August 04, 2006

Thursday Evening

Subtitled, "Hey, that's not a vacuum line!"

Got home, got the kids, went and got gas--for some reason, between the time I left for work yesterday morning and I got home last evening, the price of gas had jumped 20 cents a gallon at all the stations at my exit. Except for the Raceway, which for some reason had only gone up 6 cents. All of which meant that their price was 12 cents a gallon cheaper than everyone else. Figuring I'd better go ahead and get while the getting was good, I filled up. (Nice to see that they didn't boost it more overnight.)

Got to the house, "DADDY! Can I ride my bike now!?" I've been promising Catherine for the past three days she could ride her bike again. She got her wheel privileges yanked at the start of last month when she decided she could just take off on her bike without telling anyone. I was doing something in the kitchen, missed her, and went looking for her. Found her all the way up at the end of the street, doing slow circles in the middle of the intersection. Our rules had been that there was no street riding unless an adult was out there to watch for cars. No riding in the front of the house unless someone was outside, and if that person was busy, you had to stay on the sidewalk. If no one was outside, it was backyard riding only.

She'd managed to mess up really good. So, no bike riding, no scooter riding until August 1. The morning of August 1--"I get to ride my bike today!"

It didn't quite work out like that, so yesterday was the first day she really got a chance to ride. "PLEASE, DADDY?"

I reminded her of our first chore for the afternoon--the bird feeders. She said okay and went upstairs to change and I did the same. I also had plans to work on Reba's car when she got home, too, which would allow me to keep an eye on a certain bicycle girl. But, no Reba yet.

Outside, and hmm. The Squirting Frog Fountain Feature had stopped spitting. So, that to clean out. Managed to get full flow reestablished, as well as be swarmed by giant West Nile/bird flu-bearing mosquitos. In a further delay to Catherine's bike riding in the street desire, I deciced to water the plants while I was getting eaten up by mosquitos already. She contented herself with tearing up the backyard grass.

Now then, that done, opened the Big Plastic Playhouse Cleverly Disguised as a Rubbermade Storage Shed and got out the bucket of seed, filled up the feeders, and decided the bird bath needed water. OUT with the hose again, waterwaterwater, "Are you through yet, Daddy!?"

Yes, I am. Rolled up the hose, walked around to the front and was nearly blind-sided by her as she came whipping by me on her bike, lured by the freedom of the open road.

Nothing like that feeling, to judge by her reaction. She whooped and wheed and pedaled as fast as she could. While I was out there, I decided to do a bit of upkeep on the Volvo while I waited for Reba to get home. Popped the hood, and figured I'd check around for vacuum leaks--those old hoses and such tend to be not so durable. Got out my can of carb cleaner and spritzed various hoses and ports to see if there were any changes. Nope. Sealed up nice and tight. Went ahead and doused everything to clean off the accumulated gunk as Catherine whizzed back and forth, and then saw a broken wire.

Yet another jackleg repair by the previous owner's mechanic, it seems. I am constantly amazed at the crap the guy did--more half-assed and useless repairs I have never seen before, even when I was learning how as a teenager. In this instance, the wire was from the oil pressure idiot light sending unit. In the past there must have been another break in the wire, but rather than simply repair it, the guy put on a weird little quick disconnect fitting. No reason for it--the wire fits on the sending unit with a simple spade terminal--one of those flat things you can slip on and off. There was just no reason for another disconnect in the wire. And on top of this, it looked as though it had been stuck together with glue. I have no idea how it was actually attached, but the insulation material around the wire was all gummy and disintegrating, and the wire end had broken out of the thing.

So, something to putter with.

Found a suitable-sized crimp fitting, my heat shrink tubing, and my wire pl--my wire plier--where are my wire pliers!?

Looked in the screwdriver drawer, the plier drawer, the file and wire brush drawer. Lifted the lid and looked in the top wrench box. Looked in the wire brush drawer. Looked in the plier drawer. Looked in the screwdriver drawer. Looked in the tiny drawers. Looked on the counter. Looked on the OTHER counter. Looked on the shelves. Remembed I'd left Catherine outside, and she was probably doing lazy circles in the middle of the intersection again. Went and found that she'd gotten up on the sidewalk when she saw I wasn't there. Good girl! Got her to come back closer to the house. Looked in the screwdriver drawer. Lifted the lid and looked in the top wrench box. Looked in the wire brush drawer. Looked in the plier drawer. ::sigh:: It's GOT to be here! Looked in the plier drawer. Looked. Hey. There it is, right on top of the pliers.


