Tuesday, 22 May 2012

A sort of Grand Old Duke of York day...

Statue with plaque saying: "Frederick Duk... (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The car is due for its annual certificate of roadworthiness by the end of this month and The Men have just realised that this means Action.

Four new tyes are required.
Bargains have been quoted on the internet, on the eBay equivalent Mercado Libre, but the size required is not in stock.
The prices quoted by specialist tyre firms have left The Men blown backwards bowlegged.
Second hand tyre merchants have been searched.....no joy.
Second hand tyre merchants have offered to find the size required by the next day.
The Men now reckon that if the said merchant is closed for the three following days the tyres are not going to materialise.
A dodgy character said he could get the tyres, no problem, but he'd have to deliver them before dawn.
The Men reckoned this meant he would be stealing them from someone else's car after dusk and declined his offer.
The tyres are now coming up by bus from Panama where they are half the Costa Rica price.

The brakes have been overhauled, the suspension repaired....apart from the tyres, The Men are ready.

Then a mysterious red light showed on the dashboard.
What was it?
They found out when the car would not start. The battery was dead.
Why was the battery dead?
Since a red light was involved, clearly Something Electrical.

Something Electrical brings out the divergence between The Men.
Man A - Mr. Fly - knows very little about cars.
Man B - Danilo - knows a lot about cars.

Man A doesn't like spending money on cars.
Man B thinks it's an unfortunate necessity.

Man A decides on the local solution.
Man B goes along with this...it not being his money...while maintaining propaganda for the repairman extraordinaire and of last resort down at Cartago, the other side of the capital two hours drive away.

Accordingly they set off for the local man, a Cuban, who works from home, just downhill from the entrance to the town.
He investigates and announces that the problem is the generator.
Can he fix it?

Yes. He is a certificated Mercedes engineer.
But. As a certificated Mercedes engineer he knows that Mercedes hide the generator under the engine and he does not have a pit.
So. The Men have to drive up to the big builders' merchants on top of the hill to use the hoist to remove the engine.

Work stops in the yard as workmen, customers and the resident dog offer advice and assistance.
For some reason this is not in the least resented by the owner of the premises, himself offering advice and assistance.

Everything is unhitched and unhooked and the generator is carried back downhill - on foot - to the Cuban repairman.

He clears space on his kitchen table and looks at the item.
It is a sealed unit.
Sharp intakes of breath all round. Replacing one of those is big money.

Not to worry...we Cubans won't be beaten by Mercedes!
Man B sits down, overcome by the thought of what is about to happen.
Man A perks up, thinking of the potential savings.

The sealed unit is prised open.


What is it?

They've put plastic baffles in it so you can't get at the screws!
Not to worry, I'm from Cuba!

Man B is hyperventilating.

The repairman gets paper and pencil and logs the position of the screws from the visible portions.
He then takes a soldering iron and opens the plastic in accordance with his diagram.
Lo and behold...the screws.

Man A is smiling.

Items are removed..they appear to be arranged in layers...and are tested  individually.
Not until the repairman gets to the bottom does he find the rogue unit.

You'll have to get me a spare.

Off go The Men, uphill to the spares shop by the big garage at the entrance to the town.
No joy.

Off go The Men, downhill to the spares shop at the smaller garage opposite the school.
No joy.

What about Carlos?
He'll never have it...but there's nowhere else...

Off go The Men again, downhill through the town centre and uphill past the cigar factory, turning into the workshop of Carlos, collector of spare parts and repairer of strimmers.

A hunt ensues - and Carlos has the part! A Chinese knock off version.

Fifteen thousand colones change grubby hands and The Men trundle downhill to the town centre, stopping on the way to arrange to sell plantains to Marta and to invite Julio and his wife to supper, then uphill again to the repairman.

By this time space has been made on the kitchen table to fill a box with sealed vacuum packs of ham, ordered by a local caff.
The repairman also makes ham.
The Men are given a guided tour of his operation, beginning with pig and ending with smoker.
The Men buy a few packs themselves.

How much did you pay for the part?
Fifteen thousand.
That's cheap. I had to pay twenty five last time up at the top garage.
Which explained why the part was out of stock at the top garage.

The ham having been cleared away, the generator is reassembled under the eyes, not only of The Men, but a few neighbours who had dropped in to see what was going on.
The talk turned to politics.

Well, all these lefty guys, Chavez, your Castro...how do they get into power?
Easy. Think.....who are the majority - rich or poor?
Well, poor...
Then all you have to do is promise them something.
What about the next election though...when they haven't had it?
Oh, you don't have another one.

The generator is reassembled.

