Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Okay, a little bit of back story...
My wife's 2000 Mazda 626 has been having cooling system problems for a while now, and like a good little mechanic I try to track them down and repair them as soon as possible (and if I can't solve it myself, I pawn the problem off on my good buddy Kim Conover who's a veritable genius when it comes to cars).
So, on Friday my wife tells me her car is steaming coolant a little, so I let her drive my Suburban and I pull my 67 Mustang out of mothballs for the weekend while I try to figure out where the coolant leak is.
It turns out I didn't have time to get to it until yesterday, so I drove it to work with me. I figured the ten minutes I live away from work would give the car enough time to pressurize the coolant enough to show me where it was leaking from. I get to work about 4:45 AM Monday morning and the parking lot lights are off.
Okay, no big deal, I thought to myself, I'll catch it on the way home.
So, on my way home the car does start to steam a little, then it stops. Hmmm, ok, must not be a terribly big leak, I think.
Odd thing was, it would start start steaming whenever I came to a stop. So, there I go, looking good while I was moving, steaming a bit when I'd stop for a light.
I get about a mile or two away from home and the temperature gauge starts to creep up, so I pull into the Reams parking lot to let the engine chill for a while so I can add more coolant.
Now, mind you, the steam coming out from under the hood of my car wasn't much, not enough to alarm me for sure.
I pulled out my iPod and book and prepared to camp out for fifteen minutes or so. After a while, when the temperature gauge read normal, I went to the trunk and retrieved a jug of coolant I keep there. As I'm adding coolant to the engine and reservoir out of the blue and into the parking lot screams a West Jordan Fire Dept. engine.
They pull along side me and the passenger rolls his window down, "Your car on fire?"
Huh!!?, WTF? I think, "No, just a coolant leak; it's a pressurized system and I have to wait for it to cool down before I can add more coolant."
"Oh," replies the firefighter, "okay, someone just phoned in that your car was on fire."
Ok, major WTF factor in play now. How on earth does someone interpret a little steam (a LITTLE, not bellowing, not belching steam) as fire? I've seen engine fires before, and they look NOTHING AT ALL like what was happening to my car.
an aside I'll have to get some photos scanned of the greatest car fire I ever saw. It was while I was living in Surrey, B.C.. Some asshat doused his girlfriends car, which happened to be parked next to our building, with gasoline and set it ablaze.

Back to the matter at hand...
I wonder what little stimulus it takes to send the 911 caller who thought my car was on fire into a panic. Did it ever enter their head that I sat in my car for almost 20 minutes because I knew I was in no danger?
Yeah, okay, they were concerned citizens and if my car really WERE on fire, I would have been grateful for the gesture (though, if my car was on fire, I'd have called the bloody fire department myself), HOWEVER I'm still confused at how anyone could mistake a little steam for a full blown engine fire.
I can understand being helpful and being a concerned citizen thinking of the well being of others, but in cases such as this doesn't common sense say one ought to double check if one knows diddly-squat about [_________ insert topic here] instead of trying to be a hero and making an ass of yourself (and me) in front of the firefighters and the general public?
I can only assume that the jumpy Samaritan fled the scene after they realized their mistake, because the caller was never located.

Just another day in the life...

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