Got my stuff and went back outside and clipped and stripped and crimped and shrinked (yes, I know, but "shrinked" worked better with the rhythm I had going there than "shrank" would have) and now the idiot light was once again working.

Still no Reba. Cat asked if she could go back out in the street, and I said yes, then noticed something and called her back. Her tires seemed awfully squishy, so we set up the air compressor and aired them back up. I showed her the dial, and explained that the tires are supposed to have 50 pounds of pressure pushing on each little part of the tire this big [holding thumbs and forefingers to describe an area of exactly one square inch] "Wow! That's a LOT!" Yes, but her tires only had 10 pounds in them. The pump clattered away, and she was ready to go. BUT WAIT! "Awwww!" I figured I'd get the car done while I had the pump out. THAT done, and it was time for her to be released again.

I flopped down on the grass in the front yard. For the first time in a long time, I noticed that when I sat down, it didn't crunch. That little bit of rain we had sure did work good.

I sat and she rode, and soon Boy came out to play as well. They rode and rode, and were very careful when a car would come by. The sun finally slipped down behind the treeline and it almost got comfortable. Still blazing hot, obviously, but still better than having direct solar gain.

Rebecca came trotting out of the garage with the phone--"IT'S MOMMY!!" I talked, and while doing so proved the theory that telephones are child magnets. We can't get on the phone in the house without there appearing all four children under our elbows, each one fighting with the other and yammering at top volume. Well, it works outside, too. No sooner had I gotten the phone than Catherine and Jonathan came rolling up and squeeching their brakes, then set in to argue about who got there first.

After several angry, bee-swatting motions with my hands, I finally could hear that Reba was at the exit and would be home shortly. And that she had Rebecca in the kitchen boiling some eggs and cutting up some chicken for supper. Which I thought was odd, since Rebecca was still standing right beside me.

Told her when she got home I'd start in to fixing her car, said my "I love yous," told her 'bye, and gave the phone back to Rebecca.

The other two scooted on off to ride some more, and I decided to get my stuff ready to work on the Focus. First thing was to back up the van so I could get to my toolbox better. "WHAT ARE YOU DOIN'. DADDY?" Yikes! Where'd they come from?! "DAD! YOUR CAR'S BEHIND YOU!"

"I know kids--I'm just backing up the van to get to the toolbox better."

"Oooooh," in unison.

Something smelled weird when I got out. Like a transformer burning. That weird electrical burning smell. It was faint, but I could smell it. Is the van on fire!? Nope. I looked and sniffed and couldn't find it.

Inside the kitchen I went and WHEW! "REBECCA! WHAT'S BURNING!?" She was calmly sitting at the table, chopping chicken on the cutting board.




It smelled like maybe the stove was becoming a giant arc welder.

"Wait--what's that?"

She showed me the corner of the cutting board. The old ancient laminated melamine plastic cutting board. More or less the same sort of stuff they use for electrical insulators, which explained the distinctive smell. It was charred and about a half inch was gone. "WHAT HAPPENED!?"

Although I knew--she'd probably left it too close to the eye on the oven when she brought me the telephone and it began to smolder. She sort of shrugged and said it got too close to the hot thing. Well, yeah. "Well, open up the windows and let's see if we can get the stink out."

Went back out to the garage and got my long iron pliers from the plier drawer and a box cutter for cutting off the end of the hose, and in just a few minutes, the lovely Reba was home. Kisses, promises to be fixed shortly, after which I would take the car back down to the foot of the hill and have Lisa the Parts Guy erase the fault codes in the computer, then go get gas before it went to $10 a gallon, the eat supper. Yea!

Set right in to work. But first, needed my trouble light. I thought I would have plenty of time to work in the sun, and would have, if Reba's boss had not come in and wanted to work late. ::sigh:: Got my lamp and plugged it in, and bent under the hood.

