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This article was published 11/2/2019 (194 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
It began with a mysterious noise.
"KA-WONK! KA-WONK!" is how it sounded to me. "KA-WONK! KA-CHING!"
The suspicious sound surfaced a few weeks back as I was driving my car to the office over frozen, rutted roads.
Fortunately, being something of an automotive expert, I knew precisely what to do — I ignored it.
The noise apparently did not appreciate being snubbed, so it stepped up the volume, forcing me to take more drastic action in the form of cranking up the car radio, which allowed me to drown out the car’s death rattles by joining Meat Loaf for a soaring duet of Paradise by the Dashboard Light.
So the noise and I were rolling along happily together until the other weekend when my wife, She Who Must Not Be Named, joined me in the car for a trip to the local mall.
"What’s that noise?" my spouse demanded to know a few minutes into the drive.
I shrugged my shoulders, because I am a person — not unlike Sylvester Stallone or Arnold Schwarzenegger — with an impressive emotional range.
"What noise would that be, dear?" I replied.
"Are you kidding?" she asked, zapping me with a laser-beam look. "Your car is making a weird ‘KA-WONK! KA-WONK! KA-CHING!’ noise."
I tried to explain to her that modern cars are supposed to make noises like that and it’s nothing to worry about, but you will be shocked to hear she did not buy that explanation.
When we got home, my wife insisted I needed to investigate this troubling noise, so in an effort to restore peace to our relationship, I implemented the following three-stage car-repair strategy:
● I opened the hood of the car — after my wife showed me how to do that — and stared at the engine;
● After a minute or two — roughly the time it takes a standard man to read a Valentine’s Day card — I made a frowny face at the engine and began scratching my chin;
● I suggested to my wife that everything looked OK to me, but if she really wanted I could (a) poke the engine with a stick, or (b) wrap something, perhaps the muffler, in duct tape.
Again, this did not impress my wife, who owns an impressive collection of power tools, wrenches and pliers and takes great pride in the fact she can field-strip a standard toilet in under two minutes.
When she was unable to determine the source of the noise, she insisted we contact a higher authority, namely our son, who was born wearing a pair of Italian leather driving gloves and can tell you the specs of any engine based solely on the colour of the vehicle.
So we called my son and put him on speakerphone so I could do an impression of the noise the car had been making.
"It’s sort of ‘KA-WONK! KA-WONK!’" I explained over the phone.
This wasn’t enough for my wife. "There’s also a ‘KA-CHING! KA-CHING! RATTLE! THUMP!’" she chimed in.
My son paused briefly as his auto-friendly young brain processed this information.
"Well," he finally said, "I suppose it’s possible there’s a mouse running around in the engine block, but you might have a loose rocker arm. Could be carbon in the combustion chamber. Or you’re using fuel with the wrong octane rating? I think I’d check for a mouse first."
After banging on the engine with a broom, I decided it was most likely mouse-free, which is when my wife decided we had no choice but to call our friendly, neighbourhood mechanic, who she believes is more trustworthy than the Pope and/or the entire Canadian Senate.
So we called the garage and got the mechanic on the line. He put us on speakerphone because he thought it would be fun for all the guys in the shop to listen as we did our impressions of the mysterious car noises.
"KA-WONK! KA-WONK!" I bellowed.
"KA-CHING! KA-CHING!" my wife added.
After a brief pause, wherein we could literally hear him scratching his head, the mechanic finally offered this thought: "Hmmm."
For those of you who are not experts in the ins and outs of automotive repair — or who did not attend medical school — it is never a good sign when your mechanic or doctor says "hmmm."
"It sounds like your gargulator might be frazzled," is what I think he told us, although it might just as easily have been: "It sounds like your frazzler might be gargulated."
But that’s not the point. The point is that all signs pointed to this being an extremely expensive noise.
"Just how much do you think it will cost to fix a noise like that?" is what I wanted to know, feeling a cold, clammy sweat trickling down my back and into my wallet.
The mechanic heaved a sigh to convey the notion that, sadly, gargulators and frazzlers do not come cheap in today’s high-pressure automotive marketplace.
So we dropped the car off at the garage for a sleepover and, as it warmed up, it developed a leak in the water pump to go along with broken springs and battered axles and other assorted auto ailments that added up to roughly what you would expect to pay for a winter getaway on a tropical island where they serve rum-intensive beverages in pineapples decorated with tiny paper umbrellas.
When we got home with my repaired car, and an itemized bill, I felt the need to unwind, so I went to the refrigerator, pulled out a cold beer and slammed the fridge door.
"KA-WONK! KA-WONK!" screeched the fridge.
"What’s that noise?" my wife hollered from the den.
"Nothing," I replied. "Just me opening a beer."
Doug has held almost every job at the newspaper — reporter, city editor, night editor, tour guide, hand model — and his colleagues are confident he’ll eventually find something he is good at.
Updated on Monday, February 11, 2019 at 8:28 AM CST: Adds image