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The Blame Game - Dr. Vern

Posted in News on August 2, 2014
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Are you sitting down? If not, I’ll wait while you get settled. I don’t want anybody keeling over from surprise and then suing me. Last thing I need is some lawyer sinking his teeth into me. Speaking of lawyers, here’s the shocker: I was actually nice to a lawyer. In my defense, I didn’t know the guy was a lawyer at first. My wife and I were returning from a Jeep trip deep in the woods when we came upon a cyclist by the side of the road, stranded with a flat tire.

For reasons unknown, some cyclists think it’s perfectly acceptable to venture out into public while dressed head-to-toe in stretch clothing. The snug fit and all that activity apparently reduces blood flow to the brain, resulting in a diminished ability to make fashion decisions. I’m not even remotely a fashion expert. In fact, I wish Garanimals made adult sizes. Even with my remedial fashion sense, I should’ve taken this cyclist’s outfit as my first warning sign. I’ve never worn the stuff myself. Appearances aside, stretch clothing can only stretch so far. I have no desire to be known for putting the “span” in Spandex.

In my ignorance and feeling somewhat generous, we had him toss his bike in the back of the Jeep. Feeling doubly generous, we even let him hop in, too. As we chatted on the drive back to civilization, I found out he was a lawyer. My first thought was to pull over and have him get out. Same goes for my second, third, and fourth thoughts as well (I was leaning towards keeping the bike). However, my wife shot me her patented husband-control stinkeye, and we dropped him off in town, along with his bike. In her defense, I suspect she thought it was unfair to the woodland creatures to foist a lawyer upon them.

I was reminded of this little episode because of the legal aspect of this month’s subject: statutes of limitation. Namely, what is the time limit for a Jeep owner to blame any problems on the previous owner(s)? Months? Years? Decades?

"After all, this is the good old U.S. of A."

Using my ‘63 Willys wagon as an example, I’ve gotten plenty of mileage out of blaming problems on the guys before me. After a while, it just becomes second nature. It’s so easy to go with that flow. Case in point, while driving home from work one evening, the headlights quit. I cycled the headlight switch a few times but no joy. I mashed the high beam switch, but that didn’t help either. I pulled off the road as quickly as possible and asked myself who was the blankety-blank mouth-breathing moron responsible? I had a few choice words for the idiot and the lineage of both sets of his ancestors.

About the time the lights miraculously started working again, I realized that idiot was me. I had rewired the wagon from top to bottom. Every last wire was brand new, selected and installed by yours truly. My own two hands had crimped each and every terminal (editor’s note: That didn’t work for me. I had to use a crimper). A combination of despair and embarrassment set in upon realizing I had no one else to blame.

After all, this is the good old U.S. of A! I don’t have to accept responsibility for anything. Even better, there’s almost always somebody else to blame. Who amongst us hasn’t blamed a previous Jeep owner for some problem? For proper effect, this only applies to Jeep-related problems. Try as I might, I can’t blame the Clinton administration on my wagon’s previous owner.

The brakes are one of the few areas I haven’t had to touch on my wagon. They work okay for now, so I’m holding them in reserve until I run out of things to blame on any previous owners. Based on some of the other things I’ve found, this inaction may not be such a good idea after all. At the very minimum, I should keep a boat anchor and rope at the ready within easy reach of the driver’s seat.

In the midst of my self-righteous rant about previous owners, a sobering thought hit me: Of the many vehicles that have passed through my hands, are the current owners cursing me? I know of only one instance, but I was just a kid at the time. I thought purchasing a trowel and a five gallon bucket of body filler made you an autobody expert. After having sold said victim of my workmanship, I ran into my old rig about a year later at a combination garage/body shop. Lo and behold, my old pickup was up on the lift, somehow having survived long enough to need a new clutch. A small crowd from the body shop had formed around the truck, laughing themselves silly, unaware I was the perpetrator. On the bright side, it was easy enough for me to sneak out without saying goodbye. I just slipped out through the gap at the bottom of the door.

Speaking of goodbyes, I’ve never been real big on them, but next month will be my last column. I’ll explain more then, but basically, I don’t want to be that party guest who stays too long. For each subscriber, I’d like to include a piece of my going-away cake. I’m looking at having each piece dehydrated and compressed, like those wafer-thin expanding sponges that banks used to give out. Now if I could just figure out what to do with the frosting.
—Dr. Vern

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