By Gene Gallelli

It would take hours, even days, to list the irritations visited upon a car owner. The gas guzzler could be sitting quietly in an empty driveway, enjoying a rare period of road rest, not knowing that a flock of birds has the family bus in its radar and the pigeon pilot just yelled, “Bombs away!”

Once the engine roars, and the car clicks into reverse, and you head for the great outdoors – which is usually the grocery store or Post Office – the potential for high blood pressure increases with every traveled mile.

Just as you turn onto Main Street – every town has one – the low-tire-pressure light comes on and you’re out of quarters for the “pay-for-air” pump. So, you decide to get the air for free tomorrow somewhere else, when suddenly a symbol you’ve never seen before flashes on the dashboard. It looks kinda like a foot or maybe it’s a buckle. Who knows!

It only takes a while before you realize the “computer” that talks to you with warnings, advice and knock-knock jokes has a devious, playful mind, like when you get a call on the auto’s “hands free” system and, before you discover and push the correct button, you find yourself on  a neighbor’s front lawn with a mailbox glaring at you through the windshield. Or, you hear a beep and wonder if it’s warning you that your gas cap is open, or you’re about to back into something, or a car is passing you, or that a garbage truck is backing up and has you in its sights. I’d vote for a system that yells, “Look out!” Rather than one that just beeps. Does anyone else have a safety-minded computer that beep, beep, beeps to tell you that the dog sitting in the passenger seat needs to buckle its seatbelt?

Finally – although I could go on forever – I’m ashamed to admit that what has become my most irritating auto behavior is the windshield washer that stops squirting. Why? Well, the last time it happened I was returning from the post office and when I tried to squirt the windshield, nothing that I expected to happen, happened.

Upon entering the house with the mail, I informed my youngest daughter that the windshield washer wasn’t working.

My daughter, upon sensing my frustration, said, “Don’t worry, dad, I’ll take care of it; I’ve done it many times.” (She knew I had a gallon of blue washer fluid in the car trunk.)

Soon I heard the car hood slam shut, and felt confident the job had been done. I thought it was a little strange when my daughter came in and said, “All done! I filled the blue container halfway up to the fill line.”

Halfway up? Fill line?

When it still didn’t work, I took it to a local repair shop to be fixed along with an oil change and tire rotation. I had informed the receptionist that my daughter had already added fluid to the tank.

After waiting about twenty minutes for the car, the mechanic walked into the waiting area and dropped off a set of keys at the front desk – yes, they were mine – and I heard him say in a not-so-quiet whisper, “It was bone dry!” Then, he said something that sent chills up my spine: “Wonder where she poured the washer fluid?”

I’m still not certain where the washer fluid went, but I’ m confident the car has a beep or flashing symbol that will tell me.

Gene Gallelli was Associate Superintendent of the Dare County Schools for eight years. He received his Doctor of Education degree from East Carolina University, where he taught and supervised students studying to become school administrators.


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