Humor Non-Fiction posted February 16, 2016

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What Year Is It?

by kiwisteveh

Non-Fiction Writing Contest Contest Winner 

According to the Chinese Zodiac, we have just entered the Year of the Monkey. Expect to see an abundance of mischievous beasts swinging by their prehensile tails and jabbering a lot - and that's just the politicians.

Actually, I don't have a lot of faith in a system that expects me to believe that everyone born in the same year, somehow has a similar temperament, or is destined to experience the same highs and lows in their lives. The whole thing's absurd, although no more so than the western Zodiac which tells us that those born in the same month share similar traits.

Nonsense or not, I do like my Chinese birth sign. By the singular feat of arranging for the new year to start earlier than usual in 1952 I managed to sneak in as a Dragon. I have always enjoyed fire-breathing and knight-slaying, not to mention the occasional maiden-munching. Flying would be fun as well, but alas, Chinese dragons seem to lack the requisite appendages for such a feat, although they are rather good at prancing around energetically and colourfully to the sound of stupendous drumming, much like a giant caterpillar on steroids.

Flying or not, I'll back my dragon to be vastly superior to you horses and oxen, and I have nothing but pity for all the rats and snakes scurrying and slithering around out there.

Now, if I were to create a Zodiac, I would tackle the task from a totally different direction. The year would simply be dedicated to the object which managed to suck the most money from the bank account in the twelve calendar months. This would add a certain element of mystery to proceedings, since you would never be quite sure whether the year in question would be the Year of the Wife's New Kitchen, the Year of Twins Starting College, or the Year of Prosthetic Hips for the Eighteen-Year Old Labrador Who Sadly Passed Away Shortly After the Operation.

I can reliably inform you that 2015 was indubitably the Year of the Car.

There were new tyres in January. This was a predictable expense and had been budgeted for. Nevertheless, the $800 or so firmly ensconced the Car as the favourite for the 'Year of...' title, a position which it never relinquished, despite valiant challenges from rivals such as House Painting and Electrician.

In March, it was the remote for the immobiliser, without which the car was..... well, immobilised. In hindsight, I should have seen this one coming. For several weeks previously the remote had steadfastly refused to operate with the usual thumb-press, and had instead demanded the insertion of a ballpoint pen with surgical precision. I had become quite adept at this procedure, consoling myself with the thought that it made the vehicle harder to steal, since any would-be thief would never be able to guess the precise spot and angle with which to jab the gadget's innards.And now I know that a remote is called that because of how far away it is from an average person's ability to pay for it.

April - driver's window smashed when a logging truck heading in the other direction spat a venomous stone through it. This one was covered by insurance, so perhaps more damaging to my nerves than my bank account.

July - winter - and the car became progressively harder and harder to start. There were days when I was late to work and others when I was late home. After several call-outs to the Automobile Association and a number of embarrassing appeals to colleagues and even strangers for a jump start, I finally bit the bullet and invested in a stronger, new battery at a cost of $150 What next?

What next turned out to be over-heating - needle off the dial, steam erupting in great, billowing clouds from under the bonnet (that's the hood for you American folk) and the dashboard lighting up like a Christmas Tree. Perhaps some of you already know this, but for the rest of us, here's an important message. When that little symbol that looks kinda like Aladdin's lamp starts flashing orange, or worse still, red, it doesn't mean drive carefully the last few miles home and call the garage in the morning. It means stop the car right now and get someone knowledgeable to come and fix it. It would probably help to check the oil once in a while, too!

Round about this time, I started to learn a few new words - fancy ones, and high-priced, too. Words like 'head gasket' for instance, and what it means to have 'blown' one. I also went through the pain of having my sole means of transport off the road for a week and of having a lump to the tune of $1800 ripped from my pocket-book.

"Enough!" I cried, but the Year of the Car hadn't quite finished with me yet. I got to learn more new vocabulary. Did you know that Constant-velocity joints (aka homokinetic or CV joints) allow a drive shaft to transmit power through a variable angle, at constant rotational speed, without an appreciable increase in friction or play? Nor did I, until October, when one of the darn things simply broke, leaving me stranded fifty miles from home and once again without a driveable vehicle. Another $300 leaks out of the already-struggling bank account and the Car strengthens its grip on the title. 

Are we there yet? Not quite.

The final indignity comes in December when the car has to go for it's six-monthly Warrant of Fitness check. You'd think with all of the time it'd spent in the hands of master mechanics this year, it would pass with flying colours, but no - apparently the brakes aren't functioning evenly. Calipers, huh? Add that to my new vocab list. Another $350 to pull out of the air. Oh, well, having a mortgage-free house was nice while it lasted!

Touching as many bits of wood as I can currently lay my hands on, I'll finish by saying that it will be nice to have a well-maintained and smoothly running vehicle in 2016. After all, I'll need that to take my wife to her dental appointments. Looks like 2016 may well be the Year of the Teeth!

Non-Fiction Writing Contest
Contest Winner


.... although our son has just informed us that it may well be the Year of the Wedding!
Pays one point and 2 member cents.

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