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In mid-December I noted a 'panting' sound when starting my little hatchback, 'Fun,' on cold mornings.

An Irish aunt once commented, after returning from a trip to County Leitrim, "I had forgotten how everyday events become Irish stories that last for centuries, embellished through the years."

Evidently, she had become known as the "slipper lady" for wearing slippers to market to cushion her arthritic feet from the cobblestones. On this St Patrick's Day, I'm now wondering how a recent event will be retold with time, with what Irish description I shall be baptized.

In mid-December I noted a "panting" sound when starting my little hatchback, "Fun," on cold mornings. A diagnostic test was scheduled with my service technician, Nick. Since an overnight stay would be necessary a loaner car would be provided.

On a sunny January morning I arrived and checked Fun in with Nick who then led me to my loaner, the small SUV I had been eyeing. After adjusting the seat, I glanced at the multitude of dials, the large navigation screen, and asked him to refresh my memory about the keyless ignition, etc. All the electronics seemed rather formidable.

As I pulled out of the garage, I said, nonchalantly, "Wish me luck!" Nick's face above the mask adopted a quizzable expression. Driving several blocks into suburban hills, I pulled over to better acquaint myself with my new friend. (Note: Loaner cars never come with instruction manuals.) Some knobs and labels were self-evident but then there was the gearshift. It had four basic shifts with many options. I tried to move it into "Park" and then "Reverse." The shift knob would not move. After several attempts I phoned Nick. Now one should know that although Nick speaks excellent English, it is not his native tongue. "Push it down to shift," Nick said, patiently. I tried, applying strong downward pressure to no avail. Several attempts continued. "Maybe I should come back," I said, a possibility since I was still in drive mode. "Oh, Josie, Josie, Josie," replied Nick, then adding that, of course, I could return if necessary. After disconnecting, I tried once more. Voila! The trick it seemed was to press forward, not downward. As said, Nick's English is excellent though some words must not translate exactly.

There were a few more questions over the next 24 hours, including which button unlocks the gas tank. (There isn't one.) Yet, I quickly became accustomed to the computer screen, the alarms indicating various road and vehicle threats and loved the increased height and visibility of the SUV. Best of all, it fit into my small garage space. I began to contemplate a future purchase so and spent several hours on the computer looking at colors, models and my budget.

A phone message said that FUN was ready for pick up. Off I went via freeway and my familiar route in west Portland. This route leads me past the play fields of Lincoln High School. Construction barricades on the far corner extended into my lane on the left. Trying to avoid these, I heard a loud bang on my right. I glanced at the computer; no warnings were visible. Breathing a sigh of relief, I drove the remaining three blocks to the dealership and parked in the garage. As I began to alight from the car I saw Nick approaching with a horrified look on his face, quickly followed by the service manager.

Rounding the SUV I could see a very flat right rear tire and a piece of metal poking out from the wheel rim. I explained about the barricade and construction blocks.

Nick mentioned that he was familiar with that intersection and had noted that a sidewalk on the right projected into the intersection crossing. He speculated that the tire and rim had hit the projection.

Either way, as the driver and per loaner car agreement, I knew that I was responsible for damages and said so. The manager stated that they would need to remove the wheel rim to determine if it was out of alignment. If so, a new rim would be needed. If not, the rim could be repaired and I would only be charged for the tire. I asked Nick if I'd ever be allowed a loaner car again. He patted my arm and smiled, mentioning that they once had a car returned with $15,000 damage.

Off to the waiting room I went and waited. An hour later Nick appeared, stating that there was good news. The rim could be repaired and I was only responsible for the tire. As I whipped out the VISA card, I was surprised to note that the tire was $570. I expressed my surprise and Nick informed me that I was lucky since a new rim would cost about $1,500. He also said, in an undertone, that he was only charging me half for the diagnostic evaluation.

Friends often describe someone as having a "half full" or "half empty" view of life. Never having given much thought to those labels, I realized that afternoon that I was a "half full" type. All the way home in Fun, I kept thinking that it could have been so much worse. I felt so lucky! I also reflected that I should not buy a vehicle with such expensive wheels and rims. FUN is here to stay!

There's your Irish story. May you, too, Have Irish luck. Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Josie Seymour is a member of the Lake Oswego Community Center's Jottings writing group.


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