Monday, October 22, 2012

Vehicular Homicide - Or my Jeep Tries (unsuccessfully) To Kill Me – Part 2

Less than a week after it's first attempt on my life, the jeep tries again. I am documenting it's actions so, in the event it continues on that course and is ultimately successful, there will be some record of what happened.

Here's how it's last attempt went. It all started Thursday morning. In an unusual burst of planning, guile, and luck I had managed to wake particularly early that day. On an ideal weekday I get up at 4:30, get on the road by 5, and at work by 6, thus allowing me to exit the office by 2 and avoid most of the afternoon rush hour traffic.

On this day, I wake at my target time. I exit the house on schedule and stumble out to the jeep. I greet it cautiously as (duh!) we have not exactly been on good terms. “Good morning jeep. Your tires are looking well aired, and, ah good, there are no strange fluids leaking from your underneath. There doesn't seem to be any rain today or last night, so I won't be straining your electrical system by running those annoying wipers. And here's a bonus – I have a good audio book I am listening to on my MP3 player and headphones, so I won't even need to turn on your radio. Unfortunately I will have to use your headlights though as it is still darker the sin out here”.

You see, normally the jeep only begrudgingly allows the use of it's spare electrical power. On those rare days when I have to use the headlights, wipers, radio, and charge my cell phone, it demonstrates it's displeasure with dips of it's power indicator to the discharging side. When I first got the jeep it evinced this proclivity. I had driven it to the park to take a walk. Upon returning from my walk I went to start it and nothing happened. Lights and radio would not come on – the jeep was feigning electrical death as surely as it had been hit by an EMP from outer space. Rather than assuming the slow death of civilization, I decided to show the jeep my displeasure by rapping it's battery connectors sharply with my crescent wrench. It got the message and started right up. I later rewarded it's responsiveness by cleaning it's battery post.

Moving on, I start jeep and did the post start checks. Fuel – ok. Water temp low, but slowly starting to creep up – good. Oil pressure – high, which I’m assured by my mechanic and the internet is normal and have learned to not worry too much about. It will easy back a bit after I get going. I am thinking it's the jeeps way of expressing it's irritation at the rudeness of being asked to start on a cold morning. Electrical, discharging a bit, but that is normal. At this point I realize that I am cold. With Fall fast upon us, the mornings have got progressively colder, and even though I have a sweater on it still is a little uncomfortable. I decide to leave the windows up for now and turn on the heater. I guess it's something about being elemental that attracts people to jeeps, so as a rule jeep drivers will always have at least the driver's window down, regardless of the weather. The stouter ones will take the doors, top, and tailgate off too, staying in that state even when faced with several feet of snow. Conversely, jeep owners who drive around with their windows up are viewed with suspicion. “Are they confused Hummer owners?” we wonder. We wave at them too, but cautiously...

So I rationalize that it is acceptable to leave the windows up until the cab gets heated, as I am unlikely to see any other jeeps this dark morning. I pull out of the driveway, and wind my way through Manassas toward Centreville, happily munching on my egg sandwich and listening to my book, which at that point wasn't too boring or exciting. It is just right for the morning commute. When I got to Centreville, though, the first tickling of nausea hits me. Calling it nausea at that point might be too strong. More of a twinge of distress that I attributed to the too quick consumption of my breakfast sandwich. By the time I hit Chantilly my stomach was rolling, and beads of sweat were forming on my forehead, prompting me to finally roll down the window.

By the time I hit the office parking, my head was woozy. I hadn't lost my lunch, but was close. I managed to stumble to my office, still in denial of the sudden onset flu symptoms. I could only manage to stare blankly at my computer screen, barely able to think. I rationalized that if I could hold on until after rush hour, I would head back home. Then I began to feel better, and after an hour, all of my symptoms had disappeared. With my head clear, I began to analyze what had happened. How was it possible that these flu symptoms could just appear, then fade away so quickly?

I then remembered something my mechanic had mentioned on my last visit. As I was leaving he said, “Hey Mike, you might have an exhaust leak”. At the time I had nodded and noted that I wouldn't worry about it until I had to get it fixed for the next (completely unnecessary government mandated) safety inspection. Googling “exhaust leak nausea” confirmed my suspicions. The jeep had tried to kill me with carbon monoxide poisoning, like some guy in a closed garage with a running car! It was diabolical in it's execution. 

For the drive back to Manassas, I had all the windows down, and for good measure, stuck my head out and took deep breaths whenever the opportunity presented itself. In retrospect, I see my actions were akin to when you are in a car and a noxious emission by one of your fellow travelers causes a stampede for every available window. I can only imagine what my fellow commuters though of me that day. I suppose it appeared that I was in such extreme gastric distress that I, ahem, couldn't stand my own company.

When I got the jeep to the mechanic that evening, he confirmed it. The gasket had degraded and bolts from the catalytic converter had loosened. With the skid plate in place, the leaked exhaust was filtered directly up into the cab. As long as I had the windows down I would feel only a mild discomfort. It therefore was only the act of rolling down my windows that saved me from the jeep's fiendish plot. The issue was easily and quickly resolved with a new gasket, bolts and a token shop fee.

I had a long talk with it the next day after picking it up from the mechanic and I believe that we are back on good terms. It seems to be behaving itself. I will go forward with caution.

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