Art, Not Science

The dashboard lit up like a Christmas tree. If there was a warning light there it came on. Oil, engine repair both seatbelts, traction control, battery – you name it, it was lit. Of course the seat belts were buckled, and there seemed to be nothing else wrong with the car.

Given that the alternative was to go nowhere, I put the car in gear. After a few minutes of driving the lights all went out and we continued merrily on our way. But it was a little disturbing, so I figure I should get the car checked by someone more competent in these matters than I am.

Of course, almost anyone is more competent than I am when it comes to car repair. I blame the educational system.

I come from a non-technical family, more or less. I had an uncle who was a wizard at things mechanical, and a grandfather who was an engineer, but none of that instinctive skill seemed to be in my DNA. Knowing that from a very young age, I determined to do something about it.

In high school, the guys who took auto shop (and it was only males back then) were not headed to university. To put it politely, they were less than academically inclined. Auto shop was all that stopped them from being dropouts.

So I wasn’t going to take any auto mechanic courses, even though such education would probably have been more practical than anything I subsequently took in university. They wouldn’t have fit int my class schedule anyway. But there was a course called Small Motors, which would cover much of the same material, so I signed up.

As I remember it now, 45 year later, the small motors in question were gas powered lawn mowers. Not all that much different from automobile engines, at least back then. Today I suspect there is little comparison between them. I was pleased, perhaps even excited, that I was going to be learning something new and practical.

The excitement didn’t last. As I said, I blame the educational system. The second week of classes my Small Motors teacher was reassigned. They needed him to teach a Math class. There was no qualified replacement available, so I wound up with a spare period. And haven’t learned anything new about engines since. I have been able, however, to find a succession of trustworthy mechanics in the places we have lived who knew their stuff and have never tried to take advantage of my ignorance (I don’t sound clueless when I talk with them, I know how to fake it).

So I took the car in to the service garage since it was obvious to me from all the flashing warnings that had vanished that there was an electrical issue hat should be addressed. Hours of effort later by three mechanics the response was – if the lights come back on again bring it in. No charge for their efforts. That is because they had observed the phenomenon once while conducting tests, but everything had immediately gone back to normal before they could figure out what was wrong.

We are slaves to technology, and technology is winning. When it works as designed it is a blessing (usually). When it doesn’t, don’t we all long for simpler days?



  1. I hear you with the education thing….even worse for girls. We all took sewing, which of course turned out to be highly useful *heavy sarcasm.*

    1. I do have days when I wish I could sew – but that is my own fault for not getting my mother to teach me. Neither of my parents could have taught me about cars.

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