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Thursday, January 23, 2003

Okay, you people are right. I do need a name for the car, because "my new Saturn" is getting to sound like the name of a sitcom. My Favorite Martian. My Three Sons. My New Saturn. I probably shouldn't name it today, while I'm mad at it.

There will be no photos of my new Saturn today, because I'm mad at it. I'm even thinking of taking its picture off my desktop and replacing it with the old oak tree (which I'm advised also needs a name). Or maybe the picture of Suzanne's cat that I used all during December. (She does have a name. It's Missy.)

I've had the car for nine days, but only six should count. It was sitting in the showroom all last Wednesday while I was filling out the paperwork, and it was in the shop for its "touch of class" treatment all day Tuesday. And today doesn't count because I'm afraid to go anywhere. That makes me mad.

When I started it up this morning and four little bells sounded, I was puzzled. Then I looked at the display panel, which suddenly spelled out the word COOLANT in digital block letters. Huh? Didn't I just abandon a car I lived with for fifteen years because it blew up in my face?

In the old days, I would have let it go and hoped the problem would go away by tomorrow. Sometimes bells and lights go on for no reason, I reasoned. Instead, I came back in the house and called the dealer. I described my problem, and the service rep's question was, "Did you put water in it?"

Well, no. I didn't think I'd have to add water after one week. And I distinctly remembered from reading the manual cover to cover that adding water by itself is not recommended. It could be grounds for revoking my warranty, adding water without the prescribed coolant mixture. Of course I didn't add water. Besides, I hadn't figured out how to work the hood latch yet.

She had another question. "Would you like to bring it in and have us look at it?" Well, yeah, that's sort of why I'm calling. I could look at it myself, assuming I could raise the hood, but I couldn't actually do anything.

The first appointment she had was at three o'clock tomorrow afternoon. Three o'clock! That's six o'clock in Pennsylvania and several other states. Eons from now! "If it's possible, add some water. If it's not possible it should still be all right until tomorrow." Well, that's encouraging. I asked her if I could drive it, trying to see if she'd say no, but she told me it should be fine for one day.

So I cut short all my other errands and ran to the post office and back. The COOLANT message reappeared several times, but the engine showed no signs of overheating. Still, I was nervous, especially after what happened with the Honda just last week, when I barely made it home. I kept anxiously checking the temperature gauge as I drove, but the dial didn't get close to the danger zone.

Later in the afternoon, I talked myself into adding water. I got the hood open and the coolant did indeed look alarmingly low in its see-through tank. I added enough water to bring it to just over half full, then (as the manual instructed) ran the engine for a few minutes with the coolant cap off. I don't know what that does, but if it's in the book I do it. Except the part about not adding water at all.

I really need to get to the bank tomorrow morning, before company checks start to bounce. I'm going to give it a try and hope for the best. I think I'll know before I get very far whether or not I'm going to make it. It's obvious I don't know what I'm doing. I rely on the expertise of others, and I rely on their honesty just as much. They still have my trust, and tomorrow could be a test of how easily they'll keep it.


Clouds in the west, starting to break up late in the afternoon.

I still love my new Saturn, even though I'm mad at it. It promised to be good, and then as soon as I let my guard down and relaxed, it started acting up. This can't be more than a temporary setback. It has to be something that can be handled. The first thing that doesn't go the way it's supposed to is just such a disappointment. That's all.

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