Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Pocket Knife

It's been riding around in my pocket for years. I don't even remember where or when I got it. I think its most common use is to make an initial slice into the skin of an orange so that it's easier to peel. Pocket knives have been standard equipment for most of my life. But I don't tend to think about them much.

Except today I do.

This afternoon, we were driving the RV south along highway 1, moving from Westport, hoping to find another sea-side RV campground Mary Ann could use as a base for more scenic photos. It's a narrow, twisty, up-hill and downhill road that takes all my concentration to drive. Sometime about 1pm, Mary Ann said, "The first scenic pull over you find, let's stop and have lunch."

So that's what I did. One showed up almost immediately and I pulled to the side and stopped the RV. Mary Ann made sandwiches and sliced apples. We ate and then it was time to push on. I turned the key, and at first, nothing happened.

With a bad feeling, born of experience, I tried again, and the starter kicked in. The engine started -- but then the starter kept going!

I tried every key position, hurriedly. The engine and the starter were fighting each other, and it sounded horrible.

Quickly, it was plain that the keyswitch had broken, again. Only this time in the starting position. Turning off the key did nothing, and shortly, the smell of burning wires added to the chaos. I ducked down, head first under the dash, looking for a fuse to pull, but the light was poor and I didn't have time to try to decode those cryptic labels.

The starter was never designed to run this long, and it was over heating. Shortly the insulation on the wire would melt and sparks would fly. I faced a very real chance of catching the RV on fire.

I hopped out and opened up the engine access panel in the front. There in front of me was a new wire -- the wire the mechanic in El Paso had installed when we had the opposite problem, when the starter wouldn't run. I reached into my pocket, and there, waiting patiently, was my pocket knife.

I whipped it open and sawed through that wire -- and the starter went silent.

Luckily, the engine was running, because likely the starter was destroyed. The air was filled with the smell of burned wiring, but at least there was no short, no flame.

Waiting for our nerves to calm down a bit, I finally pulled out on the road, and after a few hours, and a little of Mary Ann's research on the web, we arrived at the Oakland GMC Truck center.

We'll be living in a Howard Johnsons for a couple of days while they try to put the RV back in working order. Mary Ann will have opportunity to take San Francisco photos, and I'll get to take advantage of Howard Johnson's high speed internet.

But I'm keeping my knife in my pocket.


Karen said...

Oh the joys of traveling I guess. At least you can keep the humor about you.

Chris said...

Lucky you had that knife!

I would very much like to hear your tech publisher war stories and whatever other advice you can give me. Do you want to get together for coffee or something when you are in town, or just shoot me an e-mail or what?