Last Friday morning, Ann Luu, CBC Radio 2’s traffic reporter told the world that a ball of smoke was speeding up Clark Road Hill in Port Moody, and it stalled on a curve where nobody could see it. I always wondered who was the poor sap was who kept stalled on that stretch every morning.

 “That person should take better care of his vehicle,”  I thought. Then I realized the person Ann Luu was speaking about was me, and I should take better care of the 2002 Focus. It has 325,000 km logged on the odometer, so I got my money’s worth out of the thing.

It began to act up in the middle of July. All of a sudden it started sounding like an old John Deere tractor. The engine stayed on, and it began of blow lay smoke screens as I chugged away at intersections. For those who have never seen the business end of a farm, thing General Electric automatic washers. I took it into the shop and paid $400 to learn that I needed a new engine. They would install  a used one on it for roughly $8000 plus tax, labour, and I might have to help.

I could see a pattern. Last June it decided it didn’t want to make any more left hand turns. I know that if you make  enough right hand turns you can eventually make a left hand turns, but I live in the country. Enough right hand turns could eventually make you end up in a different time zone. I right turned my way to the shop which is 4 km as the crow flies. It took me 20 km and I got to pay a $1000 bill.

The writing was on the wall. I knew that if I got it fixed, the transmission would be next, then the rest of the frame. I would be left with t Fred Flintstone special where I would power it with my feet.

Time for a new one. I settled for a Chevrolet Aveo (made in Korea or Mexico}. I is supposed to run up the Clark Hill at 50 mpg. That means that the money I would save on gas and oil would cover my monthly payments. I signed on the bottom line.

Besides it was my 62nd birthday. Time to buy myself a present.

Bozo Lights

I am not impressed with the way the automobile industry has substituted gauges (in the 40s and 50s) with warning lights. That’s part of the reason I bought a standard Transmission. I wanted to keep in touch with my driving roots. The other reason is that I know, if an automatic transmission is driven properly, it can help the driver get maximum mileage out of the vehicle.

“So why”” I thought, “Is there a bozo light telling me when to shift gears?” I suppose the engineers at GM reasoned that a bozo light was required because the only people that would buy a standark transmission would be the ones who wouldn’t be able to hear the transmission because they’re too old, and they need to be told when to shift.



The car lot was closed before I left. The boys were helpfully setting me up with my new car, and at the end of it all I was roaring onto the highway and heading home and monkeying with the 5-speed transmission. I was doing well. The shifting came back to me immediately.

Except for one thing.

I parked the car in a parking lot, so I would have to figure out how to get the thing in reverse before I could get home.

I went up and down the ‘H’ formation o f the gears while listening to the BC Lions trounce the Edmonton Eskimos. I couldn’t find the opening to slip it into reverse. I called emergency services. “Didn’t you test drive it?” The woman at ERS asked.

“Only an automatic. Nobody there knew how to drive standard.” I said.

“Why didn’t you buy an automatic, then?” She said.

“I wanted standard,” I said.

She told me she couldn’t help, and she welcomed me to read the manual.

“I did,” I said. “There’s nothing about it there.”

Then I spitted a ring at the bottom of the stick shift knob. I found that it was attached to a spring. When I lifted the spring, the stick slipped into reverse.

“I suppose it’s like childproof lids.” I told the ERS lady. “ You’ve geezerproofed the transmission.”

Mike Broderick is an Employment Specialist for the Neil Squire Society in Burnaby where he finds employment for people with physical disabilities. Part of this work means affiliation with the Vancouver Board of Trade where he is a member of the Ambassador Club, the Burnaby Board of Trade where he is a member of the Labour Task Force, the Tri Cities Chamber of Commerce where he is an active member of the 10X10 initiative, and the Abbotsford Chamber of Commerce. He does some work as a field Archaeologist and is a fitness instructor and frequent contributor of fitness humour articles to alive magazine in Port Coquitlam. You can reach him at home at or at or at 604-464-4195.  If you’re looking for a career change, he is the Spin Doctor and can give you a resume makeover at competitive rates When he is not doing all this he lives in Port Coquitlam with his partner Cecelia.






  1. Sharon Says:

    Happy Birthday, Mike! Sounds like you used the Focus until it died. Do like my dad made me do back in the day. Sit in the driveway and shift gears until you can do it smoothly. I know what you mean about cars. I was heartbroken when my dr told me to trade my 5-speed in for an automatic. Apparently, shifting gears put strain on the wrong part of my shoulder and elbow. Btw, I noticed quite a few typos. You may want to fix them. Let us know if you like the Aveo after you drive it awhile.

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