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Christine’s Doppelganger

John W. Pinkerton


We recently bought a new car…well, not new, used but still within the year of production, 2018…a Chrysler 300.  This is our second 300; obviously we liked our 2007 model because we bought a newer version of the same car.

I was at first put off a little by the excessive technology lavishly displayed on the dashboard.  It is much more than I can ever master---or want to.

The puzzling displays, as it turns out, was the least of my problems.

The first indication of a problem with the car happened when I was backing out of a parking space at our local Mexican restaurant.  The power steering locked.  I gently pulled back into the space, turned the engine off, but then could not restart it.  Twenty minutes later after numerous attempts, it decided it had tortured me enough and started.  We drove it around town for a few minutes and assumed it was an anomaly.

For a couple of weeks, the car continued to display stubbornness about starting and about the steering locking up, but none of these incidents placed us in real danger.

I've never been a car guy.  When my cars don't work, I take them to my trusted local mechanic; he fixes it; and I'm not much interested in what the problem was.  I checked in with him about the car, but he said it was too new for him to work on.

I called a nearby Chrysler dealer to haul this thing in to see if they could pinpoint the problem.

Now, I mentioned that I'm not a car guy, but I figured out pretty quickly that it was probably a computer problem. 

A couple of days later, we got a call from the lady representing the mechanics who were convinced that the problem was mud on the power steering solenoid (By the way, I discovered that my old way of spelling “solenoid” as “cylanoid” was wrong).

I responded, “It doesn't seem likely.”  After all, I had looked up the solenoid for this particular car and discovered that it was cleverly hidden behind the left front wheel well liner, and in addition, I've not participated in any mud racing. Reluctantly, we drove down to the dealer and picked the car up.

For a couple of weeks, the problems did not repeat themselves, but I still didn't trust our “new” car which I had dubbed “The Governor.”

Then my hopes were dashed when Linda, while driving to Brenham (15 miles), suddenly had the power steering lock up at about 60 mph.  I'm not sure how she got out of her dilemma, but she managed and returned home safely.

Figuring that if Linda could survive the drive to Brenham, so could I---being manly and all---back to Brenham.

I explained to the lady who handles customer service that the car was a doppelganger of Christine---you know the car from the 1983 movie that tried to kill everyone in sight.  Come to think of it, that was a Chrysler product also, a Plymouth.

She said they would look into it.

A couple of days later, we got a call from the Chrysler lady who said, “One of the mechanics drove it for about ten miles and had not encountered any problems.”

At this point I went into my sarcastic mode.  “Lady, ten miles is not nearly enough to find the problem---the problem is so sporadic.”

Then she said something borderline brilliant.  “What if we had one of the mechanics take the car home and drive it for a few days.”


My response was an immediate and enthusiastic, “Yes.”

Time passed---a week, ten days, two weeks.  Linda became anxious and wanted to call to ask about their progress.  “Nope.  That wouldn't be prudent.”

The phone finally rang: it was the Chrysler lady.  “We have your car ready.  We found the problem.  It was a loose ground wire.”

We arrived at the Chrysler dealer and the Chrysler lady explained that she was the one who had been driving our car.  She explained that she along with her children were out for the evening when not only did the steering lock up but also the brakes failed.

I asked her if it scared her to which she responded, “Hell yes!”

I told her that the moral of the story was that not all old men are nut cases.

Well, we're once again driving the car, but it's with reservations.  Given a few more months without further problems, I may even quit calling it “Christine” and return to my original appellation, “The Governor.”