Stefan smiled as he got into the Rambler that morning for the drive to church. His duties as Assistant Treasurer for the congregation involved a weekly session of checking account balancing; the vouchering and payment of invoices to vendors; and payroll. Like his trips to work, this task was more enjoyable lately, as it involved driving his ‘new ride’.
The Rambler had, indeed been running fairly well. He’d been driving it to and from work almost every day, except when rain was in the forecasts. On one day, he had taken the route which consisted mainly of interstate, and he had again experienced the abrupt and violent hesitation and bucking of the drive-train, forcing him to the berm for a ritual purging of the fuel filter under the hood.
Since then, he had opted for the more direct and ‘scenic’ route, which took him through the Cuyahoga Valley and along side of the old Ohio Canal. This picturesque and historic route wound lazily south from his home and, at no more than 40 m.p.h., was, except for an occasional ‘hiccup’ from the engine, free of mechanical drama. He had begun to avoid the highways, and to spend his time in the technical threads of Ramble forums and conversing with mechanically minded acquaintances about the possible sources of the problem.
This research had continued through both Pentecost and Trinity Sundays, and it was now almost a full two weeks since he had made his odyssey home. Between drives to work and to local car shows and ‘cruise-ins’, he had adjusted and cleaned the carburetorand replaced the distributor cap. He had run a modest amount of additives and cleaners through the fuel system, in the hope that the problem was moisture or corrosion related. The car ran “well enough for government work”, but the occasional hesitations were troublesome.
As he arrived at the church, he was hailed by the janitor, a man Stefan’s age or a little older, and they both talked and smiled as he told him about the originality of the car, its’ mileage, and…..the ordeal of the 440-mile trip home from Syracuse. It was early morning, and the rays of the sun beamed down on them like the ‘tongues of fire’ manifesting the Holy Spirits’ descending upon the Apostles.
They talked for a while, and then each proceeded to his duties. As Stefan cut checks; ran posting reports and ran envelopes through the postage machine, he felt a tinge of guilt. The Rambler was basically sound. His research; correspondence on technical forums; and, even his discussions with his more mechanically inclined brothers, all pointed to either a corroded fuel line allowing air to enter the fuel, or, a failing fuel pump. He had priced the fuel pump, which was about a hundred and sixty dollars, as it was both a fuel and a vacuum pump, supplying not only fuel to the carburetor, but vacuum to both the wiper motor and the advance mechanism on the distributor. His cheap Ukrainian heart recoiled in horror at such an expenditure. He had yet to crawl underneath to check the condition of the fuel lines. He had been lazy, rationalizing that his faith in the Holy Spirit would remove the Rambler’s ‘affliction’. His laziness was based on the fact that the car actually did run “well enough”.
And then, as he left for the post office with the Church’s mail, tooting the horn at the smiling, waving janitor, he proceeded to the end of the driveway.
The car died. ‘Affliction’ had reared it’s gruesome head, yet again. He restarted the car, and limped on to the post office, and then home. A sense of affliction spurred him out of his laziness. Within minutes, the floor-jack was out, and the trouble-light glowed:
His first examination was of the less expensive of the two probable sources of his problem….the fuel line. Crawling beneath the car, he was surprised to find that the line, from a point only nine inches from the fuel tank, all the way to a point some nine inches from the fuel pump, was shiny and, ……new.
His heart sank to the concrete slab beneath him, as he realized he would soon be one hundred-sixty dollars less affluent; at the mercy of UPS; and, possibly at the mercy of the quality-control habits of vendors dealing in parts a half-century old. And he remembered some quotes that had struck him in Pirsig’s ‘Zen’
“The test of the machine is the satisfaction it gives you. There isn’t any other test. If the machine produces tranquility it’s right. If it disturbs you it’s wrong until either the machine or your mind is changed.” — (Robt. Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry into Values“)
“The real cycle you’re working on is a cycle called yourself.” — (Robt. Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry into Values”)
And, he also remembered some readings on Pentecost and Trinity Sunday; how the Spirit is not an insurance policy against affliction, fostering confidence and calm, but rather is that part of the Holy Trinity which faithfully responds when those of faith are afflicted, giving wings to our hearts, removing them from our afflictions, instead of indemnifying us for our losses by removing the affliction.
