The Yellow Check Engine Light of Annoyance and a Bus Ride

There are times in our lives when events pop up in our current realm of existence that force us to relive moments of our past. Now, before you think I wrote that last sentence just because I was possessed by the ghost of a long dead metaphysical English teacher from Oxford England, let me explain.

I have a Jeep.

And not any Jeep mind you. It’s a big, black (black because it matches all my moods), 8 cylinder, carbon footprint leaving, leg room luxury, piece of American Engineering that makes me laugh when I fly by people going up steep grades and cry at gas stations when I see how much it costs me to fill up my Jeep with fuel.

This Jeep is the perfect size for me. I mean, I’m 6 foot 2. I have to bend myself into a pretzel just to get into Mrs. Nickels little Honda. I tease her when I say “Babe. The circus called and they want their clown car back.” Needless to say, she fails to see the humor in my harmless jesting. I levelly slide into my Jeep. I have to squat to get into my wife’s car. I can stretch my legs in my car. In Mrs. Nickels car, I’m kissing my knees as I try to sit in the front passenger seat. One time I tried to sit in the back of my wife’s car and just as I was about to try and squeeze in there, when, all a sudden, the ghosts of Albert Einstein, Niels Bohr, Isaac Newton, Galileo Galilei and Marie Curie all showed up at the same time and said “Bro, don’t even try it. Trust us, they haven’t even discovered the physics for the laws you are about to break in trying to get in the back of your wife’s car.”

I really do love my Jeep, for obvious reason. But there are times when I feel like driving my leg room spacious black monster off the edge of a very high cliff and that is when The Yellow Check Engine Light of Annoyance comes on.

I really hate that light. Because when The Yellow Check Engine Light of Annoyance comes on it means that something is “supposedly” wrong with my Jeep. I put the word “supposedly” in quotation marks on purpose because in California if your check engine light does come on you can’t get your car smogged or your registration paid until you get the issue causing the computer in your vehicle of choice to click  (your color may vary) The Yellow Check Engine Light of Annoyance thereby causing a massive disappearance of funds from my account and into the hands of my mechanic.

Last year I paid over $2,300.00 to get The Little Check Engine Light of Annoyance to go away so I could get my beast smogged and registered. And do you know what? My Jeep ran just as good before they did the work as it did afterward. Basically because it failed smog because of The Yellow Check Engine Light of Annoyance, (who knew that if you took your car to be smogged and the check engine light is on, that it’s an AUTOMATIC FAIL.) and since they hooked my car to a computer and the codes that came back said that my torque converter locked up and was slipping. (but my Jeep was running fine!). So they installed a Powertrain Control Module better known in “Mechanic Speak” as a P.C.M (whatever that is) and rebuild the tranny.  After all that…she passed.

That was in November of last year.

Here we are in October of this year, now I have The Yellow Check Engine Light of Annoyance on, again, and now I’m feeling the lurching in my Jeep as I drive her. Actually, it happened twice over the past couple of weeks, then the light went out on its own and the Jeep rode fine.

Yesterday, I’m following Mrs. Nickels to Wal-Hell because all the stuff she wants to buy can’t fit in her tiny little clown car when The Yellow Check Engine Light of Annoyance comes back on again and this time more than one lurch starts happening. I call Mrs. Nickels and tell her that I am heading back home and why to which she was a little disappointed because she couldn’t spend so much at Wal-Hell due to she realized all the things on her ever growing list wouldn’t fit in her car.

I get home and have my son in law come over with his car code reading tool to tell me what is wrong with my Jeep. I do have to confess that when my son in law is speaking in a foreign tongue called “Mechanic” I have no clue what he is saying. In fact, when he’s talking about what is going on with my car, it sounds like that “Wah-Wah-Wah-Wah” you hear when the kids in the comic strip Peanuts are talking to an adult.

So this morning I take my Jeep to my mechanic and show them my receipts of the work I’ve had done by them, show them the new codes that my son in law found, and then was informed that they wouldn’t even be able to look at it until tomorrow, most likely, afternoon.

The motto that Mrs. Nickels have been living by ever since we’ve been together has been the following: Hope for the Best, but Plan for the Worse. With those words ringing my mind, I had the forethought this morning of taking some change with me so that I would have bus fare to ride home. Of course, today would happen to be one of the 6 days it rains per year in California, so here I am leaving my mechanic’s place and trudging in the rain to the mall where one of the main bus stops are. Once having got on the correct bus, I began my ride back to “The Asylum” (The nickname I gave our house when the kids were living at home).

But as I sat down and the bus took off, mentally, I was taken back to a time when Mrs. Nickels and I lived in and apartment during a time when we didn’t have a lot of money, but plenty of love and kids. We also didn’t have a car at the time so, luckily for us, the grocery store was just up the street so getting groceries was no problem. But I was also taking the bus to work at The Mega Corporation 30 miles away in a different city along one of the most traffic infested areas of roadway in Southern California: The 91 Freeway.

Back in the day, I had to get up at 4 in the morning to catch the bus by 5, make 2 bus transfers just to get to work by 8 that morning. Then, because I would work schedule of 4-10’s (4 10 hour days), I’d get off at 7:00 pm, and instead of taking 3 buses to get there, I could take 2 to get home…at 9:00 or 9:30 at night, depending on traffic. I would sit there on the bus and once I got used to the stops, set my watch to wake me up when I got to my transfer point. I would read book after book (when I wasn’t sleeping), on those busses. I’d see my kids on my days off or I’d peek on them either before I left in the morning or see them asleep after I’ve got home from work. It wasn’t an easy time of life for me and Mrs. Nickels, but we look back at it now and smile.

Smile, just like I am on this bus as I see a young couple with their baby getting from Point A to Point B. Or I turn my head and see the college student engrossed in a textbook as we head towards the college. What I see all around me are people…just like me. Encased in an aluminum tube with windows on the side, wheels underneath, and a diesel engine in the back pushing us towards our futures. Just like the one I rode for years when our family was starting out.

Where has the time gone?

I reach my stop, get off the bus and walk the block and half to our home. And when I turn the key and go inside, sure my kids are grown and gone, but I am still greeted by the same beautiful woman who greeted me all those years ago with the same words “Hey Babe…How was your day?”

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