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January 2010 Dr. Vern

Posted in Features on January 1, 2010
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Contributors: Dr. Vern

I'm done talking to my Jeep. No more, that's it, because I end up looking like a fool. I've tried talking to my Jeep about its bad habits. It smokes a lot, but in just three more years, it will be old enough to collect Social Security, so I'll have to overlook that. However, I'm finding it harder to ignore my Jeep's propensity toward leakage. My words fall on deaf ears, no matter how politely I try to explain to my Jeep that it's not nice to leak oil the way it does.

Before we discuss this subject any further, let's officially retire the following: "Jeeps don't leak, they mark their territory." If you hear this alleged joke again, you are now legally obligated to slap the offender in the face. Swing with all your might. No brass knuckles, mind you, but you can put your full weight into the slap. Once word gets out that the saying is passé, it should fade into obscurity. After all, it never really was funny, unlike the joke about the guy with a 12-inch-tall man in a box, playing an equally small piano.

With all joke-related formalities out of the way, it's time to make some sense of the petroleum shower on my garage floor. I was a professional mechanic for years, so I shouldn't have to throw in the (oily) towel just because my Jeep likes to leak. If I were to actually crawl under my Jeep to investigate, I'm sure I'd discover the designers made use of gaskets, seals, and wishful thinking, with an emphasis on the latter. Still, the effort-to-reward ratio isn't too promising if I try to fix everything, considering my Jeep will then surprise me with new and exciting ways to leak. If able to keep a straight face, maybe I should just say my Jeep has self-applying rust proofing.

The leakage might come in handy if I ever fail to return from a Jeep trip and somebody notices. (Editor's note: Don't worry; I'll know to eventually call the authorities if you miss a deadline.) Rather than using bloodhounds to track my scent, the search team could use dogs specially trained to follow the trail of 10W-40. So in light of that, perhaps the best way to deal with the leakage is to just keep topping off the oil. I'm too lazy to make repairs, and the other remaining option of reasoning with my Jeep has already proved fruitless.

This isn't the only situation where reasoning is pointless. You see, I have a teenage daughter. Thanks to her, any hair on my head that I haven't torn out yet ends up turning grey. Of all the things one might wish to be, nobody ever longs to be a teenager, notwithstanding Hollywood plot lines. Actually, I could be persuaded to go back in time temporarily if allowed to bring a suitcase full of cash and today's stock market reports. Being a teenager is no fun. You might think it's not so bad for my daughter, what with having a with-it dad who is hip to the groovy lingo spoken by today's hepcats, but you'd never know that talking to her. I am the dad, and everything is my fault.

So the angst well never runs dry, her mom reminds her on a constant basis of my many faults, all handily compiled in an alphabetized, indexed, and cross-referenced list, complete with up-to-date examples. Oh heck, I can even fill in some missing details on the list, but it doesn't matter. I fear someday my daughter will do the math about what was really on her mom's mind when splitting town, and my heart will break again for my little girl. No matter how the situation plays out, much like with my Jeep intently trying to drain its own oil, all I can do is limit the damage. My Jeep, on one hand, needs a petroleum-based elixir to keep from self-destructing. With my daughter, however, tapioca somehow seems to do the trick.

Let me explain. Anytime a door slams in my house, it's usually following something to the effect of, "I hate you, Dad." A day or two later, when my daughter gets her door back, there's no point tapping the hinge pins all the way in, because I know this won't be the last time. But while she's stewing in her room, sans door, that's when I'll start rounding up the ingredients to make tapioca. Sure, I can buy the stuff ready-made, but that would bypass the all-important ritual of making her favorite treat.

Think about it the way my dog does (but without the drooling), since he often can predict what's coming next in so many situations. I keep a canteen full of water next to the driver's seat on my Jeep, but I can't refill it in the house because my dog goes crazy with anticipation. I have to secretly fill it at the sink in the garage. Back to the making of tapioca, when my dog sees the double boiler, he knows in an hour or so he'll get to lick the serving bowl. There's more to the ritual, of course. You have to stir tapioca constantly while it's cooking, so that's always a good time to approach me to talk. My response to my daughter is always the last thing a teenager wants to hear, about how I love her unconditionally and would stand on my head in a bucket of $&*# for her. Some days I'd like to fast forward a few years to a less volatile time, when once again I will be super hero dad, but I'm not sure my dog and his taste buds would agree with me. -Dr. Vern

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