The Continuing Tale of A Bus Named Bernie

It wasn't this bad, but this is how I felt.

For some reason, the sight of a car hooked up to the back of a wrecker truck, makes me sad.  We used to call them that, “wrecker trucks”, instead of the more common, “tow trucks.”  They picked up wrecked vehicles, that’s what they did.   Calling it a tow truck doesn’t make me any less sad.  When I saw Bernie hooked on to the back of that truck  from the side of US 287 S, it made me sad.  I also had no idea what I was going to do for a vehicle or how I was going to pay for his resuscitation.  And to top it off, I had to sit on the floor of the “tow” truck for the ride into town, because there was no passenger seat in Tommy’s Wrecker Service, 24-Hour Service, obviously not interested in customer service.

Tow truck of the 70s.

And I didn’t just pick up my cell phone and call Tommy either.  Remember, we didn’t have cell phones or car phones, but we did have Citizen’s Band Radio.  I was able to raise a state patrol car on the CB and he arranged for Tommy to show up.  We sat there on the side of the road, hot, thirsty and mad for hours.  We weren’t hungry, we’d eaten at Arby’s, remember?  

And the bastards that killed Bernie were going to pay.  That’s where I had him towed on that Sunday afternoon.  To the garage over on N 2nd Street, the one that changed the oil.  Sideways, right in front of the two service bays so they’d have to move him to even start the day.  I was convinced that they had caused the damage to the engine.  Here’s why:

The part, that cost less than a buck, and was responsible for the oil leak. Notice its not, nor has it ever been, made of rubber.

When I checked the oil leak in Fort Collins, the head cover was on tight, but oil was dripping out from under the cover.  From the design of it, it obviously would need a gasket to seal it.  While I was waiting for the tow truck, I pulled the clamp off the head cover and it dropped to the ground.  I was looking to see if they forgot to put a gasket in there.  I pulled out what appeared to be a RUBBER gasket from inside the rim of the cover.  I was familiar with this gasket, and I never saw it made of rubber.  It was always made of gasket material, mostly cork.  A rubber gasket made me think that it would get soft and contract with the heat and thus break the seal allowing the oil to leak out.  Remember, I’m a genius when it comes to automobile engines, but that is what I thought happened to Bernie.  I blamed Bernie’s demise on the mechanic who worked on him and I was going to make them pay.  It was a simple oil change for chrissakes.  It shouldn’t have resulted in an engine rebuild.  Don’t forget about that idiot light though, it plays a very big part in all of this.

So Monday morning, promptly at 8:00, I called the garage.  “Thought I should call you and let you know why my bus is parked in front of your building.”

“Something wrong?”  Tentatively asked.

“It’s not running,” I retorted.  “All I had you guys do was change the oil and the engine seized on the way home from Fort Collins on Sunday.  There was nothing wrong with that engine when I brought it in.

The oil light came on and I pulled it over to the side of the road right away.  I had it towed from there.”  I had set the stage for the repair negotiations.  Let them know I knew what that oil light was all about.

The guy on the phone said they would take a look at it and let me know. 

Known as a "splittie" because of the windshield, even the advertising made fun of it.

Late afternoon I get a call.  The owner.  The gist of the conversation is that there is no way this was caused by anything they did.  The engine had to have been run for a longer time without oil.  The engine is seized and will have to be completely rebuilt.  The cost, hell I don’t remember the cost, but whatever it was, I think $550, in 1973 was about $549 more than I had.  I went off.

“The gaskets on the engine were not stock gaskets.”  I used my trump card.  “They were rubber.  I took one off and checked it when I was waiting hours for the wrecker truck.  Rubber gaskets would leak wouldn’t they?”

The owner said the gaskets they took off the valve covers were stock gaskets covered with oil that might have made them look rubber, but they weren’t and they have never been made of rubber.  He offered that I could come down, see them, if I wanted to look, to prove it.  My thought was, “Yeah, they’ll show me some non-rubber gaskets and say they came off Bernie.”

“Then why was the oil leaking?”

You know how sometimes you get so mad you just want to hit something.  Well I was and I did.   I rammed my fist hard on my desk.  It hurt.  And everyone around me was startled.  See, my desk was in the middle of an open walk-in office of the telephone company.  I even scared a couple of customers standing in line at the front counter.  They probably were glad they weren’t late on their bill.

There was nothing they could do.  Did I want them to fix it or did I want to come get it?  I told them to fix it.  How long would it take?  End of the week.  Enough time to rob a bank or roll a few drunks down on 3rd Street…but I’d need help for that.  I told them to begin the resuscitation. (Yep, there’s more.)



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2 responses to “The Continuing Tale of A Bus Named Bernie

  1. I admire your gritty resolve to do battle on behalf of your bank account and Bernie. Gaskets, and oil, and mechanics, oh my! It’s all smoke and mirrors to me–well, it was probably more like all smoke…

    Can’t wait to find out about whether Bernie makes it through surgery…

    • Wait until you find out why Bernie came to mind. I still swear that gasket was made of rubber, but I just think it was so soaked with oil that the cork felt like rubber. Anyway, you’re right, smoke and mirrors.

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