You’ve Sure Got A Thirst

There’d been a little rattle in Manuel for a week or so now. Nothing too bad we thought, but we booked it in for a service today. But last night on my way to singing class, I had a little adventure. Somewhere around Parliament House, the rattle turned to a clunk. Then when I stopped at the lights in Woden, Manuel stalled and wouldn’t budge. And of course I happened to be on a hill with half a dozen cars behind me.

I turned the engine over and Manuel gave a halfhearted urrgh urrgh urrgh before dying again. Up until that point I had completely adored Manuel, so compact and reliable compared with the piece of shit cars I’ve had before. But as soon as he misbehaved, I became filled with panic and rage. The light was going to be green in a second. I couldn’t bear the thought of being stranded. Like one of those stranded losers that break down at a major intersection and pace round with a mobile phone while every passing vehicle beeps in disgust. And I’m pretty crap on hills as it is. I’ve only been driving a stick for a few months. I have no idea what I am doing.

So in the end my tactic was to press all the pedals in a random sequence like a deranged organist, simultaneously screaming, “COME ON YOU LITTLE RED FUCKER!”

Manuel obediently limped around the corner.

I thought I was going to make it to my teacher’s house but then the revolting burning smell started.

I pulled over and called the NRMA dude. Then I called my sister, and we ranted and raged about our Piece Of Shit car that we only bought six months ago and how dare it do this to us!

Then I called Jenny and told her I wouldn’t be able to make it to singing class. The trio would be a duo tonight. But as it turned out, Inge hadn’t made it either due to “illness”. This made our teacher very suspicious of my “breakdown”.

He asked Jenny would she like to do the class solo. Jenny thought for three seconds and said, “Naaah.”

She left him huffing and harrumphing at his piano, apparently believing that the three of us had concocted this elaborate scheme to wriggle out of class.

Then she came to keep me company while I waited for the NRMA. He didn’t take long. And he was rather cute. I hoped that nothing too major was wrong with the car, but at the same time I hoped there was something majorly wrong with it, so I wouldn’t look like an idiot in the presence of such cuteness.

No such luck. I popped the bonnet and he peered under.

“Umm. Where’s your radiator cap?”


“You don’t have a cap on your radiator.”

“Holy shit.”

Then I remembered.

Rhi had been checking the oil and water about two weeks ago. Manuel is her first car, so she’s never had to do that before. She kept asking me, “Am I doing this right?” and I was saying, “Yep, yep” without really looking. When she screwed the radiator cap back on, I’d thought to myself that I usually had to press down harder for it to go on. But I thought maybe she didn’t need to exert as much energy as I, being of superior strength and fitness. Now I realised we’d been driving around for up to two weeks without a radiator cap, letting things bubble and boil to the point of disaster.

During this time I’d complained to Rhi that the car “smelled funny”. She said it was the air conditioning. I said, “Air conditioning doesn’t smell like dirt and burny things.” But did I look into it further? Nooo.

“So there’s your problem,” NRMA dude said with a little grin.


“Umm. Why are there chicken feathers under your hood?” Jenny asked.

I peered closer and frowned. “Maybe we ran over a chicken somewhere along the line.”

“Empty radiator combined with BBQing chicken would explain the burning smell you mentioned,” said NRMA dude.

It was all rather humiliating. He got a bottle of water and topped up the radiator.

While Manuel gulped and sputtered in relief, I decided I had to try and redeem myself. “I know what you’re thinking, that I am a stupid woman driver who can’t do something as basic as keep her radiator cap on, but you have to know it wasn’t my fault!”

“Is that right?”

“I own this car with my sister, see. She’s never had a car before and the other day she was checking the oil and water and she was putting the cap back on and she asked me was it on properly and I said yep, yep but it looks like she didn’t put it on properly at all! Can you believe her? I mean how hard is to –”

“And you were supervising?”

“Well, yes.”

“So why didn’t you check?”

“Because we were on our way out to lunch and I was hungry!

“I really don’t think it’s fair to blame your sister.”


He topped up the radiator then we alln putted out to Philip to look for a radiator cap. It’s a suburb choked with car yards and petrol stations, but everything was either closed or cap-less. We were parked right next to a Ford dealership. There were dozens of Fords with Ford-y radiator caps just ripe to fit onto my own little Ford, but no Ford salesman around to help us.

“It’s a pity we can’t break in and steal one,” mused the NRMA dude.

“Well why don’t you?” I coaxed. “You have the tools!”

But no. In the end the only option was to limp back home with Jenny following me in case I broke down again.

“You’ll probably have to stop three or four times when the temperature gauge goes up, then fill ‘er up again and wait ten minutes before you go home,” NRMA dude explained. “Or if it dies, just call a tow truck.”

“Bloody hell!”

“Just be thankful you didn’t blow a head gasket!”

“Yes sir,” I said sheepishly.

It was the longest 15 minutes of my life, putting along and hoping the car wouldn’t explode. Miraculously, the gauge didn’t move at all.

