A middle-aged man dreaming of the day when he can stop begging for scraps and write for a living.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Eager to be deceived

A little over a year ago I bought a car for my Lady to replace the very comfortable Acura whose transmission had started to eat itself. The new car was also a very nice car: a limited edition 1996 Mazda MX-6 (M-Series). She once owned a 1995 MX-6 and loved it, but her ex-husband killed it. Getting her another one was satisfying. Unfortunately, the mechanics I trusted let me down by recommending a car that was on its last legs.

Eighteen months and several thousand dollars in repairs later the car has finally given up the ghost. It started with a light rattle and occasional problem with stalling at stops. The mechanic at the dealership claimed they couldn't hear what I was talking about. Another mechanic said that it was a piston starting to slip that could go in four months or four years. A friend of mine who worked as a mechanic swore it was a lifter starting to fail and the repair should cost less than a thousand dollars. Then six months ago something broke and it got really bad but I didn't have the money to do anything about it. It sat in our parking lot until tax returns came in and I could afford to get it fixed. Only the official verdict is in: there's a rod slipping badly and while it hasn't wrecked the engine yet it will if it keeps running. Getting into the guts to replace the failing parts will cost more in parts and labor than I have, and Mazda no longer offers replacement engines for this model. Refurbished engines are likewise a dead end. It's a sad blow to me; I was really invested in making this car run again.

Here's my problem: I was told that the problem was likely a piston slipping and that it had a limited life. Once it finally got bad enough to take it off the road I should have surrendered the plates and sold it for whatever I could get right away, even if it was just to a salvage yard. But a friend told me what I wanted to hear, that it wasn't necessarily that bad and that fixing it should be affordable. I clung to that belief long after it was reasonable to do so. I irrationally wanted to keep the car because it meant something to my Lady, because I liked the car myself and because I'd already invested significant time and money into it that I didn't want to go to waste. I kept paying insurance on it so it would be ready when the car was fixed.

We're prone to bouts of irrationality like that. We don't want to accept that the person we love could do something wrong, that a cherished possession is unrecoverable or that a belief that's central to our self-identity is actually false. We're eager be deceived, and no one lies to us better than ourselves. Sometimes it's harmless; I'm just out a few thousand dollars this time. But self-deception can result in real tragedy. That's why it's so important that we test our beliefs against reality. Reality is always the final judge.

No comments: