Car Trouble? Prepare Yourself For These Highly Unsatisfactory Reactions

broke downThankfully it doesn’t happen often these days, but I’ve had my share of car trouble through the years. I’ve never really driven a junker in the classic sense, but have had older cars, and also owned a Chevy Blazer for a while. So, I’m familiar with the concept. I’ve been stranded on the sides of roads, paid four-figure repair bills, and nearly been driven to a nervous breakdown by the frustration of it all.

And I used to return to work, and tell everyone about my latest “adventure.” You know, back when I didn’t know any better — when I was young and dumm. Nowadays I tell very few people about such things, because I know their reactions are likely to be… unsatisfactory.

I’m not sure what I’m hoping for, exactly. But when the roles are reversed I always say something along the lines of “Oh, man. That sucks. Is everything OK now? Anything I can do to help?” That last part is optional, depending on who I’m talking with. If I feel like there’s a possibility they might actually take me up on it, I leave it off.

But I try to listen, and react in a sympathetic manner. I’m far from perfect, but that’s generally how I handle such things. Unfortunately, my approach seems to be rare. It happens, but not often.

Today I’m going to attempt to list the most common (and annoying) reactions to news of car trouble, and you guys can help remind me of the ones I’ve left out. How’s that sound? Good, let’s go!


These are the people who are just waiting for you to take a breath, so they can begin talking. And it usually starts with, “Oh, that’s nothing… this one time…” And they’re off and running on some long-winded story that takes place in the summer of ’87, featuring their cousin Bumpy and a blue El Camino, or whatever the fuck.

“That’s nothing” is the part that’s truly offensive. The rest of it is just narcissism, or something similar. These folks go through life broadcasting, and never receiving. Know what I mean? Certain words or phrases act as triggers, and it sets them off on yet another story, in which they’re the star. They have no interest in hearing about your situation, it’s simply a jumping-off point for them.

Live exactly like I do

These people listen to two sentences of your story, begin shaking their heads in exasperation, and say, “I don’t know why you don’t just use my guy…”

There’s a hint of blame in there, which is aggravating, but also a deep-seated need for everybody to live exactly the way they do. Have you met people like this? They get irritated if you shop at a different grocery store, use a different insurance company, or take your car to the “wrong” garage.

Their guy is always the best, bar none. And you basically had it coming, because you made rogue choices, and didn’t pattern your life after Patty’s in accounts receivable, or whoever.

The DIY guy

There’s a lot of smugness and judgment in these people. They like to roll their eyes and act like you’re a ballless pussling for not just shimmying underneath your vehicle, right there on the side of Interstate 81, and fixing everything yourself.

It’s always a “simple fix,” followed by a mocking sing-songy breakdown of the procedure: “Just drop the differential, bore-out the Larsen box, re-gap the plaxometer…” Etc., etc.

I don’t know anything about cars and how they work, don’t want to know, will never know, and couldn’t give a single apostrophe-shaped shitlet about any of it. And if you think I’m going to wedge my heft underneath my car, and have both my legs run over by a tractor trailer hauling lawn furniture, you’re out of your goddamn mind.

You can take your Larsen box and ram it deep, and on a slant.

The theoretical bad-asses

These folks wait until you take a breath, then jump in with “Well, I’ll tell you what I’d do…” And it’s all bad-ass from there.

They’d get a lawyer and sue somebody back to the stone age, or go down to the garage and beat the shit out of a few people, or drive the car in question “straight through the front doors” or whatever.

There are lots of folks who like to spin these theoretical tales, based on your current situation, in which they portray themselves as an action hero, straight out of a 1980s buddy-cop movie.

The implication: You’re being a wimp, and should be more bad-ass, like the theoretical me.

There are others, like the Not Enough Empathy guy. They say things like, “Yeah, that sucks. …Did you see the new It’s Always Sunny last night?” Or the Wet Blanket dude: “Ooooh, that sounds bad. That’s going to cost you thousands and thousands…”

Help me complete the list, my friends. Use the comments link below.

And I’ll see you again next time.

