Friday, October 28, 2011


Life brings us plenty of "oh, shit!" moments, moments where things are moving along nicely, you're all fat dumb and happy, then something happens that makes your heart sink into your stomach and your stomach head down toward your ankles.

When you're not a healthy specimen, those "oh, shit!" moments can take a toll. I could hack the "out of gas" scenario from May of 2010 when it happened, but just two months after that my aorta did an "Oh, SHIT!!" of its own. There's no way I could hike up that hill now.

In nearly three years of driving the X-11, I've been stranded several times, mostly in the first 4 months, all of those caused by a crappy carburetor design that poured more gas into the engine than it could burn. I ran out of gas two years after that.

Then there's this past Wednesday. I was headed down to KFC and made it all the way to 9th Avenue and Bayou Boulevard. KFC's on the southeast corner.

I was first in line, waiting for the left-turn arrow. I pushed the clutch in, ready to shift, and BANG there went the brand-new cable I put in a month ago.

Oh. Shit.

All I could do when the light changed was stay in neutral and coast slowly downhill through the intersection, flashers on, half a million rush-hour people tied up behind me in the lane...almost there...c'mon, baby, just...a little..further...

Awww, goddammit. This is where Bayou Boulevard starts sloping upward. Pleasepleasepleaseplease...


I just made it to the edge of KFC's driveway, which slopes up even more...I jumped out and started pushing, straining as hard as I could.

A Citation weighs around 2,400 pounds.

I made progress in inches at first, huffing and puffing and groaning...a little more...and then I just couldn't go anymore.

It took everything I had left to just hold the car there.

Oh, and my goddamn shorts were starting to fall off.

So I stood there, and the car stood there, and my shorts slipped another notch.

Rush hour traffic whipped past up Bayou.

A guy in a black suit came running from the northeast corner behind me and got behind the car. He started pushing...the car started moving...and my goddamn shorts did, too. A freaking landslide of red fabric, the cool touch of autumn air, and something added to the show for people in the westbound lanes of Bayou Boulevard.

I let go of the damn car and hiked my britches up.

We got the car over that little slope; from there the entire parking lot slopes downward. My savior asked if I was okay, and if I knew what was wrong. I told him about the clutch cable.

He nodded, then whipped out his wallet and passed me $20: "Here, man--this'll at least get you started fixing it."

I was too tired to argue, so I just thanked him. What a cool guy!

I let the car roll down and parked in front of KFC's dumpsters (no wiseass remarks!), sat until my breathing and pulse slowed down, then pried myself back out of the car to see what had happened to my clutch cable.

The damn thing was gone. The cable housing was still in place, but the cable itself had seemingly evaporated.

I hobbled into KFC, arranged for a tow truck, bought the dinner I'd come for with half of the $20 that guy gave me. I tipped the tow driver with the rest.

It turns out that I screwed up when I was installing the cable last month; the replacement item doesn't fit properly at the firewall. With this end of the housing not lined up correctly, the cable was binding at that point. The retainer at the inner end broke off. When the clutch arm snapped back, it just whipped the entire cable out of its housing and dumped it on the street.

The "Idiots" tag is for me, this time--that, and a montage of Gibbs slaps from "NCIS":

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