It just would have been a lot. So when I heard that they were on their way, I made the decision to just get back on the road, fast. It was the only way that we were going to make it home at a reasonable time. The check engine light wasn’t on. The car wasn’t overheating. We weren’t in any sort of immediate danger. There was a vibrating, a low rumble that I noticed wasn’t usually there. I later realized that it was the sound of the broken belt whipping around and around whatever it is that belts are wrapped around on the underside of the hood. But it did give me a pretty nice amount of anxiety, not so much on the highway, but definitely in the Lincoln Tunnel. Right before we entered the tunnel, we had passed through the toll booth, and I don’t know if it was in my head, or if something really happened, or if it’s a problem that’s related to or not related to whatever it was that was going on underneath the hood that was causing that rumbling sound, whatever it was that caused the AC to stop cooling the inside of the car, but there was this moment when I slowed down to let the toll get collected, and then I floored it again, but the car didn’t seem to want to change gears, it just kind of revved up without really picking up any acceleration. And so that’s when I got the anxiety about the car. Driving through the Lincoln Tunnel, it’s one lane each way, with absolutely no space to go around or anything like that, and I thought, if this car breaks down in this tunnel, what would I do? We were sitting there in the heat, the windows were open in the tunnel, which is disgusting, because it’s basically this subterranean tube where the atmosphere has to be mostly comprised of exhaust gasses. We had our baby in the backseat just being directly exposed to this stuff. It smelled awful, just disgusting, and that was after having cruised through the New Jersey Turnpike with our windows down, so it’s not like we weren’t used to disgusting industrial smells.
Anyway, we didn’t break down. The car made it through the Lincoln Tunnel. It made it through Manhattan, onto the Queensboro Bridge. We made it back home and were even able to squeeze into a really tiny spot on the good side of the street right outside of our house. Even though it was still over ninety degrees, I got out of the car with the engine still running, I popped the hood and I took a look inside, looking for this belt, this mysterious piece of equipment that I’d never actually seen in real life. I mean, maybe I’ve seen one in real life before. But if I did, it was totally by accident, just in my line of sight, without any sort of explanation, no, “Look Rob, this is a car belt.” No. But I had an image in my head. I still do. I still really only have that mental imaginary image to go by, because when I opened the hood, one, it was so hot that I couldn’t stand really close for more than a second or two without feeling as if my face were about to be just exhausted right off of my head, and two, I have no idea what the underside of a car hood is supposed to look like. There’s the spot where you pour in the windshield wiper fluid, OK, I got that, and there’s the dipstick, again, that’s not really something that I’d classify as automotive knowledge. I didn’t see any belts. At least, nothing that looked like the belts I’d conjured in my head. The engine itself wasn’t even visible. It was covered with this big black piece of plastic. And yeah, everything was just really hot. I couldn’t even hold the hood up, well, I could, and I did, enough to use that stick that’s used to prop the hood up. But it was hot. And I probably wouldn’t have been able to prop it up for much longer than I did.
Now there’s this lingering question of: when am I going to get this fixed? How am I going to do it? Where am I going to take it? Am I going to have to take the baby with me? Should I maybe try to figure out some day when I can do it where someone will be around to watch the baby? Would that be possible? What about the logistics of dealing with the repairmen? I guess I could just tell them that the AC isn’t working. Should I mention the buzzing? Because yeah, I already have this belt theory pretty much established as what’s going on. But when I take a step back, I don’t see why I’m so confident as to why I think that this is the answer. It’s all based off a five second conversation with my dad, followed by a mostly unsuccessful way too cursory a glance underneath the hood of a machine that I know all but nothing about. Am I really going to walk into a mechanic shop armed with these thoughts? Are they even worth sharing? These guys are professionals. But how professional? Are they going to really look everything over? If I come in and start talking about belts, are they going to assume that I have an idea as to what I’m talking about? Will they take this fake knowledge for granted, and thus zero in on just the belt? What if there’s a real problem with the car, one that has nothing to do with belts, but because I’ve convinced them that I’m a serious guy with a working knowledge of cars, what if they ignore all other issues? What if they execute a targeted belt change, without even bothering to take a look outside of the immediate vicinity of the belt? And what if I wind up having to take the baby? Am I going to be doing all of this negotiating and convincing while I’m holding a baby? And what if the baby poops? What if it’s like a big, blowout poop, all down his legs, and I’m struggling to put him down somewhere, and the mechanic is like, “What did you say? A belt? What belt?” And I’ll be exposed, as a fraud, like I have no idea what I’m doing. And the guy will be like, “This is no belt problem. You’ve got catastrophic engine failure. It’s a good thing you made it here without breaking down.” And I’ll nod while he stands there and speaks to me in a language that I don’t understand, all about parts and operations, complex procedures I’ve never heard of. And I’ll have to stand there and nod and at least pretend to understand what he’s saying to me, but all the while I’ll be thinking, how much? How much is this going to cost? And he’ll keep talking and talking, so much so that by the time he finally does come around to naming his price, his endless dialogue about the things he’s going to have to do to even begin thinking of fixing this car, it’ll all have been a metaphor, a long justification, like, you think it took a long time and a lot of work to explain what I’m going to have to do to fix this car? That’s nothing compared to what I’m actually going to have to do. It’s going to take forever. You might not ever even see this car again. Just be thankful you didn’t break down in the Lincoln Tunnel. And here’s your answer: it’s going to cost a lot. It’s going to cost a lot of money to fix this car.