A true story, as told to us by Mister A. Nonymous
We were heading west out of the small Alberta town of Hanna when the noise first started. Hanna is one of our regular stops when we head west from our home in Saskatoon to our west coast vacation retreat. We had left Saskatoon early that morning, gassed up in Rosetown, had breakfast in Kindersley, so by the time we reached Hanna, some 2 and1/2 to 3 hours beyond Kindersley; it was time for a break.
We pulled into an Esso station just to the right of the highway and let the dog stretch her legs while we stocked up on soft drinks, Cheezies, more snacks and a few other road trip essentials.
Hanna is perhaps most well known these days as the home of both former National Hockey League stalwart Lanny MacDonald and Canadian rock-star band Nickelback, but it will never be mistaken for a garden oasis or a jewel of the prairies. I had first stopped there in the late 60s when I was riding the Greyhound west from Saskatoon to Vancouver to go to school, and the town hadn’t changed a whole lot since then. It is holding its own, though, with a stable population of around 3,000, and a good economy based on ranching and petroleum. Still, the streets remain dusty brown and its Alberta winds never stop blowing.
Back on the highway, the noise persisted.
At first, it was a solitary ping, so quiet I almost doubted that I had even heard it.
There it was again.
Ping! Ping! And then nothing.
Naturally enough, being the kind of big, bold take charge guy that I am, I at once responded with the only possible option open to me — I panicked.
My heart jumped up and stuck in my throat. My mind hammered out a dozen different scenarios, all of them gloomy.
Malfunctioning automobiles always scare me. In fact, anything mechanical that acts up fills me with dread, foreboding and confusion. I’m so inept at these things I can’t even fix breakfast.
Ping. Silence. Ping. More silence.
I’m heading along an Alberta highway and I can’t focus on any one of the multitude of questions bombarding my brain. Is the engine on fire? Will the repair bills be more or less than $700.00? Where is the nearest tow truck? What do I do now?
I quickly scanned our van’s instrument panel. No lights were flashing, red or otherwise. I glanced over the hood. No smoke was pouring from the engine. I quickly looked in the rear view mirror. No stray tires were running away from us.
I pulled the vehicle far to the right of the roadway, shifted into neutral, and there we sat.
“What do you think it is?” asked the one who must be obeyed.
Always quick with a comeback and always ready to display my manly knowledge of everything under the sun I turned to the wife and calmly replied, ‘I have no idea. What do we do now?”
Without waiting for an answer, I switched off the van’s engine, reached down toward the floorboards and tripped a lever that popped open the vehicle’s hood. I then got out of the car, or “exited the vehicle” as they say in the TV cop shows.
I stood on the highway pavement, looked both ways, and didn’t see any cars in either direction.
This was no surprise and a big surprise, all at the same time. No surprise, because I have always known that Canada is nothing if not an empty country, but I’m still amazed at how sparse traffic usually is on highways that are not within a few miles of a big city. Outside of Vancouver, Montreal, the megacity known as Toronto, Calgary and maybe Edmonton, Canada has more unsettled areas than just about any place on this planet. You looking for a home where the buffalo still roam? Move to Canada.
So, with no danger to me of being hit by any passing vehicle, I stepped to the front of the van, lifted the hood, propped it up and peered into the engine well.
Yes, the engine and all its component parts was where it should be but nothing looked out of place. No obvious source for all the binging and pinging we had been hearing popped up and shouted, “I’m the problem — fix me!”
Would I know a problem if I saw it? You know, I just might. Once upon a time, back when I was in my early teenage years, I was driving an old Chevrolet truck (green, 1951 model) through a wheat field on the family farm when the darn thing suddenly stopped running. Eager to impress my passengers — two younger cousins — I opened the truck hood, looked at the engine, and at once noticed a spring hanging loose from the carburetor. I slipped the spring back into its proper spot, slammed the hood shut, hopped up behind the wheel, started the engine and off we went. Mission accomplished, thanks to a feat of mechanical wizardry I have yet, lo these many years later, to successfully duplicate.
Back to present day and our noisy van. I couldn’t see anything that needed fixing, so I returned to my driver’s seat, started up the vehicle and away we went.
There it was again.
I was perplexed. I was furious. I was ready to jump up and down in a fierce display of maniacal frustration.
Then, like a meteorite falling from the sky, and obvious thought hit me — it was my entire fault. I had failed to properly close the driver side door.
I opened it, slammed it shut, and the noise stopped. Just like that. Then, silence. Blessed silence.
My good wife was curled up in her seat, laughing like a proverbial hyena at my ineptitude. Even the dog looked amused. My reputation as a genius ruined by a half-open door.
I said nothing and grumpily drove on. It wasn’t yet noon.
This is a true story. Only the names have been changed to protect the nudniks. And the video is all about beer. Nothing wrong with that.