Total Recall

I’ve had my car for a little over seven years, and I’m pretty happy with it despite the fact that I’ve gotten approximately three dozen recall notices during that time. It all started with a problem with unintended acceleration that resulted in a series of recalls: first they wanted to inspect and/or remove the floor mats. Then they wanted to replace the floor mats (because we shouldn’t be forced to drive with bare carpet under our feet, like savages). Finally, they wanted to cut off part of the accelerator pedal on the theory that if the pedal is tiny enough, then you’ll never step on it, and you’ll be really, really safe.

These lights have nothing to do with the recall, but I was impressed when they all lit up at once.
These lights have nothing to do with the recall, but I was impressed when they all lit up at once.

At some point they must have noticed that the more recall notices they sent out, the more business their service departments got — after all, if your car is due for maintenance and you get a recall notice in the mail, you’ll probably just get everything done at the dealership at once instead of going elsewhere for the oil change. So they kept sending more and more of them — and maybe it’s just my imagination, but the jargon seemed to get more confusing each time. The most recent one went something like this:

‘Twas brillig, and the spliny struts
Did gyre and gimble as it stormed:
All wobbly were the bolts and nuts,
And other parts deform’d.

Beware the insufficiently hardened intermediate steering extension shaft, my son
It bends like wire! It breaks like glass!
Beware the dread floor mats, and shun
The pedal meant for gas.

It goes on like this for a while, and from what I was able to decipher, it’s saying that at any moment the steering column may spontaneously disintegrate, leaving you clutching a disembodied steering wheel; the car will then spin out of control, resulting in a fiery crash and an untimely and painful death for anyone in or near your car.* Also, you should get those floor mats looked at again.** The repair should take about an hour.***

This sounded pretty serious, so I promptly took my car in for service after procrastinating for 3-4 months. The repair was pretty uneventful, but apparently the dealership has added a new amenity to its waiting room: complimentary medical advice. While I was there, a man in a white lab coat walked up to a pregnant couple and had a fairly lengthy conversation with them; this is the only time I’ve ever seen someone say “thank you, complete stranger off the street, for the extensive unsolicited advice regarding my pregnancy” without being sarcastic. Then he continued approaching people, seemingly at random, and giving each person medical advice (except for one woman who turned out to be a physician herself; she got career advice instead).

He never talked to me, despite the fact that I was obviously at serious risk of dying of old age waiting for my car to be ready. I was a little disappointed at the time, but at least I know that when I get the inevitable “Notice of Possibly Faulty Medical Advice Dispensed in Service Department Waiting Rooms” letter from Toyota, I’ll be able to safely ignore it.

*This may be a slight exaggeration.

**The recall notice didn’t actually mention the floor mats. But every time I take my car to the dealership, they want me to let them hack off chunks of my gas pedal, and I have to keep refusing over and over again.

***Hi again. I don’t really have anything to add; this paragraph just looked weird without a third footnote. Oh, hey, while you’re here, I have a question. Do you have any idea why I wrote “deform’d” instead of “deformed” in that poem? I mean, the apostrophe is totally unnecessary, right? And yet I couldn’t bring myself to get rid of it.

86 thoughts on “Total Recall

  1. You must have them there Borogrove floor mats. Quite legendary in both the recall industry and the medical profession.****

    ****Another fabulously entertaining post. Would you write my blog for six months or so? I’m clearly out of ideas.

      1. It just occurred to me that that phrasing is passive. I, along with every other English teacher. . . like, ever. . . have been complicit in advancing Lewis Carroll’s passive voice agenda. I. . . I . . . .I feel faint. . . .

  2. Thanks for the morning giggle. I think the apostrophe is perfect. And it totally makes sense they’ve finally combined car repair with doctor’s visits. Lump everything we dread all together at once.

  3. I think they’re on to something. We wait sooooooooo long for both, why not combine the waiting time. And I often need a lube job about the same time my car does.

  4. Toyota kept sending me recall notices for some floor mat issue. I never read the entire notice. Had they enclosed a coupon for a free colonoscopy at the same time, I might have been moved to act. I ignored the recall, obviously. My mats are just fine. I’m pretty sure my colon is, too, but I’ll reserve that appointment for the future. Your dealership is on to something, though. I’m thinking a hair salon there in the lobby might serve a lot of needs. My hair, being all brillig and what not.

    1. You know, I don’t mean to rant, but everywhere you look, there are products for dry hair, oily hair, fine hair, color-treated hair, March Hare — but do they make even one shampoo for brillig hair? I haven’t been able to find one.

  5. This is the most innovative marketing since the Grace L. Ferguson Airline and Storm Door Company.went out of business.

  6. Love this! Except it’s too, too bizarre that I, too, was looking at a piece of Toyotawocky that I got in the mail this morning. Seems there’s a little class action suit going on because of all these recalls. Maybe you, Snoring Dog and I can carpool to the courthouse?

