I’m still thinking of the deer-in-the-headlights stare of the mechanic who told me the Xterra needed a $1,100 computer replacement.
He was so obviously, blatantly just guessing. And so obviously dependent on whatever the diagnostic code said. “P1320? Not the distributor? Not wiring? Then it can only be the ECM. No other possibility.”
Yet he was the second mechanic to take a “the code is everything” approach. I was concerned about the health of the Xterra. But much more I got to wondering whatever happened to actual mechanics. You know, people who can poke around under the hood, listen to the engine, drive the vehicle a bit, and let experience and evidence tell them the real problem.
That may sound hopelessly old-fashioned. Yes, but what do the code-only guys do when the code is misleading?
Stare like a deer in the headlights, I guess. Then rake in absurd payments for fixes that fix nothing. Then fix something else based on the next wild guess.
Thank heaven for the Commentariat.
This morning, though the ankle isn’t quite ready for it, I pushed the vacuum around the living room rug. Don’t freak out, nurse friends. The rug is a whopping 6×9 and the job takes five minutes. I just couldn’t live with the crud any more.
But once again, the vacuum did its old trick. It sucked all the dog fur and such into the hose, but not into the little plastic cup that now replaces old-fashioned paper bags. The cup remained utterly pristine.
The plastic cup is one of those things that falls under the category of “bright idea.” Those bags were a nuisance. But they actually held a large quantity of carpet leavings and could get bursting full before causing problems. The clever plastic cup has to be changed three or four times in the course of a single vacuuming, and if — heaven forfend! — you don’t notice within 30 seconds, everything backs up into the hose. Sucking stops, suckage starts!
Again in the name of clever, compact design, the hose system on my upright vacuum (damn you, Eureka!) is permanently affixed in position and has seven — count ’em, seven! — bends in it. Now who thought seven bends in a vacuum hose could possibly be a great notion?
The last two bends before the cup are 90 degrees and are partially or fully hidden within the machine. They’re theoretically reachable with the right tools. But that’s another issue. Their very existence offends the laws of physics.
Some former owner of my vac (garage sale purchase) must have let the pipes get backed up and now I periodically have to haul the contraption outside and spend half an hour unclogging as much as I can in hopes that the small clogs I can’t reach will blow out and permit me to … you know, actually vacuum the house.
I can’t see how this is any vast improvement over the monstrous metal Electrolux my mother used to haul behind her once a week. (And that had a cloth bag capable of holding entire neighborhoods’ worth of dirt.)
Don’t mean to sound like a curmudgeon. It’s absolutely true that some things — many things — have been wondrously improved. Computers? OMG, what little miracles they’ve become! (But let’s not discuss disastrously “updated” software. And all the Big and Little Brothering.)
Um … what else is genuinely improved? Frozen dinners! Big improvement over Swanson’s tasteless TV tins. Flat-screen TVs. LED flashlights. Thinsulate! (Though for some purposes, wool continues to be supreme.) Laser surgery instead of scalpels. Of course, there are loads of genuine improvements.
The cars of the 1970s beat the heck out of the forever-broken vehicles of the 1950s.
I’m not sure that the cars of the 21st century are any big “improvement” over the cars of the 1970s. They seem to be great if you like GPS systems, black-box recorders, little voices telling you what to do, and mechanics who are helpless if deprived of computer codes. (The Xterra, 15 years old, has none of those things, but it still carries the curse of 21st century computer dependency.)
And vacuums? I’m now deeply regretting that I gave away the Electrolux I acquired for $2 a few years ago.