He held up the trouble-light once more, searching the recesses around and beyond the perimeter of the fuel tank. And then he noticed…..almost out of sight, mere inches from the outlet of the tank, was a second ‘in-line’ fuel filter. He squinted through his bifocals and noted that, while it did not appear ‘new’, neither did it appear clogged or overly dirty. He decided to remove it for inspection anyway.
Selecting two pairs of vice-grips from the peg-board on the wall of the garage, he returned beneath the tank and used them, with wadded paper as cushions to protect the soft fuel line from being torn by the teeth of the grips, to crimp the line on either end of this superfluous and redundant filter. Using the screwdriver to loosen the clamps, it was soon off.
Emptied of fuel: blown through with his lips in the ritual repeatedly practiced on the trip home mere weeks before, it seemed to function properly. Just as he was about to return beneath the car, he experienced a “Eureka!” moment. He scarcely believed his eyes, but…yes, it was true! The white ‘cap’ on the filter had been toward the tank. The ‘arrow’ (noted in picture above) on the casing of the filter, he knew from decades of experience with old VW’s; Fords; Chevys and….Ramblers, was in place to instruct the mechanic on the proper orientation of the filter. This filter, however prudently added, (perhaps out of concern for the age of the car and how little it had been driven per year) , had been put on backwards !!
The physics of the situation ran through his head at lightening speed. This mistake had required the fuel pump to over-exert itself; i.e., to suction the fuel from the tank through the paper element before it could collect in the canister around the element and continue on its’ way to the engine compartment. It was as if one had to suck a soda out of a sponge, instead of out of a can.
Within minutes he had replaced it with the spare he had purchased a few days after driving the car home and placed in the trunk of the Rambler. The white ‘cap’ was now toward the front of the car, and the embossed arrow on its canister was aligned with the proper flow of fuel. The canister would now will fill directly from the tank, unimpeded by the paper element, and would from there be drawn as needed through the check-valve at the core of the filter.
The vice-grips were removed, and skidded across the floor. The rear of the car came down with an urgency matched only by Richard Petty’s pit crew.
No one was home, but he did not even stop to close the garage as he backed down the driveway to test-drive the modification. As he drove around the block, then onto the main street of his town, and then, to the highway entrance ramp, he was as giddy with joy as he remembered being when he had raced home to tell his dad that he no longer needed training wheels affixed to his bike. (He had finally noticed that they had loosened, and were, unbeknownst to him, no longer functioning to keep him upright in the corner at the bottom of the hill which his boyhood home sat atop).
As he motored happily down the fast-lane, tooting his horn and waving to startled Prius and Caravan drivers, he realized that, had he not found this hidden demon in the Rambler’s tank, he would eventually have burned out not only the current fuel pump; but most probably, would have burned out any replacement fuel pump as well. The engine felt powerful, as its’ ‘heart’ had been removed from the affliction of the demon filter. Its’ evil configuration had been cast out, and the Rambler was now well-behaved; more civil; less intimidating to drive, and….. ‘happy‘.
He knew that the change in fuel pressure would warrant a readjustment of the carburetor mixture screw, and he resolved to finally remove, clean and re-gap the spark plugs, as he must have been running ‘lean’ for lack of adequate fuel to the combustion chambers. He realized that this must have been the source of the temperature issues he had had to cope with on the trip home, as he had learned in ‘Transportation I” in high school, a ‘lean’ mixture will run hot.
So many issues, so simple a cause.
The original phone-book sized ‘Technical Service Manual’ he had gotten with the car could never have addressed the true affliction the Rambler had experienced. (In fact, the chapter on testing the fuel pump might very well have resulted in a passing grade for this robust, if overworked component of the fuel system.) No internet forum had any threads related to “locating improperly installed equipment”. It was, Stefan mused, the Holy Spirit at work, responding to affliction by addressing the heart.
Both the Rambler’s heart, and,……his.
He decided to work on the carburetor and the plugs another day. Today, he would wash the Rambler.
He looked up at the sun. It was still morning. He had cast out the demons in the heart of the Rambler, and had succeeded in using his heart to do so.
He felt blessed. In fact, he felt full of ‘blessings’.
He decided to call his blessings: “Legion”