Right, get it back in and come back. I'll test it to make sure it's working.

Off go The Men, bearing the generator uphill to the builders' merchant.

Another joint effort sees the engine replaced and the bits and bobs hitched up.
The Men climb in, the engine starts and the assembled workmen, customers and dog wave them off.

The car stops abruptly.
Man B descends.

The steering's not working!

The bits and bobs are detached and rearranged.
Man B tries again and, this time with steering active, drives downhill to the repairman.

He tests the generator....no, power is no longer leaching from the battery. It's fine.

Except that, as Man B points out, the red light has come on again.

The afternoon is spent in a flurry of wiring, new terminals are attached, The Men are sent in all directions for bits and pieces and the neighbour comes back to say that Chavez is holding an election.

More fool him!

The repairman finally tidies it all up, tests the generator again and says

It's fine.

But the red light is still on.

Don't worry! I'm from Cuba!

Forty thousand colones change hands, the repairman throws in an extra pack of ham free and invites them to his next pig roast.

The Men drive uphill out of the town and then downhill over the gravel road to the house.

That red light is still on.

Don't worry about it. He's from Cuba!

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  1. I blame the guy that invented the wheel. If not for him there'd be no Jeremy Clarkson.

  2. Oh, priceless, Fly! This had the feel of a Marx Brothers' film or one of those silent movies with every crowding round to help the hapless hero. :-)

    I wish we could have found a Carlos today when DH had to take the very small campervan to the garage to get the speedo cable replaced. £200, of which £140 was the part! B****y Peugeot.....

    1. We could have done with a Carlos in France, too...the price of spare parts was scandalous!

      They went out at 8.30 am and returned at 4.00 pm.

      The ham was delicious.

  3. Nine days. Not to worry. Oh, wait. Don't worry about it. That's what they say. We'll be waiting to hear the rest of this.

    1. Why is it clearly apparent to a woman that if the test has to be done in May you start preparing in April, while to a man it means you start to think about preparing in the last week of May...?

  4. Sounds like Turkish and Costa Rican mechanics would get on like a house on fire,

    1. I used to use Turkish mechanics in France whenever I could - they could fabricate anything!

  5. Another one of your gems, Fly. We have a permanent red light on, in our car, too! But no one is from Cuba! Do you think this is the end of the story? Glad the ham was delicious!

    1. The ham is great...but the problem with the red light is that someone will notice it at the control and want something done about it.
      My idea is to pull the fuse....

  6. Somehow, I don't think we've heard the last of this...Another wonderful post. I'm not surprised that Panama has cheaper parts, though it makes me wonder at their source...

  7. Easy. Take the red cover off the light and replace it with a green one.

    1. I knew there had to be an easy solution....but I'd never have thought of that!

  8. What a fantastic story. You certainly have a bunch of characters around you and canny debrouillards. Those guys are treasures.

    1. It's like being in country France...you need people to guide you to the people they use, not end up at the high priced dealers with the fancy premises and fancy prices.

  9. Paint over the little red light. :)

    Brilliant post. Made me day. Such typically male behaviour.

  10. You made me splutter into my [English] tea!! :-) You have so reassured me... we need new tyres fairly soon and a controle technique in the autumn so now I know what to expect! LOL

    1. I draw the line at hiring tyres in the carpark of the test centre....as is the local custom.

  11. All of this makes me so very glad I don't have a car. That red light would have me worrying until a reason for it was found and fixed.

    1. And now Man B casually mentions that the pre ignition warm up thing (whatever that is) is coming on and off ...but without any lights showing....

  12. OMG - this is possibly the best post ever! You have such a talent, Fly! I had to read this out loud to my father (who, as a man who always repaired his own cars - out of financial necessity - cast himself in the Cuban role) and to my assembled children. They were baying for more. You MUST write a book!

    1. Oh...car repairs I have known....including having a squeezy bottle of petrol and a tube to squirt into the carb to get us home in the student days....
      Glad you enjoyed it....I'm still waiting for them to get an appointment for the MOT!

  13. Brilliant! This is the sort of post I enjoy most, lots of words and all of them in the right order, uphill and down dale, with a detour here and there, but getting to the chosen destination eventually.

    Thank you for visiting my blog. I'll check you out to see what else is on offer and will most certainly be back.

  14. Glad you enjoyed the ramble....and best wishes for Benno.
    Do you know Ayak's blog...Ayak's Turkish Delight?

  15. Replies
    1. I thought you might recognise the situation....

  16. Ah, yes I see you are quite aware of the issues of non-functioning vehicles and the men who are magnetically, it would seem, attracted to them. I loved the addition of the dinner guests and the ham. Perfect.