Thursday, November 17, 2011

"Laziness travels so slowly that poverty soon overtakes him."*

Being poor is so demoralizing.

I brought my car in to the Honda dealership today and luckily it’s still under warranty. I had to be very clear with the mechanic when I explained that if it COST ANYTHING, I wasn’t going to be able to have my car's illness diagnosed.

What’s wrong with my car? Why should anything be wrong with my nearly-new car?

Because I’m poor and I can’t afford to fix it.

I’d driven approximately one block from work the other evening when a bright orange exclamation point lit up my dashboard. I pulled over and looked it up in the manual. My car, Eileen, is not quite a year old and I still don’t really know how she works or what things she says mean, but I figured the exclamation point wasn’t her way of saying, “Hooray! You’ve just won a prize!”

And I was right! She was telling me that one of her tires was low.

I think it’s great that my car tells me when one of my tires is low, both because I’ve never had a car do that before and because I know how to put air in tires. If she was telling me that I needed more brake fluid or that the spark plugs needed to be…well, whatever spark plugs might need done to them, I would be screwed, because I don’t know how to fix those things and they sound important.

So I went to the gas station and looked at all my tires. They looked fine to me. And the gas station didn’t have an air pump anyway (which is dumb—they should all have air pumps). So I decided to drive home and deal with it in the morning.(My solution to almost everything, by the way.)

But when I got about a third of the way home (I live about 45 minutes from my job), a much bigger orange light went on with a picture of a gas mask and the words IMA printed above it.

Gas mask or engine?

I pulled over again. The manual says that the gas mask is supposed to be a picture of the engine and that IMA means “Integrated Motor Assist.” I think the motor assist thing is there because my car is a hybrid. The manual states, among other things, that, “Continued operation may cause serious damage.”

Crap. That sounded very bad. I sat in the car with my nighttime driving glasses on and started to feel quite sick to my stomach. Then I took off my driving glasses and felt a little bit better. (They aren’t reading glasses.)

I decided to try the high-tech maneuver I use on my TV and every other piece of electronic equipment I’ve ever owned: I turned the car off and then turned it back on.(When that doesn't work, I hit things.)

The IMA light went away but not the gas mask. So I decided to drive home, refraining from hitting Eileen.

When I got home I looked on the Internet to see if I could figure out how to solve the problem.

I looked through several forums until I found the solution I realized that I’d wanted all along: wait three days to see if the light goes off. If it doesn’t, take the car to the dealership. If it does, pretend it never happened.


Except the light didn’t go away and now I’m sitting at the dealership waiting for Matt to tell me what’s wrong with Eileen.



Eileen has a “defective” battery. Matt says she’s got medical insurance, so he’ll give her a new battery gratis tomorrow. I think he felt sorry for me because he immediately said, “It’s covered! It’ll be free!”

And that just made me feel pathetic. Mostly because my relief was so palpable.

I think this is happening because whenever I do something extra generous or kind, I’m secretly thinking about all the good karma I’m racking up, when I should just be thinking altruistic thoughts. The universe knows that I’m a self-centered jerk just like everyone else so all those big restaurant tips and returning the $120 that my neighbors dropped on the apartment stairs aren’t (isn't?) doing me any good.

Dream scenario. Of course, twenties would be handier.

But at least Eileen will have a new battery tomorrow.

Oh, and it turns out I don’t know how to put air in my tires, either. I had to ask a mechanic to do that (for free) as well.

Huge, dramatic sigh.

*Title quote courtesy of Benjamin Franklin. Who's he calling lazy?

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