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MailTribune.com
  • Driven to the edge of distraction

  • The steady tic-tic-tic sound starts as soon as I turned on the ignition.
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  • The steady tic-tic-tic sound starts as soon as I turned on the ignition.
    Because of my profession, and my personality, I manage to tick people off on a regular basis. So when my car makes bomb noises, it catches my immediate attention.
    The sounds emanate from the general area of my front passenger airbag. This realization affords both relief and alarm.
    The noise's location makes it less likely it's a bomb. But equally likely that I might soon experience a big kaboom.
    My aged Pontiac Vibe is under a factory recall for a defective airbag issue. The first letter arrived several months ago. General Motors wanted to let me know about the possibility of the bag's willy-nilly deployment. They promise they'll take care of the problem free of charge. As soon as parts can be found. Meanwhile, they apologize for any inconvenience.
    I spend the next several weeks driving about with one eye on the road, and the other on the dash. I also position my seat as far away from the potential impact area as my stubby arms allow. And I mutter. A lot.
    Then, as is my menopausal wont, I forget about the whole thing. Until the next letter. "We want to remind you." Unfortunately, they still do not have the parts. So sorry to disturb.
    Finally a letter comes announcing the parts are available. I just need to set up an appointment with a GMC dealer. That letter arrives just prior to the late June triple-digit heat wave — which is also right when the Vibe's air conditioner quit. Also giving up the ghost is my irrigation system. Again. But that's a story for another column.
    Since I am highly flammable, and have a round-trip hour-long commute from my little cottage on the banks of Rogue River to the Medford metropolis' Daily Planet, I opt to fix the AC first. A simple Freon recharge and cool breezes again waft soothingly against my formerly inflamed temper. I am a happy camper. Next on the list is tackling the airbag issue.
    But Friday evening, before I can schedule an appointment, the ticking begins. I stare at the dash in consternation. Should I run back into work and alert the media? Should I drive home and hope I am not "Film at 11"? Should I stop watching "real life" crime drama television? I opt to proceed with caution and drive to my sister's place. Her husband is a doctor. Just in case. Better yet, her son is a pretty good mechanic.
    Sweetness, my handy and long-suffering nephew, bids me turn the engine on again. He lifts the hood and peers into the Vibe's innards. Then he sits in the passenger seat, feels the dash. The part that says "Passenger Airbag" is quite warm, he notes.
    I should probably take this sucker to the dealer and get that recall issue fixed, he opines. My brother-in-law, Better Half, advises I drive home with the windows open, just in case.
    If the air bags go off, it will minimize the concussion noise and it won't do as much damage to my eardrums, he says.
    Tuesday afternoon, I hie myself to a Grants Pass dealership where I am advised my little red bomber is also under a second warranty recall. Something about the bolts in the driver's side window.
    That's when I mention the instrument panel lights are temperamental. Also, the CD player long ago ate five of my favorite discs, and refuses either to play them or spit them back out.
    One thing at a time, fellows. Airbag and ticking. Let's keep our focus.
    The airbag issue was fixed free of charge. The mechanic checks out the ticking issue — which turns out to be an HVAC problem, and unrelated to the recall. I can get it fixed for a mere $305.
    Or I can follow the advice of a fellow Vibe owner who works there. Simply flip on the recirculate air button on the AC system. Tic-toc-stop.
    Reach reporter Sanne Specht at 541-776-4497 or email sspecht@mailtribune.com.
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