhism.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Yeah. My own opinion is that Buddhism needn't interfere with Christianity, Judaism, Islam, etc. It's "just" the observation that if you keep fantasizing that you can hold things together and not let them change, you'll be frustrated.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
This made me see some of the tenets of my Christian faith in different ways. Kind of like my fight with PTSD after a combat tour in Afghanistan helped me realize I needed to trust God more and have less material attachment in order to live a more peaceful life. I don't feel threatened by Buddhism or any other religion/belief system. Learning more about others helps me learn more about myself. Thanks for this article. Entertaining and enlightening!
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
What's interesting is that in a way it works without interrupting your faith because I would call myself a devout Christian.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Oh, and I agree, Life doesn't suck, but your week sure did! You'll need a vacation to rest up from your vacation. Is the old car the one that was in the hypoglycemic accident? You sure played that down, looks like a bad wreck. Glad you are ok.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Nah, it's just that one fender that got bent. And I more or less slept through it.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
These columns just keep getting better and better. BTW, I am a Christian reader and I never say "Ah-ha" I may say, I wonder where this trail will lead. There is so much to learn from so many wise men. I loved the old farmer story too. Tomorrow comes, we'll see.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
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