Hot. HOTHOTHOT. Scrape. HOT. My iron pliers I had were too big. Needed my needlenosed pliers to get that clamp--ooomph--off--ergh. HOTHOT. Went and looked for my needlenose pliers. Plier drawer, screwdriver drawer, wrench drawer, etc. Found another one that might work better. HOT. Slice. HOT HOT HOT! Nope. Need those small, redhandled needlenose pliers, doggone it. Looked in the plier drawer. Hey. There they are--right on top.


Went back out and found that I could just barely get them in position and squeeze them just enough to cause intense pain to course through my fingers. Really needed a long needlenose pliers. Which I don't own. Maybe go get some? NO! DO THIS NOW! Shoved my hand in there, oblivious to the HOTNESS of everything and FINALLY managed to squeeze and pull the clamp up over the hose. HOORAY! OUCH HOT! Deftly worked in the end of the box cutter, and pulled the hose off and WHOA! LIQUIDS!!

There is nothing more disconcerting than to be disconnecting a hose you thought was a vacuum hose, only to discover vital essences coursing through it. I thought at first I'd hit gasoline, but no, it was only coolant. Hot coolant. HOTHOTHOT. Seems that there is some kind of coolant line running near the throttle body. Also explains why the parts guy couldn't find that particular hose in the vacuum and emissions hoses.

I quickly scissored off the end I'd split and put the hose back on, and got the clamp on as well. At least now with the light, I could see that back BEHIND all of the stuff I thought was leaking was ANOTHER hose.

A hose that led directly back to the PCV valve. Yep, that's right. The hose I'd turned down the day before was indeed the correct thing. I felt around down by the hose fitting--the little elbow that fit onto the tube was as squishy as a piece of chewed up gum. I started the car just to see, and sure enough, it was making a sucking sound like a fat guy with asthma in a sauna. Well, poop. One more day without having fixed it.

At least I knew for sure what it was.

Off to go get gas, bought myself a cold Diet Coke to make up for all the sweating and burning I'd endured, then back home, wash up, suppertime.

The smell was changed now--I think Reba must have sprayed some kind of air freshener. It might have been Febreeze. But now it smelled like a dozen burning transformers set in a field of calla lillies.

Oddly enough, it did nothing to dampen my hunger.


"Yes, Catherine."

"Did you get any tea?"

We really like iced tea, and have become spoiled by the availability of gallon jugs of it, sweetened with Splenda. The six of us can almost drink an entire gallon just for supper.

"Uh, well, no, Sugar--Daddy was too dirty to stop and get out at the store."

"You look fine to me."

Daddy is tired.

Finished up supper and my Diet Coke.

And wanted about a dozen more.

"Reba, you know what I want?"

She raised an eyebrow, "What you always want?"

"Well, yeah--that--but besides that, I would just about kill for a giant vat of Diet Coke right about now."

"What's "that," Daddy?"

"A kiss from Mommy, son."

"Well, why don't you go get yourself one," said the other beneficiary of that.

I began to protest that it was too much trouble--"And while you're out, you can get some tea! And some mayonnaise. And some milk. And some ice cream. And some sherbet. And we need eggs."


Undone by my lusts.

Despite having been too dirty and filthy an hour earlier to make such a stop, I now went back out, down to the foot of the hill, at 9 p.m., for to make a grocery bill, dressed just as I had been, with a grease-stained Auburn tee-shirt, frustration-tousled hair, and the combined stench of burning melamine, calla lillies, gasoline, antifreeze, and body odor.

At least that Diet Coke was cold, and I have never enjoyed a bowl of ice cream quite so much.

And so, anyway, this morning I made the trip back over to the Ford dealer, was greeted by the Bob Uecker lookalike, and expeditiously sent on my way with a brand new PCV valve and tubing assembly, lighter in the wallet to the tune of $44.46.


Posted by Terry Oglesby at August 4, 2006 10:00 AM

When I sit down and hear crunching, I know it's my knees.

Posted by: steevil (Dr Weevil's bro Steve) at August 4, 2006 12:03 PM