Thursday, December 8, 2016

"The mind may be at rest...."

    "What moves you if the senses do not spur? Light moves you."                                                                         —Dante, Purgatorio
    Driving south on 57, just before Champaign, I noticed the engine light was on. The engine light had never, to my memory, come on, not in the 11 years we've had the Honda Odyssey. I had driven about 150 miles and had another 100 miles to go. The last thing I wanted was to break down in Southern Illinois, land of pick-up trucks, both Chevy AND Ford.
"With this, my mind withdrew into itself, with what imagining might bring to it."
     I got off the highway at University Avenue. At a gas station, I plugged "What does the engine light on a Honda Odyssey mean?" into Google and found a bunch of articles damning the vagueness of the signal. It could mean anything from a faulty oxygen sensor to a balky catalytic converter to a loose gas cap. I got out and tightened the gas cap. The light stayed on. But none of the meanings seemed to be something serious enough to strand a person in downstate Illinois. That was reassuring.
     "Ye shall gather some useful fruit from our delaying here." 
     Still, better safe than sorry. I used my iPhone to locate the local Champaign Honda dealer and phoned their service department. The mechanic could, he said, run a diagnostic. It would cost $110 and take 90 minutes. That 90 minutes was the problem. I had a story to sniff out, and didn't want to take the time.
    "But it's not something pressing?" I said, half asking, half suggesting. "It can wait until I get back to Chicago. It'll last another couple hundred miles?"
     He said that yes, it could wait. "If the engine light isn't flashing, you're okay," he said. I was reassured—there was a level of warning more dire than this one—and decided I would continue on my way, and let the Odyssey fall into the strong arms of Muller Honda when I return.
    "Everyone apprehends dimly, and craves a good at which a mind maybe be at rest."  
    Tell it, my brother. I was listening to Heathcote Williams read Dante's "Purgatorio" -- Dante is always relevant. "Promise much, but deliver little," a sufferer tells Dante in "Inferno," summarizing the advice that landed him in Hell. (Maybe his timing was off; the same strategy landed Donald Trump in the White House).
     But I smiled slightly, hearing the faintest echo of my engine light saga in the Divine Comedy — Canto 17, for those keeping track. It made me wonder whether the relevance is there at all, or something that I layer over it, trying to justify the time spent listening.  Not that it's necessary. The words are enough. 



  1. What an odd coincidence! I had some work done on my car Monday, and when I started it up, the same light came on (2003 Ford Focus). Spending more money is not in the stars (or in the bank) right now, but for what it's worth, my mechanic said it's not a huge deal to keep driving. Not for like a year, but a couple of months should be fine. I'm hoping it'll hold up until January. Good luck to us both!

  2. I know a really good mechanic if you need one. He takes care of my 11 year old Honda CRV. Olympia Auto at 3501 W. Belmont just west of the Belmont/Kimball CTA Blue Line station. Ask for Billy or his father Gus.

  3. Auto Zone will run a check engine light diagnostic for free in five minutes. It's usually some anti pollution system having little to do with reliability. Good luck!

  4. Unless you are under warranty, the dealer mechanic prices are a rip off. Find a good, independent shop nearby.

  5. O'Reileys also does free engine checks. You forgot one step after fiddling with the gas cap. Even if that fixed it, the light stays on. You need to pull the battery cable to reset the system.

    1. Neil, I know it's a year later, but unless you're checking your oil or adding washer fluid, don't touch anything under the hood of your car. You'll only bring the rath of your mechanic down on your head when you make matters worse. Either that or he'll laugh himself silly while he's emptying your checking account.

  6. "Everyone apprehends dimly" is a good one. Some of us realize this some of the time, but most seem to think they've got reality nailed down when they hear or read something that confirms what they want to believe.



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