Jenny drove in front of me and the NRMA guy followed behind. He’d said he had to go elsewhere, but ended up tailing us. Perhaps he didn’t trust my driving.

Finally we were back homen and I thanked the NRMA dude for his help. “Why is it whenever I call the NRMA it’s always something stupid?” I pondered. “On your TV ads it’s always high drama, like crumpled cars or people with their limbs on fire.”

“Heh,” said the NRMA dude.

“And your slogan, Call N-R-M-A For H-E-L-P. I think it should be Call N-R-M-A, You D-O-R-K.”

“Heh,” he said again. And off he went.

Jenny came bolting over from her car. “Did you see that? He was in behind you and I was in front of you! I was driving along thinking, ‘Woohoo! Shauna’s in a motorcade!

“I know! A motorcade! I felt like JFK or something.”

About Shauna Reid

Ahoy there! I’m Shauna, an author, copywriter and content mentor. I love telling stories about life and helping others to tell theirs.

Find out more about me and how we can work together – I’m now booking for January 2022.

40 thoughts on “You’ve Sure Got A Thirst

  1. Oh, I really shouldn’t be laughing at this. But the D-O-R-K thing, man.

    At least you had it diagnosed. And it was nothing too serious. I would be so cranky if the Starlet started acting up like that.

    I love this new/old design 🙂

  2. I blew a head gasket in the first six months of owning my little laser – I drove it for weeks without even thinking of topping up the radiator and then it died on me a km or so away from home. Of course, I had no NRMA man to help me – cute or otherwise.

    Oh yeah, and I wanted to tell you something. Remember that really sucky job interview?? Well… they rang me yesterday afternoon and offered me the job. So it looks like I might be staying in Canberra after all…

  3. Just be thankful you didn’t blow a head gasket, indeed. A friend once borrowed my beloved Corona Mk II to drive up to Sydney and back, didn’t notice it blowing smoke 100 km out of Canberra on the way home, and KILLED it. Tiny leak in a water hose, radiator drained, temperature gauge soared without him noticing because he hadn’t driven the thing for 13 years, and the head gasket on a honkin’ Toyota V6 warped like the bloody Enterprise. Woulda cost two grand to get it fixed, more than the car was worth, so the whole thing was a write-off. Sob.

    So, yes, a close call for Manuel.

  4. (“he hadn’t driven the thing for 13 years [like I had]”, not “he hadn’t driven the thing [in] 13 years”.)

  5. Oooh, I hope there’s no permanent damage! Best to keep an eye on that temperature gauge, and the oil level, I reckon. (But I’m paranoid about bad things that can gradually happen as a result of overheading, but that’s because of a car I once had.)

    Ahhh, such nostalgia is awakened in me by your little adventure! How I long to be driving shit cars again…

    Anyway, a good, humourous, entertaining first entry for your new web account 😀

  6. Rory, your tale of the death of your Corona Mk II reminds me of my epic Scotland holiday, starring a Vauxhall (General Motors) Viva named Bernstein Lumbertubs.

    It was over 1500 miles altogether, the vast majority of which was done on three cylinders. The starter motor was dead from before the start (so a lot of push-starting and rolling down hills to get it started), too.

    We also dared to defy ‘sensible’ advice by making the 520 mile (or more) journey up there in one day instead of two (people from my home county seem to think that Scottish roads are mere dirt tracks, when in fact they’re some of the best roads in the kingdom). And we made the journey back in one day (sort of), during which Bernstein faked a death (but was mended with sticky tape).

    Oh, and most of the journey up featured a lot of purple smoke coming out of the exhaust, and a lot of topping up of engine oil. And a lot of burny smell, too.

    Oh, and some time before the holiday, I’d set the engine timing and carburettor setting by pretty much guessing.

    But I’m proud of myself for that epic holiday, ’cause I ‘fixed’ the problem of the engine chucking its oil out the exhaust by disabling the malfunctioning cylinder (the inlet rocker had broken off, so I just removed the exhaust rocker, leaving the cylinder to function a bit like an hydraulic spring instead). I felt like Scotty, but without the grim pessimism 🙂

  7. Cavalcades are all well & good until skulls start exploding. Be glad no-one else thought you were like JFK. I don’t think the world could cope with another slew of “Who Shot Shauny?” books, docos …

  8. Hehe, great story Shauny :), as always. I like the new design too, nice and simple and it loads quickly. Oh, I thought I’d let you know too, when you try and post a comment without an email address it asks you for the address but also empties what you wrote into the void of cyberspace.

  9. well we’d all be here if you’d TOLD US YOU MOVED. I have no car problems whatsoever, know that feisty and I own the blönk. Blönk tells me when it’s not feeling well with an astonishing array of dings, beeps and flashing lights. Not that it ever does. And it checks its own oil.

