Y1.999K Problems

#Driving

Mon, Jan 11th, 1999 02:00 by Lilith DemHareIs ARTICLE

I have a car. This car is older than me. Despite its age, it runs quite well... until Christmas Day. I guess even cars like to take the day off in Typical Australian Fashion.

I live in Western Australia. This is a state that is bigger than Europe, and has the population of Utah. (You have absolutely NO conception of distances until you've driven around, across, or along Western Australia.) That means if you want to go anywhere, say, the pearl fields of Broome, or the spendid caves of Margaret River, you've got to spend many hours, or even days, driving to get there. And the only souls you'll see are the occasional kangaroo, emu, or wombat.

Once in a while, someone will pass you in a vehicle, in about the same condition as yours. Be sure to wave hello, as you may not see another human again for a long while.

The Family Farm was our destination for Christmas. It was only several hours drive. It would only take us half a day...

Until the nylon cogs on our timing wheel stripped off. (At least, that's what we found out later.) All we knew at the time was that we heard a fizzy noise, and the car quit. We pulled over on the side of the road, pulled our engine apart as much as our Bag of Tricks would let us, and decided that the alternator wasn't alternating.

Great.

Did I mention we didn't have a Yuppie Phone with us?

We couldn't even send smoke signals, as it's summer Down Under, and we aren't allowed to light fires in the bush. Well, we could, and would attract attention Real Fast, and if we survived the raging bushfire, we'd be fined so much, our first, second and third children would be forfeit.And how would we pay our car repair bill then?

As we sat along the side of the road, waiting for someone to drive by, I did some thinking.

Is this how it will be next year? Say we buy a new-used car next year? Anything we get is sure to have computer chips in it. And probably not Y2K compliant. And what if we do remember to take a Yuppie Phone with us? It won't do us much good if the ten-year-old satellites they bounce off of suddenly decided that Yuppie Phones weren't invented in 1900? And for that matter, neither were satellites.

Luckily for us, it was a short wait until an Aussie Bloke in a Rusty Holden Ute (pickup truck) came trundling by. "Yer old [Holden] Kingswood break down, mate?" he said. "Shame. Usually they last forever." Or at least until 1999. He would know. His vehicle was about as old as ours, and still going. Well, mostly. His towbar had been broken off in an accident, and he was unable to give us a tow into town. Telling his cattle dog Bluey to get in the back, we squeezed into the cab.

He gave us a ride into town, which just happened to be the closest one to the Family Farm. We gave the rellies a ring, and they brought out their Rusty Holden Ute avec towbar, and hauled our broken old car back to the farm.

Christmas on the Farm. Technology isn't exactly rife. Because there were so many people there, and it was the heat of summer, all the cooking happened outside, on an old wood-burning stove. Everyone was up at the crack of dawn (read: 5 am), and we rode horses, chased sheep, shot foxes, fixed fences, and did all those things that require absolutely no computer-chip-based technology whatsoever. We were so dog-tired, we crashed as soon as the sun set. No time for lights, or even listening to the radio. (Get serious. You think TV signals make it out that far?) The whole time, I wondered if this was how life was going to be next year after the clock ticked over.

We honestly don't know what will happen in three hundred sixty some-odd days. Will there just be a few hiccups with billing, and maybe a few hours power outage, or will the Year 2000 spell Armageddon?

Seeing that we were going nowhere until our car was fixed, our rellies leaned on a few mates, and we spent several days pulling our engine apart and fixing the problem. All it cost us was the price of new parts, and several ant bites received under the car while bolting the sump back on. (I still itch.)

"There you go," said our rellies as we gave our car a successful test run."That should get you home at least. Most likely, it'll run for another year."

Yeah. At least, until the Year 2000.

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