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October 2010 Dr. Vern

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

The test was rigged. That's the only possible explanation. According to the results, I have OCD, but if I really do, it's my Jeep's fault. OCD, for the uninitiated, is Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, which is a series of obsessive thoughts that produce anxiety, combined with compulsive, often futile actions intended to alleviate it. The anxiety part is easy enough to understand. Do you own an old Jeep? Then you know the constant worry about what will be the next thing to go wrong. Based on experience, this is not an unreasonable fear, so I wouldn't feel bad if that was the extent of the problem. Compulsion, the part which drives you over the edge, comes from trying to anticipate exactly what might break and hopefully prevent it from happening.

Without admitting anything, I will say that obsessing about future problems is part and parcel of owning an old Jeep. Consider the saga of the brake system on my '63 Willys wagon. This is a tale so compelling, it would make an epic mini-series, or at least a moderately tolerated after-school special. (For the role of yours truly, Fabio is a natural.) When the leaky master cylinder had to be replaced (I did the work, not Fabio), I couldn't help but worry about what else might need attention while the system was apart. Should I also replace the brake light switch? It is pressure-operated and tied into the brake lines. Buried between the frame rail and the engine, access to the master cylinder is a booger (Editor's note: Huh? It sticks to your finger?). The switch had to be removed anyway while replacing the master cylinder. Anticipating future trouble like that was causing me to lose sleep in the here and now. I finally made the command decision that since the existing switch had been working just fine, it would be a waste of money to replace it unnecessarily. Should I even finish the story? The old switch, having lived a long and full life, turned into a paperweight soon after all other work was complete. Replacing the switch meant crawling back under the wagon and then bleeding the system all over again. The extra stress from my lack of foresight made me even more neurotic than before.

Granted, this and other evidence does point towards a problem. Think it will never happen to you? If you own an old Jeep, see if you could have done any better with the following questions. These are bona fide questions taken from an online OCD screening test, by the way:

Do you worry a lot about terrible things happening? Who doesn't? The engine clatters on start-up, so it's inevitable that it will throw a rod one of these days. You've got to rev the engine way up to move the ammeter needle to the positive side of the scale, so the battery is probably nearly dead at this very moment. The brake pedal is mainly decoration, so a complete system failure is practically guaranteed to happen.

Do you worry about accidentally hitting a pedestrian with your vehicle? See the last part of my previous answer.

Do you worry about losing something valuable? It all depends if my Jeep is considered valuable. If so, the answer is yes, considering how easy it is to hotwire an old Jeep and how pathetic my dog is on guard duty.

Have you ever felt compelled to perform certain actions over and over again? Another no-brainer: Jeep. Oil. Garage floor. Rags. 'Nuf said.

Do you repeatedly check things like door locks or the emergency brake? In my defense, I did okay on this question. On my CJ-2A, there are no doors to lock, and I don't worry about the emergency brake because it has never worked.

Do you collect objects that most people consider useless? Can we define 'useless'? I'm in trouble if that includes crusty, worn-out Jeep parts or derelict project vehicles that belong in a scrap yard.

Do you feel compelled to make sure your possessions are neat and tidy? Oh good, another one in my favor. You should see my garage.

Looking over my answers, the final result isn't good. 71.43% of my answers clearly point to Jeep-Related Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. As if that wasn't bad enough, I'm concerned that 71.43 should be rounded up to an even, orderly number, so maybe I am afflicted. (Not to be confused with 'Affleckted', which refers to costarring in a movie with Matt Damon.) Still, I'm not absolutely convinced I have OCD. This wouldn't even be an issue and there'd be no need for obsession if everything around me was just the way I wanted it.

I will admit to a few other problems, so maybe the medical profession can name a new disorder after me. For example, I'm terrified of delicate woolen sweaters, a condition known as Angoraphobia. I'm also afraid of Santa and his wife. I believe the term for that is Claustrophobia. Despite these and other problems, maybe I can retake my OCD test and do better. One of the main symptoms of OCD is the urge to have everything neatly arranged and in perfect order. My first test attempt was obviously inaccurate, because I know I don't have that problem. I'll be ready to retake the test as soon as I get my pencils ready. I can't start until they are properly sharpened and all the same length.
-Dr. Vern

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