The check engine light comes on in my car every so often. It freaks me out. I started driving back in the 1950’s when “Idiot Lights” first appeared on the dashboard, replacing gages. Instead of an oil pressure gauge that showed when oil pressure was getting too low, a red light came on. The same thing with engine temperature, both lights signaled “DANGER” – pull over and shut off the car or your engine will blow up!
So, us old guys are programmed to react when a light on the dash comes on. It signals trouble. These days we still have “idiot lights” in the form of a yellow engine icon. It tells us that something isn’t working right, but won’t say what it is. Our first reaction is to go nuts. Then, we remember it’s something minor like a malfunction in the emission control system; we don’t need to panic unless the light is blinking.
Knowing that doesn’t help, by the way. We get perturbed whenever we see that yellow icon. Even the warning that the air is low in a tire is an annoyance. To avoid the aggravation, many of us cover it up with a piece of black electrical tape. Out of sight, out of mind.
Old coot’s brains have check engine lights that come on too, whenever a body component misfires. A chest pain, for example, “Is it a heart attack or a sore muscle?” An ice cream brain freeze, “Is it a brain tumor or a stroke?” We can’t cover those signals with black electrical tape, but we do the next best thing. We use denial to put them out of mind.
These alerts pop on and off every other day. We expect the worse unless the warning is a familiar one and we know it’s just a minor malfunction that will go away, or one we’ll get used to. Sore back? No problem. Had that signal before, just have to ease up for a few days. Emergency spinal surgery not required.
I had a new one the other day; I heard a clicking sound as I walked. At first, I ignored it. But it wouldn’t go away.
“Is it an ear issue or is one of my joints acting up? Ankle? Knee? Toe?”
It haunted me all day. The mystery was solved when I did the unthinkable, for an old coot anyhow, and took off my shoes in the middle of the day. I discovered a nail imbedded in the sole. Mystery solved. I pulled it out, reset the check engine light, and went on with the rest of my day.
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