Before leaving for this trip, I figured there were a few automotive issues to take care of first. No need having a repeat of the serpentine belt shredding incident of Thanksgiving,especially when that very belt has been squeaking for the past three weeks since our return. My thought was that it was just a bit loose and needed tightening. I also needed an oil change, so we wound up taking the Malibu to the local dealership since I knew they would have the proper belt tightening and oil changing tools that my usual place might not.
The dealership called a few hours later to say that
I'm in need of a belt-pulley replacement. They didn't have the pulley
in stock so it was up to me to decide what to do.
"Well, is it safe to travel with?" I asked. I
figured, if it'll hold out til after the new year we can just change it
then. After all, we don't want to make a 1,200 mile plus road trip in
my wife's `91 Escort Station Wagon. Beyond being far from the most
comfortable vehicle we own, it's also 50k miles past its 80k mile life
expectancy. And we hope it lasts another 50k, or however many it takes
to get us past Ash's graduation.
The dealership guy put me on hold to consult the experts. The experts said I should be fine.
When I came round to pick up the car, I marched up to
the payment window where the dealership clerk guy I'd dealt with earlier
stood, along side a large managerial-looking fellow.
"Hello," I said. "I'm here to pick up a blue `99 Malibu. I probably owe you guys some money for an oil change as well."
The managerial fellow sorted through some paperwork,
found a page he liked, grabbed a keychain off the hook board behind him
and slid it across the counter to me. I noticed immediately that the
key was not mine.
"Um. This isn't me," I said.
"What?" Manager said.
"This isn't my key."
"Yeah, it is," he said, matter-of-factly.
"Uh, no, it's not."
"Uh, yeah, it IS," he insisted.
I picked up the keychain. It had a black plastic
remote door unlocking device and a standard Chevrolet key with the black
"Sir, I promise you, I know what my key looks like and
this is not it. For one thing, I don't have a little door clicker on
mine. And for another thing my key is bent." I held up the unbent key
for his inspection, then put the whole thing back on the counter.
The big managerial guy was getting angry now.
Something wasn't making sense in his world. He snatched up the key
chain and turned to the dealership clerk guy.
"Well, this is the key you gave me for it earlier!
This IS the key to the Malibu!" he snapped. He was starting to turn
red. Then he spun round, key still in hand, and stomped out of the
office and out the side door into the lot beside the dealership.
The clerk gave me a confused and possibly irritated look. I had stirred up trouble.
"Um," I hazarded. "Is there a possibility there are two blue `99 Malibus in for service today?"
"Hmm. Could be," the clerk said. While he looked
through more paperwork, I glanced through the window in the garage doors
to watch the manager stomping around the lot in search of a blue Malibu
in which to test the key.
"Oh, here it is," the clerk said after a few more
seconds. He found my paperwork and shortly thereafter my true and
properly bent key.
"Thanks," I said. "I sometimes forget I'm not the only one driving a Malibu."
The door flew open and the manager stomped back into the office, a triumphant gleem in his eye.
"I told you this was your key!" he said.
"No, Bill, it's not," the clerk said.
Bill the manager started to launch into a loud rant
about how he'd just tried the key out in the Malibu and it had worked
just fine when the clerk somehow managed to wedge the doppleganger
Malibu theory in as well as point out my real key dangling from my
"Oh," Bill said. He looked disappointed that the
steam of his rant had been taken out of him. I can sympathize. Then he
looked angry again. "Dammit! I hate it when I'm wrong!" he shouted.
Then he smiled. "Well, it's still the first time I've ever been