Having had numerous titles published over the years, every now and then, one of my old nonfiction books or articles will throw out a royalty check. These are lovely little surprises in the mail but they never make me rich. For some reason, my car has developed a sixth sense about these checks. With a day or so of an unexpected writing pay-off, it will develop an itch to go to garage.
Sure enough, on Sunday, as I'm cheerfully tootling along a major bridge with no easy exits, my check engine light starts flashing. Gritting my teeth (I'm easily frightened by such things), I continued to my favorite local farmer's market, picked up my tomato plants, and did the only repair that I know for this problem. I tightened the gas cap -- seriously, the mid-1990s Chevy Cavalier is very fussy about its gas cap. A little loose and the light comes on.
I restarted the car and found the engine light still lit. So I cut short my errands and headed home, driving slowly on ground streets, and thinking "Well I have triple A, I can always use the cell phone for a cab..." and other delightful musings. The car, of course, ran fine. No smoke, no funny noises, nothing seemed wrong.
With no sign of any more trouble than the bothersome light glowing like a baleful warning on the dashboard, I slid into my regular parking space. In the morning, I called my friendly mechanic and scheduled an appointment for later this week. Luckily, being a bus commuter, I don't use the car much during the week and my mechanic is only a few blocks away.
Then, today, a small royalty check arrived. I'm cheered by the fact that the check is for less than $100. That portends a fairly cheap fix for the car. Because I also have found in the cosmic balance always seems to be that royalty check equals cost of repair.
However, still unanswered is the ultimate question: how does my car know?