"Service Engine Soon." The blood-red light hung on the dashboard with electronic foreboding.
To unknowledgable eyes, that small warning light took on a demonic, ominous presence. A chill scuttled down my spine. A vulture squawked from somewhere in the backseat. The smell of brimstone, and thick oil well-over its 3,000 mile limit, filled the air. Ravens on the roof cawed, "Nevermore. Nevermore."
And the little red light transformed from:
"Service Engine Soon"
"Abandon Hope All Ye Who Sit Thine Posterior Upon Yon Seat of the Bucket."
It was a small font.
But alas, underneath this sense of impending, ugly, unwanted destiny, the daily commute still called me.
Responsibility superceded Conflagration.
"Soon," by necessity, had to become: "Not Now, Later: After I Yell at My Fellow Drivers Per the Daily Quota."
So with one eye on the road, and one eye alert for signs of sudden spontaneous combustion and an explosion worthy of four different camera angles, I drove white-knuckled to work.
That's when I made the call to my garage. This was our conversation.
Me: I need to make an appointment to have my car serviced.
Garage: What seems to be the problem?
Me: It's asking for you. It says Service Engine Soon.
Garage: Is the car losing power?
Garage: Is it stalling out in traffic?
Me: Er, no...
Garage: Don't worry about it. It's probably fine.
Me: But the red light... But the Service. And the Soon.
Garage: It's been raining a lot. It could be that.
Me: What, it doesn't like getting its tires wet? Does it know these are all-weather and not Jimmy Choos'?
Garage: Or did you get gas lately?
Me: (hesitantly).... Two days ago.
I am now thinking that for two days, perhaps the gas has been bubbling up in my engine in some quiet volcanic-like inferno, waiting for its one big moment to shower a city block with steaming hot magma and Unleaded Regular.
Garage: The gas cap might be loose.
Me: Service Engine Soon is a loose gas cap?
Garage: Or a wet engine. Unless it's losing power. Or stalling. Or steaming. But it should almost probably maybe be fine. Can I help you with anything else?
Me: But the light is still on...
It was taunting me with its insidious redness and vagaries.
Me: ...And I kinda want it to be Not On.
Garage: Wait a week or so and see if it doesn't dry out and go off. Check your gas cap. It'll be fine. Thank you for calling The Explaining Automotive Non-Sequiturs Help Center.
In a week, the Service Engine Soon light vanished. Along with my copilot the vulture, and those pesky roof-ravens. The brimstone scent required an airfreshener to really get it out.
So for all you folks out there who have yet to encounter the "Service Engine Soon" light, I share with you this advice: "Don't panic." Apparently the manufacturers of today's cars like a little wiggle-room in their dashboard warnings.
In fact, I hear the 2010 models, in addition to having the "Service Engine Soon" sign, also are being installed with the following alerts:
Objects in Your Dashboard May Be Less Helpful Than They Appear.
Keep Out of Reach of Children
WARNING: Deer Collisions May Dent Car Frame. Also Deer.
May Contain Nuts.
Friends, they're looking out for us. What more could we ask?