  7. The editor in me is compelled to say that the apostrophe is necessary, as it denotes an omitted letter. And I think it looks prettier and more “poemy” that way anyway. I’m curious as to what sort of medical advice that guy was dishing out. I hope that dealership has good malpractice insurance.

    1. I’m sorry — that information is confidential. I have to respect the sanctity of the Toyota service department waiting room.

  8. The ‘d version is much classier than the -ed deformed. It isn’t necessary, but people think it adds something.

    Have you noticed that some restaurants call themselves grilles? Is the e needed? No, it just classes the joint up and adds a few bucks to the bacon cheeseburger.

  9. I started to glaze over with the apostrophe, thinking you’d cut and pasted from Beowolf. But then I saw real words and actually read it.

    As for the doctor. I have no comment, just blank blinking.

    1. Blank blinking probably would have been my reaction to the doctor if I hadn’t had spend all my energy on trying not to stare.

  10. Speaking of punctuation ‘thinggies’ you’ve probably noticed I’m out of control with them.
    For some strange reason it amuses me to… just… throw them in… anywhere/everywhere.
    I keep expecting the WP service department to send me a recall notice advising me to chop off a few dots…

  11. My boss at a job I had long ago thought I used too many commas. so he gave me a piece of paper with this printed out on it:


    … and told me those were all the commas I was allowed to use for the rest of the year.

  12. Is your car one of those Toyota models that used to have brake problems? If so, maybe the medical advice from the waiting room doctor should be, “get a different car”

    1. That’s not too far-fetched, actually, since they already do everything they can to try to convince you to buy a new car. When I picked up my car this time, they’d left a huge glossy brochure on the passenger seat about their “exchange program” where you can “exchange” your old car plus some money for a new car.

  13. I guess I missed out on a medical check-up and career advice last time I got my car maintenanced. I helped my mom shop at the Cosco down the street instead of going to the waiting room. I’ll have to change my plans next time.

      1. My mother met me there with her minivan.
        I could try to use my force powers to lift the things 15 miles home, but they’re not quite developed enough.

  14. Nothing clever to say except I loved this, and laughed out loud (I refuse to say LOL’ed – it make it seem cheap.) Nope, I actually laughed, and then I laugh’d for good measure.

    1. They call my car’s transmission a “hybrid synergy drive” — “vorpal automatic gear shift” would actually make more sense.

  15. Was it Toyota that got busted for not recalling one of their cars because the boot could spontaneously open and a child got killed? Maybe they’re now being overcautious?

    1. They got a lot of bad publicity because there were some crashes in which the drivers said their cars had accelerated without them stepping on the gas. Toyota basically denied there was a problem at first and got a lot of bad publicity from that.

  16. I like deform’d…It’s rustic. kind of like how “Ye Olde Shoppe” sounds better than “The Dirty Store.”

    1. When people open new “Ye Olde” businesses, do they throw grand openings? Or do they just open quietly and hope people will just assume they’re actually old?

  17. Great stories! I’m surprised nobody kicked that doctor out of the waiting room for being so bossy. My own vehicle, a ’97 Taurus, has never been recalled to my knowledge. Recently, I’ve worn off on it to the extent that it’s developed a George Bailey complex. The front door won’t stay shut in the winter unless you kick it (with pleasure), and most other people my age have replaced the college jalopy. Still, nothing sticks when I step on it – except for the dust from this crummy town. One day I’ll fold down the seats, pack up the trunk, and better myself geographically.

    1. My mom used to have a car that made a really loud noise — sort of a combination of creaking and shrieking — whenever you opened or closed the passenger-side door. I don’t remember exactly how old I was when she had this car, but I was definitely whatever age it is when the most incredibly humiliating thing that could possibly happen was having the car door make a loud noise when your mom dropped you off at school.

      1. Ug, that would be embarrassing! We had a car that was so rusty it used to leave pieces of itself on people’s lawns when we parked it by the side of the road, but I still think the screeching door would be worse.

    1. The first car I ever drove was my mom’s AMC Gremlin. It had some, uh, quirks. If you drove it more than about 50 mph, it would start to shake uncontrollably. And the gas gauge was broken, which was only really a problem because we were pretty bad at keeping track of how far we’d driven since the last fill-up.

      (In the interest of tidiness, I deleted your other comment and edited this one to make the link to your name go to the URL you had in that one).

    1. You can still hang out in car dealership waiting rooms if you want. They almost always have free coffee, and some of them give out free medical advice.

  18. Hilarious! Love the poem spoof. Thanks for the laugh!

    I am pretty sure the apostrophe either adds or takes away a syllable. Some Old English thing….
    Congrats on being Freshly Pressed!

  19. And what kind of car is it you drive? I’m hoping to use that excuse the next time I get pulled over for speeding. “Well, you see officer, I never went in for that sudden unintended acceleration recall. Damn car has a mind of its own and speeds right by cops running radar.”

    1. It’s a Prius, but I think it’s happened with other Toyota models as well. When you get pulled over, make sure to quickly loosen the floor mat.

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