“The check’s in the mail” is the world’s second biggest lie. The first is the government’s patronizing remark, “trust me, I’m here to help you.”

Now, we know the government is said to be “of the people, for the people, and by the people,” but too often those little prepositions, of, for, by, are supplanted with the possessive pronouns, me, my, mine by the politicians in Washington.

In their Quixotic quest to help us, they end up hurting us much more than if they’d just picked up a club and bopped us on the noggin.

Look at the automobile industry. Over the years, administrations have constantly made new regulations regarding transportation. Now, I’m kinda like Fox News, fair and balanced, so I’ve got to say in all honesty, some good has come of Washington’s regs.
But, with the good also comes a bad side.

You remember how automobiles had to be maintained decades back. Unless you were well heeled, tinkering with your car was a given if you wanted to keep it in running condition.

With automobiles of the last decade or so, we’ve not had to face that problem. That’s good.
So what’s bad about that? To butcher a Lewis Carroll warning, “beware the Jub-Jub bird” of the nanotech convenience of sophisticated technology for it brings higher repair bills.
Technologically superior vehicles are a two-edged sword. Other than regular maintenance, they require little, if any under-the-hood work from the average Joe Car-owner, but the work they require costs a pretty penny and a sophistication far beyond our puny grasp.

The only time I look under the hood of my cars today is to replace a battery or add a special mix of liquid to the water reservoir. I have the oil and fluids changed regularly.

My first car was a 1949 Ford convertible, baby blue. It was a good, dependable car. I worked on it, tuning, repairing–all the requisite maintenance.

Since then, with two exceptions, an MGB and Ford Fairlane, I’ve driven General Motors products. 

Up until my current automobiles, I worked on them.

Today, I wouldn’t dream of it.

One night, I was coming back from the library in Beaumont when the “service engine soon” light came on in my Chevrolet Silverado.

Now, I had run into that once on our Pontiac (General Motors). It turned out to be the gas cap wasn’t on tightly enough. (that was a first for me–I can remember driving with just a rag in place of a missing cap.)

I wasn’t as lucky this time.

The service man plugged it into the computer. I learned the thermostat was stuck. The engine wouldn’t heat properly. I also found out the reason I was adding water to the reservoir that both the manifold gasket and the water pump leaked. And I also discovered that the water system was under pressure, which meant it would have to be drained, refilled, and all the air siphoned from it.

“Eleven-seventeen, the service man said nonchalantly.

I blinked once or twice. “Eleven seventeen?” That seemed awfully cheap to me.

“Eleven hundred and seventeen,” he explained.

After fighting off a heart attack, I replied. “I don’t want to refinance it, just fix it.”

I have to give my purple face and gasping for breath credit for the ten percent customer request discount.

I can remember the time when I bought a thermostat for five bucks, yanked off the input water hose, jerked out the old stat and stuck in the new, then topped off the radiator. Total cost plus one beer, $5.75. Gaskets and water pump? A few bucks, my labor and grease, and I was done. Total time for whole job, an hour.

Not today.

Eight hours, nine hundred and ninety bucks including labor, which was six sixty-five. (And I was a teacher. I should have been a mechanic.)

When I look at all the whistles and bells on the newer automobiles as well as the prices, I figure I’ll keep my little Chevrolet pickup as long as I can afford it. And my Pontiac. After that, I don’t know.

Yeah, yeah, I know. That’s progress, but dadgum it, sometimes progress hurts.