2013: A Spaced-Out Odyssey - Tire Review Magazine

2013: A Spaced-Out Odyssey

The gang wrestles with a stubborn high-mileage Honda in Slim's absence.

(Author’s note: This month’s column was written by Quigley, Slim Shambles’ tire salesman and service writer, while Slim was away on vacation.)

I hate it when the boss goes on holiday – for two reasons. First off, all the real gnarly jobs wait until Slim leaves town before landing on our doorstep for me to deal with, and secondly, I become the target of constant and completely unwarranted abuse until he returns. No, not from the customers; from the staff.

Sometimes I wonder how Slim puts up with these jokers. If it were up to me, there’d be some additional training and upgrade courses, like “How to treat your valuable front-end staff.” But hey, no one listens to me – I’m just Quigley.

This morning Basil poured himself a cup of my fresh-made coffee. After adding a touch of powdered whitener and one sugar cube, he took a cautious sip. “Ah, just the way I like it, Quigley,” he announced with a grimace. “The enticing aroma of burnt brake material followed by a heavily acidic aftertaste, and visually enhanced with a multi-colored oil slick shimmering on the top.” He went over and poured it down the sink.

“Any chance you could pick up a jar of instant freeze-dried coffee next time you’re downtown?”

“Hey, quit complaining,” I snap­ped. “I never said I could make coffee as good as Slim. Besides, I got other things on my mind, like that 2007 Honda Odyssey Tooner’s been wasting time on all week.”

The grizzled technician of whom I spoke chose that moment to wander into the front office. “Anythin’ good in that pot?” Tooner yawned and jerked his thumb toward our ancient coffee maker.

Basil poked around in the drawer, looking for an old tea bag. “That depends. Do you like to live on the edge?”

Tooner shrugged. “Mebbe it’ll kick start my brain – I’m runnin’ out of ideas on that Honda minivan. I’ve tried new OEM spark plugs, new coils, and even cleaned the injectors. I’m startin’ to wonder if there’s a glitch in the electronics.” He poured some thick brew into a mug and studied it closely. “Got any suggestions, Quig?”

“Don’t look at me,” I retorted. “I’ve got my own troubles.” Juggling schedules, ordering parts, updating tire prices and keeping customers mollified was tough enough; I didn’t need demon-possessed minivans to complicate my life. “But I do wish you’d hurry up and fix that thing. The owner’s starting to call on an hourly basis.”

The quirky Odyssey was throwing random misfire codes on all six cylinders – po300 through 306. It ran rough when cold, and Tooner could barely get it over 40 mph on a test drive. Once it warmed up, however, it ran fairly smooth. So far, nothing he’d tried had done a lick of good.

Tooner swilled some coffee around in his mouth like he was sampling a fine wine. “Hey, not bad, Quigley. I think yer gettin’ the hang of this.” He thought for a moment. “Y’know, that van reminds me of an old space movie, the one where the onboard computer of the spaceship had a mind of its own.”

Basil poured some hot water into his mug and dropped in the tea bag. “You mean Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey? I believe the astronaut was named Dave, and the computer you’re referring to was nicknamed HAL. It tried to take over the space ship, and if memory serves me correctly, it killed off most of the crew by the end of the movie.”

“Jeepers, I remember that from my high school days!” I shuddered. “That was one freaky movie – scared me and my buddies half to death.”

Basil raised an eyebrow, but didn’t say anything more. Soon the guys returned to their bays, and I returned to my paperwork. I was glad for the peace and quiet of the office, and it began to feel like I might actually get caught up by the end of the day.

A few minutes later I was startled as my computer screen first went blank, then suddenly returned in a blaze of swirling colors. I recognized it as the Star Gate scene from the Space Odyssey movie we’d just been talking about. Suddenly an ethereal electronic voice wafted through the shop intercom. “Hello, Dave…this is HAL.”

“Hey, what’s going on,” I yelled, banging on the monitor with one hand. “My name’s not Dave, and gimme me back my data!”

“I’m sorry, Dave. I’m afraid I can’t do that,” droned the voice. I shrieked and fell off my stool as I put some distance between me and that whacked out hard drive. I wasn’t gonna let any machine disconnect my life support system.

At that moment, the sound of raucous laughter erupted from the parts room next door, and then it hit me – the crew had pulled a fast one on me. Somehow Beanie had commandeer­ed my monitor via the shop compu­ter, and using an old movie clip on YouTube, the gang was taking great liberties with my sanity.

After climbing down off the tire display, I stormed into the parts room. “Okay, wise guys, quit horsing around! Now put that computer to better use and try to find an answer to this Odyssey van problem!”

“Sure thing, ‘Dave.’” Tooner chuckled. “Hey Beanie, see what help you can find on the Internet help forums.”

As it turned out, a number of technicians had come across our particular problem in the past and it wasn’t long before we were offered a solution. “Your exhaust valves are too tight,” we were told over and over again. “And be sure to adjust them when they’re nice and cold.” Apparently it was a common problem on Honda’s J-series V6 engines as they began to accumulate higher mileage.

From what Tooner told me later, getting access to the valves was tedious – I was glad I wasn’t doing it – but at least it didn’t require any special tools. Before long the Odyssey was running as smoothly as a space shuttle through the stratosphere.

Tooner came into the front office with the keys. “I’m a little busy, Quig. Why don’t you take this out for a test run?” He patted my shoulder. “It looks like you could use some quiet time.”

I couldn’t believe my ears; Tooner was actually being nice to me. Running a hand through my frazzled hair, I grabbed a seat cover and hoofed it out to the parking lot. That’s right, I deserve a break, I muttered to myself. Maybe I’ll even cruise the drive-thru for a coffee.

But the jokers weren’t done yet. As I hit the road, I made the mistake of turning on the CD player. Strains of Also Sprach Zarathustra filled my ears as I drove down the street – it was the opening theme song from the Space Odyssey movie.

I can’t wait for Slim to get back.




Rick Cogbill, a freelance writer and former shop owner in Summerland, B.C., has written The Car Side for a variety of trade magazines for the past 15 years. “A Fine Day for a Drive,” his first book based on the characters from this column, is now available for order at www.thecarside.com.

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