    Having said that, I once owned a 1978 Honda Civic that i bought from a guy i went to school with for $200. It was canary yellow when i bought it, but my friend chris and I decided that it wasn’t nearly hip enough, so we spraypainted it with two cans of bumper chrome ($3.98 from kmart). I finished that off with a racing stripe in matt black and we were away. The exhaust was held on with a coke can and some wire, and the car would stall everytime i turned left, until i figured out that was because it was disconnecting the battery because the bottom of the battery tray was rusted out. One dismembered coathanger later, and Bob’s your auntie’s live in lover.

    Having said all this, I still managed to garner speeding fines at the rate of about one every three weeks – b ecause the majority of the chassis had rusted away, the car weighed very little indeed, and consequently went like a f**king rocket. Speeding fine highlights included:

    Being told by an officer of the law that “i don’t know wether to book you as a car or a low flying plane”, on the grounds that I had been airborne when he first caught sight of me (doing 77mph) (123kmh)

    Having a Maine State Trooper tell me to “get this goddamn car out of my sight and if i ever see it on one of my highways again i’ll book you for disturbing the peace” – this was immediately subsequent to my greatest speeding fine of all time – in which i was radar tested at 112mph (179.2kmh). The trooper squealed out behind me, and i seriously considered trying to outrun him. Once he pulled me over he asked to see under the hood, no doubt certain that i had hidden a turbo or some nitrous under there. Given that the only work Chris and I had done to the car was hidden (bigger carb, bored out cylinders, freeflowexhaust) i didn’t have a problem with this. I think the problem he had revolved around me having to open the boot to get the piece of wood to hold up the hood, because the hoodmount was rusted out. That and the sheer number of “things held together by coathangers” present in the engine bay.

    I finally had to sell that car, because one day i got in it to go to school, slammed the drivers door and it fell off. Like laying on the ground off.

    I took it to the local junkyard. He wanted to give me ten bucks, but I talked him up to 15 and a ride home.

  10. I think many were a little slow to find your new scratching post…I know I was –having missed your entry explaining same — next thing I knew, you were sqawking about getting all over to the new location and whatnot. I was afraid I was going to find something horribly un-pussycat-like over here.

    But I am relieved to find the surroundings familiar.

  11. “don’t mind the car, he’s spanish.”


    that sounds like quite an adventure, shauny-girl!! “Empty radiator combined with BBQing chicken” is a fine diagnosis.

    i reckon the NRMA dude was fliritng with you. He was trying to be all difficult and that just made you even cuter in your exasperation!

    you should have got his direct line for further emergencies. always make friends with a mechanic, that’s my motto.

  12. Well there were just some FEATHERS under the bonnet. I dunno if we actually ran over a chicken. but there were FEATHERS.

    There were also three glasses of WINE at lunchtime todya! YUM>!!

  13. Hehe… you think YOU feel like a dork. I once ran out of petrol and called the RACV cause I thought my car had broken down with something serious…

    The RACV guy tried to suggest that it might just be a lack of petrol that made it stop but I didn’t believe him… until he put in 10 litres and it started fine!!

    But honestly it wasn’t my fault – the petrol light never came on. Now I am paranoid about running out of petrol and fill up way before it gets low.

  14. Just wanted to say that I know the fear of car failure and how desperate one becomes around the smug mechanic. Because he has seen our desperation time and again, it doesn’t even turn him and give us a good bargaining position. We have to pay in cash, unfortunately. Or credit.

    But I’m glad that Manuel is still alive and chugging.

  15. Whoohoo!!! Off to eat Mangoes that have been kept in the freezer!!! At least they’ll be sweet and juicy compared to the ones we have here. Oh wait, it’s winter, we don’t HAVE Mangoes!!!! Ohyeah, nice going with the car there! Shoulda had a mango under your hood, then he’da been after ya 😉 ACK! Must get ready for work, Everyone have fun this holiday season (for those who celebrate the holidays in any fashion or form)

  16. You Moved? When did this happen? Whats going on here? Have I been sleeping? (no…it can’t be that…I have kids and haven’t slept in days!)



    dang girl, you make me laugh.

    You might buy Manuel some fancy gas (or Petrol) as a kind of apology next time you fill the tank. Just so’s there’s no hard feelings. (you know how sensitive cars can be…)

  17. Thank you so much for sharing your embarrassingly hilarious moments with us. I needed the laugh!

    You really ought to have a cavalcade.

  18. Erm, you mean Motorcade.:-/

    I blew my Renault 12 up in Jugiong. 6 hours in Jugiong!!!!!!! Waaaaaah!

  19. I was in fits. thanks for the early morning laughs! I’m going to have that chicken thought in my head all day now – I’ll be walking down the street by myself and suddenly “mwahahahaha” ….

  20. Oh dear lord, I have never ever laughed so hard. My head hurts now. Hurts so bad.
    I might just put a link to you if’n you don’t mind. Just so others can feel free to laugh as hard as I just have. Though, one might want to have a physical before hand. I nearly did not make it!

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