Kevin Page: I blew gasket but didn't lose my head

By Kevin Page

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When a mechanic talks in numbers large enough to stall your heart, it's time to start walking. Photo / Thinkstock
When a mechanic talks in numbers large enough to stall your heart, it's time to start walking. Photo / Thinkstock

I'm writing this in my head as I walk to the dairy.

There are two reasons for this.

The first is I need milk. And possibly one of those chocolate bars they place sneakily on the counter in front of you that your brain inexplicably insists you absolutely must have.

The second reason for my pedestrian enterprise is that my old car has died.

Its demise was as unexpected as it was sudden.

One day I was driving over to Tauranga, light traffic making for an enjoyable ride, and the next I was standing in front of the doctor as he delivered the most awful news.

Oops, I meant, mechanic.

"Unfortunately it's a biggie," he said, trying to soften the blow as I grimaced.

"Head gasket's blown."

Now I'm not overly possessed with much mechanical nouse.

I can check the oil (though I did fill a motor with creosote by mistake once) and fill her up with petrol but beyond that my experience consists of nodding in agreement when petrolheads talk of cambelts and trying to sound interested when the torque output of the new GTSX51S turbo-charged blah, blah is the hot topic around a raised bonnet.

I'm sure you get the picture.

But even I could work out a blown head gasket was not good.

It got worse.

"You might have a cracked head too," said the doctor.

"We won't know till we get in there."

This was becoming a nightmare. I remembered those stories everyone has of a sick friend or rellie who'd gone in for one procedure or the other and as soon as they lifted the hood (so to speak) they found other terrible stuff.

Luckily a bird dropped a contribution on a nearby windscreen and jolted me from my stunned-mullet impression.

"How much to fix it?," I asked nervously, sort of hoping the "biggie" was not, well, a "big biggie".

Sadly the numbers resembled the gross domestic product of a small country and I knew I would have an agonising decision to make.

Do I spend the money or do we drive her off into the sunset aka The Wreckers?

Do I go out into the big wide world and find the best specialists, the top people in their field, who can breathe life and rpm back into her?

Do I seek another opinion? Perhaps my doctor has it wrong. Perhaps the paperwork has been mixed up and he's given me the test results of that old truck I saw parked forlornly in the corner.

Either way I knew I had to discuss such a major financial decision with Mrs P.

I wasn't looking forward to it.

She has history with that car.

It carried her and the sprogs to countless holidays with Nana.

Got us home with Pro Drive in the old days when a good night out proved too difficult to end.

It was always there, dry and inviting, when groceries needed to be hurled in quickly during a supermarket carpark downpour.

An aside here: I maintain it rains more heavily when I'm caught in the open in the Pak'nSave car park than when I'm similarly caught at Countdown.

Why is that?


Mrs P took the news calmly, questioned me over the doctor's diagnosis, blamed me for breaking the car by not keeping on top of the maintenance - as you do - decided we'd start saving for another and then made me coffee. And used the last of the milk.

So here I am. Strolling along to get a carton of green top thinking how lucky I am to have such an understanding wife. And counting myself lucky after delivering the news I didn't end up with a cracked head too.

*Kevin Page has been a journalist for 34 years. He hasn't made enough money to retire after writing about serious topics for years so he's giving humour a shot instead.

- Rotorua Daily Post

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