Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Dealing with an Oil Crisis

As I turned off of North Capitol Street and headed toward Washington Hospital Center to see my melanoma doctor for my semi-annual check-up, the oil light came on bright red. With a car having 180,000 miles on it, seeing any of those warning lights seems like impending death for my 1991 Honda. So I take them seriously.

I eased into a parking spot and hurried to my appointment, cognizant of the fact that I had to come up with a plan sooner or later. For the moment, finding out that I was not dying of melanoma trumped the oil problem in my car.

I love my crusty old doctor, Gary Peck, who is the head of the National Melanoma Center and who as I learned today invented Acutane for acne. I trust him to look me over from every inch of my scalp to the cracks between my toes and either find the lurking cancer or pronounce me clean as a whistle. Fortunately today was an “all clear” day.

So back to the oil crisis once again. Although I’m not afraid in the least at WHC, which is in a not so great part of DC, I hadn’t the slightest idea where to find a store or a gas station that sold oil. I came up with several alternative solutions:

(1) Limp home to VA, hoping against hope that my engine wouldn’t burn up.
(2) Go exploring for a source of oil.
(3) Hire a taxi to go buy oil for me.
(4) Ask a taxi driver if by chance he/she had a bottle (or 2 or 3) of oil which I could purchase.

I passed a couple of cabs in a taxi area as they killed time waiting for their fares to return from a doctor’s visit. I hesitatingly approached a 65+ woman cabbie and gave my story of woe. She quickly replied, “Lord have mercy, I’ve got everything you could ever need in my trunk.” She proceeded to fish out a bottle of oil and a funnel from the box that contained transmission fluid and a number of other car products. I went and got my car out of the garage. She had by then pressed the male cabbie into service to add the oil to my car. He realized that one bottle was not nearly enough and pulled 2 more out of his trunk. The dipstick finally registered full after adding 3 quarts of oil. I asked how much and they requested enough to cover the cost of the oil.

They gave me a lecture about going out and getting a supply of oil and carrying a rag to clean off the dipstick and showed me exactly where everything was under the hood. I’m about as bad with cars as I am with cell phones. But I do know that an oil light is something to take seriously. Given the age of my Honda, I think I will do exactly as they suggested and be better prepared to deal with the next oil shortage. I am convinced this Honda is going to last forever! But meanwhile I am grateful to these two good Samaritans who went out of their way to solve my oil crisis.


Blogger Richard said...

Fortunately, I have never run out of oil. As cars get older, they require increasing amounts of maintenance - at some point the monthly maintenance becomes too expensive.

6:20 AM  
Blogger GEWELS said...

How nice to find such willing helping hands. My Dad's a cabbie in D.C., naybe he was one of them. On second thought, probably not. You would still be there listening to all of his stories about growing up in Italy during the war. Lol!

11:07 AM  
Blogger Barbara said...

Richard -- My plan is to never let this car get so low on oil again! I would hate to see the engine get burned up.

Gewels -- The helpful cabbies were people of color, so not your Italian Dad. But I'll be he carries extra oil and would have done the same thing to help me out.

2:25 PM  
Blogger riseoutofme said...

The world is full of small acts of kindness.

Why, then, do we seem to be bombarded, through the media mainly, with stories of the nastier side of mankind?

"Accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative" ... Disney song, I think ...

6:24 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

How smart to get oil immediately. My son ruined a Honda by trying to drive it 4 miles to a service station when the oil light came on. He blew a head gasket, a rod (piston?) bored through the engine and that was the end of the car. Hondas need attention when that oil light comes on.

1:34 PM  
Blogger Barbara said...

Anon -- Hondas are not unique. All cars need oil when the light comes on! (Or at least attention to an oil pump.)

1:40 PM  

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