Several weeks ago, I walked out of Wal-Mart to find that my 1996 Buick Skylark wouldn’t start. The starter worked, but it sounded like it wasn’t getting any fuel. So we had it towed in and the mechanic replaced a faulty ignition switch. Strange, I thought, since the starter didn’t seem to be the problem, but sure enough the car started fine after that.
Until the following week, when it had the same non-starting symptom as before. After letting it sit for a few days and trying it occasionally with no success, we had it towed in again.
Turns out the ignition switch was faulty, but there was more: that particular model is equipped with a system that detects is the car has been hotwired. If so, it causes the exact problem I was experiencing: it won’t start. And in my case, the system — which is located in the instrument panel — was malfunctioning. The solution was a new instrument panel.
This is interesting to me because it’s not the only problem that instrument panel has. The indicator light for the transmission — the thing that tells you if you are in park, neutral, reverse, drive, etc. — was spotty; sometimes it would show up, other times it wouldn’t, usually it would flicker a lot. More importantly, however, was that about a month or so ago, the needle on the speedometer had somehow gotten on the wrong side of the “zero” peg. How that happened, I don’t know. Has the peg’s existence started to flicker in and out like the transmission indicator light? Did someone steal my car in the middle of the night and take it up to 180 mph?
At any rate, a new instrument panel would have cost more than $400. However, my mechanic new someone who could sell him a used one for much less than that, but it would take a few days to ship it. I told him to get the used one.
That was two weeks ago. Let me tell you, dealing with my school schedule, Andrea’s temporarily full-time work schedule, dropping off and picking up kids to and from elementary school and babysitters, as well as soccer practice, church, and heaven only knows how many other meetings and such with one minivan is nothing less than insanity-inducing. Not to mention the fact that I fully expect the transmission in the minivan to, at any moment, fall out from underneath the van and erupt in a firey conflagration in the middle of the road.
But yesterday we finally got the car back, and once again it starts fine. The speedometer works, but the little transmission indicator has apparently gone on to Transmission Indicator Heaven. Other than that, the only problem is the fact that the “THEFT SYSTEM” light is permanently lit, perhaps to serve as a reminder of the whole ordeal.
Now the weirdest part of it all, though, is this:
This was sitting on the console of the car, not prominently displayed or anything, but laying there as if it had been tossed aside. The thing is, I’ve never been to the El Paso Airport, and I’ve certainly never rented a car there. So here are my theories:
1. Though they told me they were waiting on a part for two weeks, in reality they sent it down to El Paso to participate in a mafia-run rental car outfit. No doubt the folks who rented my Buick wondered about all the trash in the back seat footwells.
2. While it only seemed like two weeks to us, in reality my car was sent through a time portal and has been living an entire lifetime as a rental car in El Paso.
3. My brother or sister-in-law, when they owned the car and lived in Las Cruces, New Mexico, set the card on the dashboard after returning from a trip and the card fell into the dashboard. My mechanic, while taking apart the dashboard to replace the instrument panel, found the card and tossed it aside.
Sure, #3 might seem more likely, but it’s certainly the most boring of the explanations. And it doesn’t explain why I’m going to have “THEFT SYSTEM” burned into my eyes every time I drive at night.