samedi 27 juin 2009

Lurching to a halt, or diesel and gasoline just don't mix

20 liters, diesel and gas mix


"Sam, put the car in the right gear. Please."

"Mom! It is," he said, looking frantically at the shift stick.

"It can't be." We nearly stalled, the old Fiat Uno jerking forward from the green light. We continued to the traffic circle and turned right to head towards home. He shifted from second to third, or -- "Sam, shift. What's going on?" He was getting upset now.

"I don't know --" he said, looking again at the shift stick, loose on the Fiat, but. I was perfectly baffled. He usually does just fine, but this was a mess. The car bucked at the second speed bump by the school.

"Stop the car. Here."

"I am." The gears of my brain were working overtime, trying to figure out what was going on with him, or --

"Sam, what did you put in the car?" We had just filled the tank up. Sam always does it himself when he is driving.

"Gas." The universal term for the liquid that makes a car run.

"Gas or diesel fuel?" Did I really need to ask? The car had just lurched to a halt.

"95." I put my head in my hands and breathed. The Fiat is a diesel, our only diesel. I sat very, very quietly. Right before I left with him, we had had the BMW argument again; Audouin doesn't want him to drive the 328i. I do.

His reasons? We'll kill Sam if he has an accident driving because we could never replace this car for anywhere near the price we paid. We got really lucky. My reasons? Put a good car in the hands of someone learning to drive while you are sitting next to them, teaching, and they will learn to drive responsibly, if they are not a hopelessly spoiled brat.

His reasons? It's a propulsion, and if you don't have a lot of experience driving them, you are more likely to lose control. My reasons? If you don't learn to drive a propulsion, you won't learn how to master it, and you are more likely to lose control when you do drive one.

His reasons? The Fiat is just fine. My reasons? A good car teaches good feeling at the wheel and better reactions, leading to mastery. His reasons? The Fiat is less powerful, ergo safer. My reasons? The BMW is more powerful, you learn what the power is really for: not to go fast, but to maneuver for increased safety.

Why else would we have bought such a car?

And, so, here we were, sitting side by side in perfect silence, I thinking about how to tell Audouin that Sam had just filled the tank, gas lines and carburetor with gasoline; Sam in perfect silence of the body and mouth. He might have been thinking as loudly as I was, but he kept it to himself.

Audouin arrived with several containers for the diesel and gas mix and a length of garden hose to siphon it. He looked fit to kill. Well, stern, anyway.

"Ben, j'espère qu'elle n'est pas foutue," he said, unloading the gas cans from the BMW.

"Sam, now," I urged. It was time to voice the apology I had encouraged. Apologies are not Sam's strong suit.

"I am," he hissed at me. "Audouin, je suis désolé." Incomplete, but better than nothing. It was at least spoken in an audible voice and with sincerity.

"Ca va, Sam. On pourrait tous faire ça, mais c'est la faute de ta mère." Hunh? "Elle aurait du surveiller." No problem, Sam, we can all make the same mistake. It's your mother's fault, really. She should have been paying attention. I took a deep cleansing breath and chose not to react. Besides, it wasn't the time to argue with him; he was kneeling down, sucking on the end of the hose, trying to get the vacuum effect going. He spat. "Blech. J'ai la bouche et le nez pleins d'essence. Blech." He spat again. I remained quiet and called our friends.

We were supposed to be on our way to les Andelys for dinner soon, and Thierry has mechanical friends. Not that Audouin isn't mechanical. He is. He was just in an humeur noire. Thierry also does endurance motor cycle trips. He called his friend and called me back.

"Elle est de quelle année?"

"1994."

"C'est bien. Les modèles plus récents sont beaucoup plus sousceptible dans ce cas. Voilà ce qu'il faut faire." He explained we needed to empty the tank, undo the gas line, clean the fuel filter and start the car to drain the fuel line, then add diesel fuel.

"Ca n'a pas l'aire trop méchant." My battery died.

"Non, mais il faut avoir les outils," muttered Audouin. "La dernière fois j'ai essayé de travailler sur cette voiture, je n'avais pas ce qu'il fallait." I could hear the injury to the Italian engineers intended. Hey, it's cheap and still running after 15 years and more than 200,000 km.

"Alors, tu pousse avec la BM, et on la laisse chez le garagiste."

"J'espère qu'elle ne va pas nous ruiner."

Not quite.

We picked the Fiat up this morning. 35 euros, off the books, including 10 liters of diesel fuel to get us going. The trim for the BMW grill plate he broke pushing will cost us more than Sam's -- oh, excuse me, my mistake.

Unless the super glue and wire work.

Sh. He doesn't know he did it. I don't think.
....

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