Have a great day!

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  1. Lew in Bama says

    How about the folks who seem genuinely interested in helping you, offer a ride or to pick you up etc, then forget about their offer and leave you more stranded than if you’d just handled it yourself.
    Do not offer help you are not prepared to follow up on.

  2. Phantom Railfan says

    There’s the “That’s what you get for buying a (insert make of vehicle here” people. And the people who will say something like “Oh yeah, that’s an ’07, they were really bad that year. But the ’08’s were the best car they ever made.”


  3. Ruthless Dee says

    “You should have seen this coming.” Apparently before any drive we are supposed to bring out the crew to tear the car apart and go over every function and make sure all parts are in top working order.

  4. Brenda Love says

    You are having a lot of anxiety about your car situation, and people choose to lecture you about your anxiety levels and how to achieve Zen no matter what situation comes along. Gah, STFU!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  5. junkfood says

    I love the Jeff Kay style here. You’re not just getting run over by a tractor trailer, but by a tractor trailer “hauling lawn furniture.” I laughed audibly in my cubicle.

    • madz1962 says

      Me too! Lawn furniture – brilliant!

      • revashane says

        I loved the lawn furniture visual too. I was thinking he could have used Depends and it wouldn’t have been funny.

    • Jeannette says

      Reading these updates, in the true Jeff Kay style, man… Its a good-to-be-home kinda feeling.
      I don’t mean to get all mushy, I promise. Just happy about the overall feel this place has.

  6. madz1962 says

    Don’t forget the “printhethes” who have to act all cutesy and dumb because the girly girl that they are would never know anything about a car, not to mention the fact that they might chip a perfectly manicured nail.

    Also, there’s the complete and total fuck up who would manage to find a roll of surgical tape and miraculously fix the problem temporarily. The happy go lucky loser everybody loves who, when told the price the mechanic will over charge, would consider selling a kidney.

    That “one upmanship” is never more prevalent than when anyone is discussing health problems. And they wear that shit like a badge of honor “Well, my spleen exploded when I sneezed and my blood pressure is 972/625 but my asthma hasn’t sent me to the hospital this week even though my restless leg syndrome is making my ass crack bleed.”

    • You’re dead on with the medical disorder badge of honor thing! Probably my biggest pet peeve!

      • Which is probably why I try to refrain from asking people “how are you?” Careful what you wish for.

        • Oh man, we got a guy here at work. He goes into detail I wouldn’t discuss with my doctor. It went from how are you Bill to how’s it going Bill to finally just giving a head nod so you could avoid getting him started.

    • Several years ago my doctor noticed my thyroid levels were out of whack and sent me to an Endocrinologist for a consultation. Well, this doctor found growth on my thyroid, which prompted many tests and a biopsy. I’m a strange person in that I don’t worry about something health-wise until I have reason to worry, so I just patiently waited for the test results. A woman I worked with was one of those people that had every disease/disorder known to mankind at some point in her life. She would refer to “I remember when I had my hysterectomy; talk about pain!” I finally got so sick and tired of hearing that story that one day I finally told her to stop bringing up surgery she had over 30 damn years ago. Anyway, when she found out about my having had a biopsy, she started talking about how horrible thyroid cancer was, that is was a killer and how a friend of a friend had it and died, etc. etc. etc. I finally looked her straight in the eye and told her that as soon as I knew if I did have thyroid cancer, she would be the first to know so she could run out and buy a suitable dress to wear to my funeral. She eventually died of a stroke. Oh, and the biopsy turned out to be negative and I still have that same growth on my thyroid. Ha!

      • revashane says

        My best friend has legitimately had everything on her body shit the bed. She swears the thyroid biopsy was the most painful thing she ever had.

    • oh, God, Madz, that was hilarious. Now I’m afraid to sneeze in case my spleen explodes.

