Oh this light. This dreaded light. When you see it aglow beside the odometer, it's never to tell you that your car is performing splendidly. It's lit up to tell you the exact opposite. "WARNING! WARNING!" it yells. "Something's wrong with your ride!"
I pulled into my driveway on Tuesday night and happened to glance at my gas guage to check if I could wait to load up until after work the next day, and there it was - the CHECK ENGINE indicator.
Since my commute is so demanding, I don’t take any chances when my car is even remotely in need of ANYTHING, even if it’s just a lightbulb. So after dinner, I drove my car to Glendale Toyota, where I have spent a great part of my car’s life. They’d have to run a diagnostic test in the morning, they said, so I stayed home from work the following day, checking office email all morning, trying to distract myself from worrying about what the next fixer was going to cost.
When Minsu, the rep from Toyota finally called, I braced myself. The catalytic converter needed to be replaced and it would cost…well, a lot. The cata-what? I Googled it before we got off the phone. Apparently it controls the toxicity of my car's emissions. Well, obviously I can’t not replace THAT! I ok’d the service and sulked…for awhile. ANOTHER maintenance expense?
Dad heard me on the phone and came in to talk me off the ledge. I seem to get unbelievably upset every time I have to invest such a huge chunk of my paycheck (or sometimes all of one) into something that doesn’t take me on vacation, buys me a new wardrobe or feeds me. "What pleasure do I get from spending so much on my car?!" I foolishly thought to myself.
“It’s a car,” Dad said in his very dad-like tone. “It needs to be taken care of all the time especially when it works so hard. It’s not meant to be new forever.” I knew that.
I left the house to get some air. It was raining that day, but I actually welcomed it, especially when I was already feeling so crappy. I visited Church and whined to God for an hour, then I went home.
I asked myself what I was upset about and then I asked myself what my other options were, really, for this situation. There really wasn't one. Either I left the old part in and figure out away to get to Thousand Oaks everyday, or get the car fixed and let it be the end. Of course I chose the latter, but it wasn't without reserve.
I did get some perks from being such a loyal customer there. I went back to Glendale Toyota that Wednesday evening to pick up my car and saw Minsu typing like a madman on his computer, punching code after code to give me as big of a discount as he could.
"I saw your maintenance history with us," he said. "Let's see what discounts we can give you."
It wasn't a huge dollar amount off, but it certainly helped. I drove off still feeling the financial blow, but thought about what Dad said. My little 2002 Rav4 does work hard. She's driven me to and from San Francisco, Las Vegas, San Diego and Palm Springs; she's taken me to work 400 miles/week for the last 4 1/2 years; she's played taxi to practically every member of my family; and on the side, she takes me to every birthday party, wedding, baby shower, housewarming, basketball game, etc on my calendar. How could I feel bad about taking care of something that's taken such good care of me?