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2000.05.06 Carbon Monoxide - The Breakfast of Champions

posted Mar 26, 2010, 6:28 AM by Troy Cheek   [ updated Mar 26, 2010, 6:29 AM ]

Like most married couples I know, Bob has "his" car, which is actually a truck, and Barb has "her" car, which is actually a minivan. The last few times I'd seen Bob out in town, however, he was in the van.

"What's the deal?" I asked. "Barb doing all the heavy hauling?"

"Nope," replied Bob. "I just decided to take a page from your book and have the truck's exhaust system overhauled. Somehow, fumes are leaking up into the cab. I can't handle the smell. Isn't that what happened with you?"

What happened with me? Well, it all started sometime around early spring last year. Early spring in Tennessee is an interesting time. It's close to freezing every morning, close to 80 degrees every afternoon. I used to hate this time of year growing up. Mom would make us wear our big winter coats in the morning, then we'd have to lug them around with us the rest of the day.

As an adult, well, no big deal. If I want to dress to shiver for a few hours in the morning just so I won't have to sweat in the afternoon, it's my choice. Comfort is just a matter of running the heat a little on my drive in to work each morning.

It was one such morning that I noticed I was feeling a little funny. It's hard for me to get going before the sun come up anyway, but I was overly tired. It was a struggle to keep awake as I drove to town. Afterward, I noticed a headache and general weariness. I figured I was coming down with something. I felt better by that evening, when it was warm and the sun was shining and I rolled down all the car windows to enjoy the breeze.

Next morning, same thing. Again, everything was fine by evening.

Next morning, same thing. It was raining that evening, so I kept the windows up. I started feeling tired and had trouble keeping alert during the drive. I began to see a pattern. I climbed under my car and, sure enough, the exhaust pipe was rusted clean through right behind the muffler. This was right in front of the huge gaping holes rusted out in the bottom of the trunk. At the top of the trunk, there were the huge gaping holes where the speakers used to be mounted in the rear deck. Ah ha!

A little wire and a cut-up aluminum can took care of the immediate problem. I may not be much of a mechanic but I do know how to hold things together long enough to get to someone who is. I called around until I found someone who sounded older than the car he'd be working on. I found out what time they opened the next day and pulled into the parking lot 10 minutes before. I was third in line.

They made fun of my temporary repairs, but I'm used to that. While the car was up on the rack, they got distracted by another customer. He wanted them to guarantee they could fix his brakes in a certain amount of time before he'd let them look at his car. While they were arguing with him, I snuck under my car, borrowed a half-inch wrench, and tightened up all the bolts on the oil and transmission pans. I put the tools away and eased out before they were finished arguing. They welded on some new pipe and all was well with the world. I drove home with the windows up and not a headache to be found.

"Uh, yeah, pretty much just what happened with me," I told Bob. "Make sure it's fixed before you drive it again."

Bob drove off, and I decided that carbon monoxide detectors would make a good house gift for him and Barb next Christmas...