  7. Bill in WV says

    The Larsen box completely fell off my heap ‘o shit once, leaving the Johnson rod completely exposed and, eventually, bent. If I had only greased the Fetzer valve when I should have, none of it would have occurred. But, I’m just a legless stump meister now, after lying underneath the heap ‘o shit along I-64, trying to bend the Johnson rod back into place. A Wonder Bread delivery truck mashed my legs. Fucking JOHNSON RODS !!!

    • Uncle_Wedgie says

      Nonsense. It clearly a problem with the secondary tayback valve being over torqued. The Larsen box was just a coincidence.

  8. You nailed this one, my friend!

    It takes so very little effort to give a satisfactory and empathetic reply, and yet there are very, very few of us who ever make it!

    Great job!

  9. johnthebasket says

    There’s your problem: You should have had your Larsen Box removed about 30,000 miles ago. My ’66 Dodge Dart didn’t have a Larsen Box at all, and the last time I saw it, it had 400,000 miles on it, no longer required oil changes, and only needed gas a couple times a year. And the tires didn’t wear out.

    I say “the last time I saw it” because, eventually, it didn’t need me either. I’m guessing it’s somewhere out west, but that’s just a guess. If you kept up with Road and Track and Penthouse Letters, you’d have this important information and wouldn’t be waddling around legless like a character from Game of Thrones.

    Just trying, as always, to help.


    • Kevindust says

      As a car, porn and Game of Thrones enthusiast, you really hit the connecting rod on the lannister with this one JTB.

      • johnthebasket says

        Hey, Kevin, thanks for reminding me. I forgot to mention that I regularly greased the Lannister in that vehicle. Of course, I was young then.


  10. Jazzbone Swirly says

    I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: You need to adjust the heterocyclic declination on these newer cars every time you drive them. The parameters can easily be looked up in the 1,200 page Chilton manual that you need to keep in the car at all times.

  11. johnthebasket says

    By the way, did you know that Don Larsen, the inventor of the Larsen Box, was so handy with the bat that he was used as a pinch-hitter 66 times in his career?

    Hey, like NBC says, “The more you know . . .”


    • madz1962 says

      I was hoping it was Gary Larson (o rather than e) creator of The Far Side.

      But what do I know? I go to the School for the Gifted (trying to push open the Pull door).

      • johnthebasket says

        The e is important because it is the base of the natural logarithm. This number, approximately 2.71828, is used by the Larsen Box to dynamically adjust the angles of the rods, provide higher compression in the cylinders, and blow the head gasket. That somehow it reminds me of a girl I went out with.

        Again, “The more you know . . .”


  12. As the victim of a recent car breakdown within sight of my office, I must say that everyone was pretty cool about it. There may have been a few hints of “why are you driving such a shitty old car?” but no one said it outright. Heck, it may have been my imagination since pretty much everyone I know is trying to hang on to their paid off old cars until the economy recovers or the lottery fairy stops by.

  13. I’m guilty of a few of those…
    Being a DIY guy… Sorry if it makes you feel worse. Just trying to be helpful.
    As for one-upping, not trying to one up you, your tale of woe reminded me of another tale of woe, and hopefully make you feel better knowing what you could have potentially faced for an invoice.
    Not enough empathy, yeah, so? Shit breaks, repair it. =-)

  14. Steve in WV says

    Best update yet. Hilarious.

  15. I feel your pain! We’re a 3 shit-box household and it never fucking ends!!!! Recently signed up with Liberty Mutual Insurance’s Towing Coverage. Only $15 per vehicle per year, they fucked up royal laying that on the table. Used it twice in the first week!! Haha!!!!

    • By the way, figure if I can get away with less than $300 a month in car repairs, still cheaper than a new car payment and higher insurance, etc etc

      • It’s pretty much always cheaper to keep ‘er. But at some point, I find myself not trusting the car to get me to work, to the family reunion, etc. If the car is constantly breaking when I *need* to be somewhere, that’s no good.

        Lately it seems that I keep a car for nine years before coughing up the cash for another.

        • johnthebasket says

          Chill . . .

          In the mid-eighties I switched from “American” cars to Hondas made in the U.S. I’ve since been averaging about 11 years per car, and haven’t broken down yet.

