Little Explosions

There was a tradition in the family, once you have finished high school and ready to go to the university you were given a car. I am the second sibling in the family, and the eldest had already drove her car for a year and a half. To bought my car was very simple, we looked at the newspaper and there it was; a not so old car that looked promising by the description. It was being sold by a medical student.

      We went to see the car; it was beige with  windows tinted in blue, a new stereo, good wheels, not to many miles, good seats, for me it was already approved; it had personal style and the extra features were pretty cool. Not so fast, my daddy spent a long time talking with the owner, who didn’t know about motors. In his defense he had done all the required maintenance to the car and he had only used it to go to school. Daddy did a  meticulous inspection to the whole car; specially its rear engine.

     Finally, after offers and counter offers, the price was set and I got a beetle or a Volkswagen; that was the name at that time we used for the  popular model.  For many years the affordable, easy to maintain Volkswagen was used for the taxi drivers to work with. Fleet of green Beetles swarm the city to transport people, it was the norm; until recently I found out they discontinued the car some time ago. 

    After the acquisition of the car; the next day, in the morning, I got into the car to see by myself the stereo.  I found out it was fastened with adhesive cloth painted in black! What else I was supposed to expect! The previous owner was in medical school and he applied all his knowledge about bandages in the car. It was a good job from a medical point of view, a temporary one nevertheless; because over time everything got loose and needed to be properly installed and fastened.  

A beautiful piece of engineering was for me. I took care of my Volkswagen, I loved to pronounce the whole world; some other people like to shorten it to Vocho or Vochito. 

     At the university,  one of my engineering  courses was about machine cycles. I learnt my car was able to move because little explosions were done in chambers containing pistons or heavy cylinders that pushed down and returned to do it again in continuous movement to transmit energy to the wheels, to carry on with the whole car. To me that was one of the most fascinating things humans have invented. 

I proceeded to “keep exploring” and I persuaded my dad to give by ourselves a high maintenance to the machine of the car instead to take it  to the dealership. One Saturday we did it! Mom was horrified! We took apart the whole engine and there was no guarantee we were going to put it back together or that after that it was going to work as before, needless to say that took us from early morning to late afternoon to do it.

     We cleaned every single part, in a very organized way; then, after assembled everything back we reached the critical point. Everything must be in place and synchronized to  have those little explosions in harmony. The pistons or heavy cylinders need to go up and down in a precise way. Some go up while some goes down. The sparkle also should happened at the exact moment when all the gasoline is compressed to make the explosion in full, otherwise there are no explosions and then the car was “dead”.

   We had a little rest because we were hungry, my whole being smelled gasoline. I was exhausted but thrilled. Then we returned to calibrate everything to start the engine. Nothing happened, after several tries we started looking for some missing pieces around the garage, nothing. We tried again, Mom told us to call the mechanic. We didn’t. Dad tried again after moving the car a little. It worked! It worked! OMG I was totally out of my misery! I didn’t even want to stop the engine! 

    The next day was Sunday, I don’t remember what I did. But by Monday at the university I was radiant beyond happiness and proudness. I didn’t say anything because everybody was worried about midterm exams; also because one thing is to put together an engine and another thing is to calculate different cycles for different engines for different combustions, for different energies and that was the goal of the class. 

    Nowadays we couldn’t repeat the experiment with the cars of my children. My daughter and son are engineers, both parents too(meaning my husband and I). That doesn’t mean a thing. The cars nowadays are for the dealerships to give them maintenance and repair them; also none of us is an engineer specialized in automotive machines. Today the cars have little computers inside and also  there are the hybrid and the electric cars. In short, the little explosions to move a car, someday will be a thing of the past, and just a wonderful time once upon a day happened to me. 

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