Circa 1900 – 2000 Sense and Nonsense

I just read about a device called an infrared spectrometer that will soon be used to analyze what’s going on inside the human body. We will no longer have to endure  boring, time-consuming (not to mention painful) surgeries for doctors to diagnose what’s not working properly.

A mechanic friend confided that they already have one for cars: “Your ailing automobile can now be scanned electronically, saving you countless hours of costly tinkering.” he told me. Following the scanning process, a computer printout reveals exactly what is wrong with your old clunker.

Our hospitals may soon catch up – diagnostically – to our automobile maintenance shops. We already have the CAT scan, the PET scan and the MIR which can analyze many of our illnesses. Perhaps one day human medical experts will be replaced entirely by electronic gadgetry. I am not sure that I am looking forward to the improvement.

My car and I have both been ill this winter. Each set of symptoms began with the influx of the flu virus, sometime in early December.  Although we both were kept warm and treated with various additives and fluids, we became increasingly hard to start in the mornings, especially when it was cold. We also had a tendency to stall at stop signs, and make strange noises.

Our symptoms became chronic. I was given Advil and anti-histamines; my car received a fuel filter and gas-line antifreeze. We appeared to recover, but not for long. Finally, my husband manoeuvred our snorting, wheezing conveyance forty miles out-of-town to a certified mechanic. Four hours later he paid out 188 dollars for spark plug wires and sundry repairs, plus labour. I manoeuvred my equally ailing body to the medical clinic and following that, the pharmacy, where I paid out a similar sum.

The car made it home all right, but then it really started to complain. I made it home all right too and, according to my husband, never stopped complaining. He thought the car and I were both hypochondriacs.

It was my turn to take the car to the mechanic.  After waiting three and a half hours and having nothing better to do than read the stack of BC Report magazines that were in the show room (I drooled over the new cars from time to time) I was finally told the truth by the hush-voiced service manager. My car was suffering from a malfunctioning throttle positioning sensor. Somehow its memory had become partially erased.  A new one was on order. My car apparently had the mechanical equivalent of Alzheimer disease or a dementia. I surmised that this obscure diagnosis could not have been made without the assistance of modern electronic technology. How I wished I could be hooked up to the wonderful new equipment because I still did not know what it was that was ailing me.

Like my car, I was sent out of town to a specialist. The specialist peered down my throat and threaded flexible wires up my nostrils before pronouncing me free of anything “bad”. He wrote out a total of four prescriptions to combat the various possible causes of my discomfort.

I paced the floor and read the newest issues of BC Report magazine while my car was given two different throttle positioning sensor transplants. It apparently rejected the first one, but seemed docile and obedient after receiving the second. It purred like a kitten all the way home. But when it reached our familiar driveway it quit, panting and wheezing from its efforts.

As it turned out my car needed nothing more complicated than a fuel pump. And the antibiotics and antibacterial medication the specialist gave me didn’t help my symptoms at all. The doctor did give me some Cimitidene though, which I understand is for stomach trouble.

Could it possibly be that I too have a faulty fuel pump?

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