Nice warm chips.

He was late sixties maybe. Galway accent. Denim jacket. Beard. Kristofferson look.

Bonnet open, Toyota, side of the road, hoping something might happen. He’d been there a while. Contemplating the engine, listening to the scream of the traffic on the bypass.

I pulled in. Asked him the rhetorical: ‘Everything ok?’

‘The car just stopped.’

‘Stopped?’

‘I was driving down the road and it just cut out.’

It was getting cold, and dark, and supremely dangerous. We stood there. I said: ‘I can try it.’

He gave me the key. Put it in the ignition. Turned it. It went: clackclackclackkkkkk.

It reminded me of something. Maybe the Astra when the starter went. Or the Mitsubishi after the alternator broke. Or maybe it was when the engine went on the Insignia. Could have been that time with the Avensis too. Either way – there was no tools. No expertise. No hope. So I asked: ‘Do you have breakdown insurance?

He shook his head in a way that said the car should hardly be on the road at all and never mind that fancy stuff. There was nothing for it only give him a lift into town and try find a garage. On the way, I asked him: ‘Had you plenty of petrol?

‘Petrol?’

‘Yeah.’

‘I don’t know.’

‘No?’

‘Well there was a quarter tank in it when I left Galway.’

‘And is there much in it now?’

‘A drop. I think. Maybe I ran out of petrol?’

‘Where were you goin anyway?’

‘Wexford.’

‘From Galway?’

‘Yeah. I was goin to take a left at Clara and up through Tullamore and into Portlaoise and onto Carlow then down to Bunclody and into Wexford.’

‘Right.’

But I might turn back now.’

‘If you get goin.’

‘That’s right. Do you think will I?’

‘Get goin? I don’t know. I doubt it.’

”The oil light was on too.’

‘For long?’

‘A good while.’

‘And did you check it for oil in Galway?’

‘No….maybe I should have?’

At the garage, they had some ideas. None of them that good. Rain coming now. A bitter bite, white hot sky and clouds. The guy’s name was Jack. He took advantage of the Supermac’s across the road. Got a large chips. Came back. Sat there. We both thought. Eventually he said: ‘Them are nice warm chips.’

‘Was it not a bit ambitious leaving Galway this morning, for Wexford, in a car low on petrol? And oil?’

‘It’s not my car, see.’

‘Who owns it?’

‘I just borrowed it. Think will I get home?’

‘I’m not sure.’

‘I might get the bus back.’

‘And what about the car?’

‘I’ll have to sort it out I suppose. Do you know anyone with a truck?’

Now he was thinking. I had a myriad of numbers from previous breakdowns. Chanced one of them. He was working. Said he could be there in twenty minutes.

So we went back to the car and waited. Jack still working on the chips. The sky still working on the rain. The traffic doing its best not to hit the Toyota. Loads of beeps. Incredulity. Exaggerated swerves. Jack said: ‘Tis a busy spot here.’

‘Tis.’

And then the breakdown truck came. Hazard lights. Chains. All that. Got it loaded up. A big puddle of oil on the ground from underneath. The driver said he knew a garage and would get Jack to a bus or a train or whatever he needed. Jack tried to give me €50 for my trouble and I said no. And off they went.

The fuse.

Vectra going well. Yellow engine light still on and the cigarette lighter gone. Great craic if you’re into dead phones. Said I’d change the fuse. Big plan, DIY plan. Looked up the biblical Youtube and a Polish lad had a video where you find the fusebox. It was in the boot, on the left, behind some kinda carpet door. Checked there, found it. But no diagram telling me which one was which. One could be the lights, the other could be the radio, and who knew which one affected the cigarette lighter. The experts said if the fuse was gone then there should be a break in the centre of the circuit. You’ll see it, it’ll be obvious. If the fuse is blown, then change it. Could be a 15A. Maybe a 20. There’s 7.5 fuses too and there’s 10. Be simple. Shtill, said I better ask someone just in case. How’d you blow the car this time, Micky? Fixed it myself with Youtube videos. No thanks.

Went to Motor Factors.

There was big sign that said: OPEN SEVEN DAYS and it was stone closed. No joy there. Chanced Mr.Price for the gammy boxes of car sets with lights and accessories but they were all sold out.

