What do you do for a living? Me, I’m a part-time unpaid chauffeur. It’s not glamorous, but as a stay-at-home-dad, it’s an essential part of what I do. With gymnastics and horseback riding and musical theater youth company on various days of the week, having two cars is pretty important to us. And those are just the things I do! Once you throw in my kid’s activities, it’s even more hectic. A couple of weeks back, I get a call from my wife. Many of you many of you no doubt have gotten a similar call. It went like this:
Jessica (my wife…hi sweetie!): “The Service Engine Soon light is on in the Murano.”
Me: “I’m sorry you’re having to deal with that. I’ll bring you the other car and get it taken care of right away.”
Me (Here is what I actually said. What I wrote above, is what I should have said…): “#$!*[email protected]#$%!”
After googling the secret procedure to get the car to tell me what the error code is, it revealed error code P0420. What was the secret procedure? It involved sacrificing a chicken and pushing my accelerator down 14 times within the first 2.6 seconds of turning the key into position three. I believe I also had to have my toes crossed. Now, back to error code P0420. You can google this one yourself, but it’s pretty generic, and has to do with my exhaust system, an oxygen sensor, the prospect of a second mortgage, or selling off one of my children, depending on what needs to be replaced. I called up the nearest Nissan dealership, which for where I live in the United Kingdom, isn’t terribly close, and got myself an appointment for them to remove money from my account. Oh, they were going to look at the Murano too. They said they didn’t have a loaner car available, so I prepared myself to sit somewhere all day, either at the dealership, or the nearest mall. Neither prospect was appealing, but as a part-time-unpaid-chauffeur, this had to be done.
An unexpected surprise at the dealership
I arrived at the dealership, and after the pleasantries of how much money they planned to extract from me, the Nissan rep asked me what I’d be doing for the day. I said:
“They told me that you didn’t have any loaner cars available, so I guess I’ll just have you drop me off at the nearest mall.”
She looked at me a little quizzically, and says:
“Hold on, I might be able to do something about that.”
A few short moments later, she pops over with a set of keys and shows me to a cute little Nissan Micra. I sign the paper that promises that I’ll be a responsible driver, put petrol (that’s what they call gas here in the U.K.) back in the car, and not use it for anything naughty. That last part was almost a deal breaker, because I was considering finding the nearest parking lot and doing some donuts during my 5 hours with the loaner car. Now, here’s where it got interesting, because this next part would not have happened in the U.S.. She leaves, I get into the car, and I notice that there are three pedals. For the uninitiated, three pedals means there’s a manual transmission. Sure enough, there’s also a gearstick on my left. The Nissan rep didn’t say a thing about a manual. She just assumed I knew what the hell I was doing, and walked off. It’s been 13 years since I’ve driven a manual, and that was on the proper side of the road with the gearstick on my right!
Oh lord, I was a bit nervous backing out of that spot.
I rode that clutch so hard because I did not want to stall out in their parking lot, where all of the other shiny Nissan vehicles were silently judging me with their pristine paint jobs and low mileage figures. I’m fairly certain that I missed third gear at least a dozen times while learning how to use my left hand to shift. I put the nearest Krispy Kreme donut location in the navigation system and headed that way. It was on the way there that I encountered my first of 139 roundabouts (that’s the average number of roundabouts you’ll encounter in England on a 6 mile trip). I came to the frightening realization that I didn’t have the slightest idea what gear to be in for a roundabout. I put it in third, prayed, and abused that poor clutch again.
Sightseeing at Normanton Church
After arriving at donut-paradise, it dawned on me that I should research if there were any sights to see. I googled “Things to do around Peterborough, UK”, and google suggested that I buy a jacket off of Amazon.com instead. After purchasing the jacket (What!? Don’t judge me, it was on sale…), I came across some photos of Normanton Church, and it was only 20 minutes away. Off I went, with my tiny little Nissan that I grew to like quite a bit, especially after I stopped murdering the clutch and missing my gear shifts. I like driving in England for the most part. After two years here, I’ve definitely grown accustomed to how almost everyone passes in the proper lane, and gets the hell back into their original lane as soon as they’re done. It’s quite refreshing.
It dawned on me while I was driving this loaner car, that being a stay-at-home-dad doesn’t mean that I have to stay at home all day.
I have had a working car for quite some time, and many free afternoons where the kids were at school. Yet, it took a Service Engine Soon light and a loaner car to get me to sightsee on my own. It’s kind of ridiculous really. A short drive later, and a brisk walk, led me to see this:
Just look at that church on that lake! The community around the church worked very hard to fundraise and save its foundation, and it’s absolutely breathtaking. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to go inside, but I’ll almost certainly drive the family out there to see it, and walk around the beautiful lake.
What happened with my wife’s car?
You might want to know what happened with the Murano. They weren’t able to reproduce the Service Engine Soon light, so I went ahead and had them perform the yearly inspection (MOT) that the car needed. It passed the emissions test, so I’m not really sure why the car’s computer was angry, but the light hasn’t come on since. Perhaps visiting that church paid off in more ways than one….