Byline Burton |

Byline Burton

Sometimes, a person must do something really stupid so that others might learn. Read on, and you might learn something.First, putting 180,000 miles on your car without changing the timing belt is one of the most stupid things anyone can do. It ranks up there with sending off $20 so you can earn hundreds of dollars stuffing envelopes, or honestly answering a woman’s question when she asks, “Do you think this makes me look fat.”One of the bad things about not changing your timing belt at the prescribed 60,000 miles is you end up feeling incredibly stupid after it snaps and blows up your engine. The phrase, “Que estupido!” usually covers it, and that phrase will be repeated dozens of times while waiting for the tow truck to arrive, especially if you’re stranded on the west side of Vail Pass.That’s what happened to me. It took several days to finally remember that the guy who sold me my 1989 Eagle Summit specifically said, “Change the timing belt at 60,000 miles or you’ll be sorry, and end up feeling really stupid.”With the heightened clarity of 20/20 hindsight, I now realize there are precautions that anyone can take to remind them to change the timing belt:-Tattoo your forehead with the word “timing belt” so that each morning when you look in the bathroom mirror you’re reminded.-Maybe, if you’re a doctor, lawyer, teacher or psychiatrist, a “timing belt” tattoo on your forehead might not be a suitable location. In this case, consider a tattoo anywhere else on your body, aside from the back, where it would be difficult to see.-You could actually go out and buy a timing belt, then dangle it from your rear view mirror until the 60,000 miles is up. Believe me, there are crazier things hanging from rear view mirrors these days.-My favorite choice is to paint the word “timing belt” in six inch letters on the front door of the house. The downside with this technique, however, is if you move, you’ve got to take the door with you.Anyway, stupidity begets stupidity. For example, after my car broke down on Vail Pass, I got a car from an upvalley car rental place the next day. This is where things got stupid by a factor of four (S4 on the stupidity gage).First, I stupidly believed the car rental clerk on the phone when she said the car would rent for $217 per week. The bill ended up at $515. How did we get there? The short answer is “through stupidity,” but there are more specific answers.Stupid action No. 2 occurred when the rental clerk asked if I wanted insurance. I asked, “How much?” which was not a stupid question.She answered, “Twenty dollars.”I assumed she meant 20 bucks for the whole seven days. What she really meant, and what the receipt revealed but I didn’t read, was that she meant $20 per day.The key word here is “assume,” which proves once again, assumptions often lead to stupid acts, especially when you’re in a big hurry and just want to get the heck out of there.The next stupid act has its roots an hour earlier back at home. I failed to bring a magnifying glass to read the tiny numbers on the rental car receipt. Had I brought a magnifying glass and used it on the preliminary receipt, I might (“might”) have seen the estimated charge already stood at $437.The final stupid act came upon return of the car. I was charged an extra $43.99 because the car was returned five hours after the seven-day time limit was up, at which point they started gouging by the hour.Again, I stupidly assumed the car must be returned on the seventh day after it was rented, when in reality it had to be returned within the same minute and hour it was rented.The final stupid act came when I didn’t even look at the final receipt until two days later. Had I realized the extra charges when the car was returned, I very well could have faked a massive heart attack at the counter and gotten out of the whole thing.Probably, I could have claimed the unexpected charges caused the heart attack, and sued for several million dollars.So there you go on the stupidity front. Lesson learned?Change your timing belt, read the fine print, and never rule out a lawsuit the next time you do something really stupid.

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