It was back to Youtube so. Sure probably be grand. Later, in the dark, inspired, I started pulling out each fuse with a tweezers. Shining the light from the phone on each one. Here’s a yellow one, has a radio look about it. There’s the red one, bit like a Marlboro, definitely a contender. What’s the craic with that purple one? Looks a bit weird, could be wipers, windows, screenwasher, maybe just the interior lights.

Looking for a break inside each one. No break. Nothing to say any of them should be changed. This meant messy. Wiring, Diagnostics, shrugs from mechanics cos it’s only your the cig lighter, like, get over it. Sound, yeah. Thanks

Then, the car wouldn’t start. It sort of coughed and heaved, and then did nothing. Just died with loads of lights on the dash. This was unexpected. Usually it’s more dramatic, like when you’re on the motorway, or it’s three in the morning, or in a Red Warning storm, or maybe all three. But this was just – no thanks. Not starting. Can’t be fucked like. I tried it again. No go. Great. Thought about ringing the breakdown assistance, but it was bit early for that, and I wasn’t sure how to explain what went wrong. What’s the problem, Michael?

‘Them lads on Youtube lied to me.’

‘Sorry?’

That kinda thing. So it was back to the carpet box of fuses. Something looked wrong. That bright yellow one. Looked like a lozenger, out of place. Luckily I’d taken a picture with my phone before I started pulling them all out. Referred to that. Yeah, the yellow one was two places too high. Stuck in some empty space for something else the car doesn’t do. Who knows. Stuck it back again, in the right place, turned the ignition and it started.

A real purr, like what’s the problem, like can we not drive somewhere?

So I put it first and hoped for the best. Still no cigarette lighter though. That Youtube should be banned.

Mick.

Scrapping the Insignia, buying the Vectra.

The initial diagnosis was: ‘You might be lucky.’

It was enough to hang on to, maybe not buy a new car, maybe they’d take out the extra oil and sure it’d all be sound.

Days passed, no word.

Had a great time getting buses around Athlone. Standing at the bus stop and people on the street shouting like: ‘How’d you fuck up the car this time, Micky?’

‘Too much oil.’

‘Is it true that can happen?’

‘Hopefully not.’

Wednesday came, arrived like a dead weight. Still no word. Went up to get some stuff out of the boot. Few extras hanging around the yard. Romanians, Hungarians, lads with moustaches and mechanical theories and they knowing nothing.

The Insignia was on the lift. Unlifted. The mechanic sat in, said: ‘Let’s see.’

He turned the ignition. No luck. Just a splutter and a cough and a myriad of lights and diagnostic pain on the dashboard. There was a lad at the door working hard on a Marlboro and studying the rain. When he heard the noise he was straight over. ‘Car is gone. Finished! No good.’

‘Who asked ya?’

‘I tell you. It’s over for this.’

Turned out he was right.

There was talk of crankshafts and pistons. And pressure. And oil. Oil. Oil. Oil. Don’t talk to me about oil. Do you know anyone that might buy it for scrap?

‘Maybe.’

‘Maybe?’

‘I’ll let you know.’

Later on Donedeal. There was a Citroen for sale in Roscommon. Looked good. No test, no tax. I rang it anyway. Your man said: ‘It’s still available, yeah. Can I ring you back in a second?’

‘Ok?’

And he never rang back. Then there was a BMW somewhere in Athlone. Five series. Got the jitters and rang it. How much I asked him.

Five and a half grand, he said.

Sound, says I. Keep it.

Eventually discovered the Vectra. A beaut. Taxed and a test. Good to go. Rang it. Your man was pure sound, gave me a figure I could handle, and with a bit of scrap money from the other yoke I might come away ok.

Got there. Rural. Lots of dogs and grass and drizzle and stone walls. Fella says he doesn’t use the car much, except to bring herself to Bingo. Although he had it in Dublin once or twice and she was sound, not a bother on her.

Take her for a spin, he says.

I did. Missing headlamp. Yellow engine light. Bag of plums thrown in the back. Otherwise, 100%. Fuck it, I’ll take it.

Handed over the cash, did the count, filled out the logbook and sat in. 6 speed. 1.9 Diesel.

Let her warm up before you start her, he said. And never mind that oul yellow light on the dash. Ways does be these days, half the country does have them lights on, you just need to plug in the yoke and press the button and make it go away. That’s what they did the last time anyway.

Sound, I says, thanks. G’luck.

Job done.

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