          I’m pretty good about maintenance and stuff, and the fact is that Hondas keep running. Two Accords and an Odyssey later, I’m happy. My Odyssey is a 2000, and I swear I have another five years to go. I made car payments once in my life for four years, and I don’t intend to do so again.

          I never confuse my car with my penis. Let the bastards point and laugh and make their car payments. (Of course, I meant point and laugh at my CAR, but at my age I suppose it could work either way). In any case, it’s nice to find another long-term car owner.


          • We here in Ohio would like to thank you for purchasing Honda automobiles.

            Domo arigato!

  16. Minipeds in NOLA says

    Today I had to have my cracked windshield replaced and when it was all done the guy who replaced it called me to tell me he had found a scratch on the NEW windshield. Gotta do it all over again next week. I told my friend (who has had to have her p.o.s. car jump started 4/4 commutes this week, once by me) expecting a bit of sympathy about the BS. Her answer: “it will all be over soon.” Thanks, pal.

  17. How about these fucks: “Where do you buy your gas, normally? Oh, they put water in their gas. Everyone knows that.”

    • Minipeds in NOLA says

      Oh, those people! In Louisiana I hear people talk about ethanol content and all the horrible things you’ve been doing to your car by being so ignorant.

  18. revashane says

    I’ve got a friend that always says ” I could have told you that” with double explanation( hu hu thats another post) exclamation points at the end!! I want to say ” If you fucking knew it why the fuck didnt you warn me”

  19. Dude, I HATE the theoretical badass! My brother is one of those and he’s always talking about how he ‘almost’ jumped out of his car and kicked that dude’s ass for tailgating or how he nearly ‘lost it’ on a cop for giving him a speeding ticket. He’s NEVER been in a real fight, but that doesn’t stop him from talking like Chuck friggin’ Norris.

    There’s also the similar animal to the ‘live like I do’, which is the ‘eternal boy scout’. “Oh, you don’t have a third spare tire in your trunk? I NEVER leave home with AT LEAST four spares.” or “Oh, you mean you didn’t have ANY puma bait with you at all? If that had happened to me, that big cat would be safely back in the zoo by now.” HATE those guys.

  20. johnthebasket says

    I have no idea what it says about the correspondents of this site that, in the matter of auto maintenance and repair and people’s attitudes thereto, there have been 39 comments, while in the matter of crotchal coiffure there were 60.

    I’m not saying . . . I’m just asking. I guess I’m just a curious fuckin’ guy.


  21. A very attractive blonde, late 20s told the guy behind the parts counter her boyfriend sent her to get some muffler bearings. Guy behind the counter says, “I bet you’re not a do-it-yourselfer, are you”? Blond says, ” Oh no, but my boyfriend is. I caught him three or four times but he doesn’t know it”.

    But all seriousness aside…Had a friend call and said her Pfister pump cut loose on her and asked if I would come over and look to see if it had done any damage. Asked her if it had been taken out and she said no. I agreed, well knowing those things are usually installed in tight places and can be tricky to remove. The newer Pfister pumps can produce a lot of torque and do some damage. I know a guy who’s son tore up his tranny with one of those. So anyway…I asked her if she had been keeping it properly greased and she said she might have let it get dry. I told her she may have only scored the walls a bit and some TLC with a little light oil and some hand honing should be all she needs. Things were back to normal in no time.

  22. CousinDave says

    My next door neighbor is an expert about everything. He ends every sentence with “you did know that, right?” Why you putting brake fluid in your truck? That ain’t gonna help. You need a new engine. Go down to Ronnie’s garage. He has a rebuilt engine that has only 120,000 miles on it. He can install it and it will only cost you about $4200.

  23. “They all do that mate”. Traditional reply of the car mechanic. My reply should’ve been (but obviously wasn’t….) 1. “I don’t care what the others do you should’ve sold me a good one!” 2. “If they all do it you’ve had plenty of opportunity to work out how to fix it by now”. 3. “The fact that some other unfortunate bugger has been let down in the same way I have doesn’t make me feel better”.