So I went out into the driveway last week and started up the jeep. I was backing out of the driveway when I noticed a light on the dashboard, a small red glow where I had never seen one before. I’ve seen the “check gauges” light come on. I’ve seen the “Check engine” light come on. I’ve seen the high-beam indicator, the brake indicator, low gas, and the four-wheel-drive light. This one was right in the middle of everything, and was small, red, and said “Airbag”.
The airbag light? I didn’t even know there was an airbag light. The things you learn! I actually stared at that light for a few seconds before it occurred to me that it was telling me there was something wrong with the airbag. And if it was anything like the “Check Oil” light in my old car (which basically told you when there wasn’t any — remind me to tell you that story sometime) then something was about to go fantastically wrong with my airbag. Armed with that knowledge I did what any good Boston driver would do.
I kept on driving, but leaned way back in my seat, just in case that little light was an indication that my Jeep was about to punch me in the face.
I got to work without being assaulted by my ride, turned the jeep off, then back on.
No airbag light.
Aha, I thought. Just a glitch. That little thing will probably never come on again...
So I went home and Googled it.
Oh look I said to myself. A recall notice on my 2002 Jeep. Terrific.
That’s okay, though, right? They call you in to fix a design flaw, and they have to pay for it, right? Especially since this ‘design flaw’ has apparently caused a few airbags to spontaneously deploy while their vehicles were in use. Not something the Safety Board really wants to hear, I’d imagine.
Or their lawyers.
I called up the local dealership.
“Hello? I have a 2002 Jeep Grand Cherokee, and the airbag warning light has come on. I looked it up and found there is a recall on my model Jeep pertaining to the airbag system, and I was wondering when I could get in there and have the sensor replaced or whatever it is, before the whole thing goes blooey in my face.”
“Are you in our system, sir?”
“Yes I am.”
“Can I have your name, sir?”
I gave it. I heard computer keys tapping. Then I heard them again. Then the gentleman in the other end of the line gave me a “Hmmm...”
Oh my God, what a ‘Hmmm’! I would not have been surprised to have someone tell me this guy was actually a doctor and he just got into the whole auto-repair thing because there wasn’t enough money in medicine. His Hmmm had tombre. His Hmmm had feeling. It was the most emotion-packed monosyllabic grunt I have ever heard, and I’ve been to more than my share of different doctors over the past few years. Specialists! This guy should give lessons to the specialists. In fact I was so caught up in my admiration of this sound I almost missed the words that followed.
“I’m sorry, we don’t show any recall of that nature for your vehicle.”
“I... I beg your pardon?”
“We don’t show any recalls like that for your car in our system here.”
I was feeling a little pressure in my head, kind of like the start of a cold, before it gets to the point where you sound funny to the world and vice-versa.
“Well, sir, what we can do is have you come in here and we’ll run a diagnostic on the system and see if there’s a problem, and we can take it from there.”
“I see... and how much does this ‘diagnostic’ cost?”
“Our diagnostic runs a hundred dollars, sir.”
The pressure was ratcheting up inside my head. I couldn’t have been sure at the time, but I thought it might have something to do with the answers I was getting over the phone.
“A hundred dollars.”
Yup, it was definitely building.
“So I find a report that your company’s issued a recall for a certain issue, and my car is acting in the exact manner the recall notice says to look out for, that recall notice that was posted by your company, and when I get it there and tell you about this recall notice and exactly what the problem is, you're going to charge me a hundred dollars to look and find out what the problem is. Is that right?”
“Well, sir, we need to check things out to find out what’s wrong.”
“Even if I’m coming to you telling you what’s wrong?”
“Don’t worry, sir, we’ll know if there’s anything wrong once we run the diagnostic.”
“Right. For a hundred dollars.”
It seemed that even for a safety recall this dude was bound and determined to get me to pay at least a hundred dollars. I’m pretty sure I sounded calm over the phone, but my head was about to explode. I decided to just give in before the inside of my head came out for a visit while the outside spread itself all over the landscape.
“Okay... when can I bring it in to have it looked at?”
“Well, looking at my schedule here I’d say Saturday would be the best day. Could you bring it in first thing Saturday morning?”
“Okay,” I said. “I’ll be there.”
At the very least, I thought, I can print out the recall notifications I found online and bring them with me — then maybe they’ll ‘find’ them in the system.
I kept on thinking that. I had to keep thinking that, since every time I remembered that conversation over the next couple of days I felt the pressure in my head shoot right up to the popping point: Every time I saw the airbag light come on while I was driving I would mentally redline in nothing flat, and a little voice in the back of my mind shouting ‘Look out! It’s gonna blow!’ Between that and the stress of the constant threat of my vehicle just randomly smashing my face it’s a good thing it really only lasted until two days later, while I was at work.
I got back to my mail truck and checked my phone. I had missed a call, but the caller had been courteous enough to leave me a voice mail.
“Hello, Rob? This is your local Jeep dealership. Sorry, but that appointment you scheduled for Saturday isn’t going to work — we’re having the floors in the mechanic bays painted that day and we can’t have any vehicles in the area. Can you make it next Saturday?”
Talk to you later!
Oh, and just as a little bonus for actually reading this far, here's a little video that makes me laugh just every time I see it!