A Search for Meaning With My 2005 Cavalier

Published August 23, 2017

Recently, when my 2005 Chevrolet Cavalier refused to go into park, I had to resort to putting it in neutral and applying the emergency brake. I was still able to get my keys out, and it started up and would go into reverse and drive perfectly fine. The next day, however, I lost the privilege to go into reverse. Parking without park or reverse made things interesting, and my options became very limited. I had to start thinking ahead which is, admittedly, not one of my strengths. I’m usually good at improvising, however, and I was still getting around. As long as I had neutral and drive, I could carry on.

I got home late that night and started the research. I call her The Oracle, you call her the internet. I consulted The Oracle and asked her questions to which she responded with answers and visual clarity. I found some very helpful articles and videos, and by studying the guidance of others who had been through this I found a few possible solutions that would be cost-effective. There are even videos that can show you how to manually change gears under the hood if it really comes down to it.

The most likely problem was the transmission linkage, on which the cheap plastic fittings can corrode and break. I checked under the hood behind the engine and under the brake fluid reservoir. You can find videos on the internet to help guide you through the process. I didn’t see anything obvious there so it was time to remove my middle console and see if I could spot anything obvious beneath it. I needed a 10mm hex ratchet to take the screws out, and in proper accordance with Murphy’s Law I, of course, didn’t have that size.

I headed up to the local auto parts store and took up three parking spaces as far back as I could and borrowed the tools I needed. One screw in the change container, two screws under the lid between the seats. I pulled up on the console and it only flexed. There was a hidden screw somewhere. I found it under the electric window buttons. The emergency brake was up. I was frustrated at this point and in my excitement, I pulled hard to get the entire middle console out from under the air conditioner and over the emergency brake.

The console came free and something toppled into my passenger seat. It was the push button shifter knob that I had inexplicably forgotten to remove. I was left with a single yellow plastic stick poking out of the shaft. I cussed at myself for missing the obvious. I pressed down on the yellow stick to see if I could spot the problem in the movement of the transmission linkage and the gear went straight up into reverse and park smoothly. My accidental screw up had discovered the problem. I thought I was looking for the simplest solution with the transmission linkage. The solution was far simpler than I had anticipated and cost me nothing but a little time and inconvenience. My car is running great and I haven’t bothered trying to add a shifter knob; that little yellow stick is doing the job just fine.

I was looking to the past in my own life and re-hashing things that should be long gone in my mind. When my car started acting up, it focused my attention on the present moment. I had a project to complete. I had neutral or drive, the present or the future. I couldn’t go back and I had to think ahead. I search for meaning in everything. Regret is only useful when you learn from it, then it needs to be tossed aside. It’s time to stop searching the past, to be in the moment, and focus on what lies ahead.

My Cavalier is now over 200,000 miles and I hope to get plenty more before it’s said and done. We’ve been through the mountains of Colorado. We’ve driven out into the woods for weekend adventures on dirt roads even trucks are afraid to go. I’ve had some horrible cars in the past but my Cavalier has held up and toughed it out. It’s carried my kayak, mountain bike, and furniture with only tow straps, swimming noodles, and a little ingenuity. My car has also picked up the occasional stranded passenger going through a tough time.

My car even taught me how to drive like an old man, at least most of the time, and let the rest of you angry people get up on the next bumper as soon as you can. We all have our bad days, but when you come across those people, remember they are probably having ‘one of those days.’ If I slow down and get over for you, or slow down at a passing zone and get to the side so you can have a full line of view of oncoming traffic on a back road, I am letting you through. No need to lay on your horn and get all pissy about it, you ungrateful little…never mind. See, the spiral of anger can take you down, if you let it. Forgive them and move on with your own world.

There was an innocence you lived in before you let the world bring you down. Learning to let go, to forgive, to forget. Remind yourself not to internalize. Sometimes you have to swim with the current until you can find your way out of the flow. Your feet will find the ground again to let you move with a rhythm of your own. Some may try to hold you back. Some may try to push you down. Don’t dig your own holes and don’t let the past destroy you. Stop descending into darkness and start climbing towards the light. It’s time to clear your mind, and in the future, as you may find, the universe will reward you.


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