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Airbag A-Go-Go

Tales of Traveling With The Airbag Light On
by Crystal Wergin

If anyone happened to see a tan Pontiac Montana minivan driving down the road all by itself recently, that was me.

Actually, I was behind the wheel but you just couldn't see me because I was driving with my seat pushed as far back in the reclining position as far as it would go.

It all started last week when my husband told me that the airbag light had come on in his van and stayed on.

"We'll have to take it in," he said, knowing full well that "we" wouldn't be doing anything of the sort, but that "we" translated into "you," which meant "I" would be taking it in.

The next morning he handed me the keys to his minivan, climbed into my car, and just before pulling out of the driveway said,"Yeah, a friend of mine said it's a good thing we're taking it right in because that bag could go off at any time. Bye hon."

Well, gee, did that friend happen to have any idea as to the probability of that happening while "we" are driving down the freeway at 65 miles per hour en route to the dealership?

After pondering for a moment, there was only one scenario I could envision when an airbag deploying unexpectedly would probably not get you killed, and that was a head-on collision.

Because, the way I saw it, if the airbag deployed at any other time while you were driving, it would more than likely scare you so bad it would cause you to lose control, sending you careening into oncoming traffic, causing a collision which, come to think of it, would kill you because you'd used your airbag two seconds earlier.

"We" were not looking forward to the drive to the dealership. Transporting plutonium seemed like a safer bet.

Luckily the dealership was located just across town. I could take the side streets at 25 mph, and if the airbag blew unexpectedly it would likely only send me careening into someone's front yard where I would finish out my heart attack and die.

The appointed hour came. I gingerly turned on the ignition, leaning as far back from the steering wheel as possible. The airbag light was still on. Had I owned a pair of Depends I would have been wearing them. I reclined the seat to what is probably called the "laying flat" position. I couldn't see the road, but I was out of reach of the airbag. I was also out of reach of the gas pedal.

After some minor readjustments "we" were on our way, sailing down my street at 3 miles per hour. I was prepared to pilot this unstable vessel the full mile and a half to the dealership.

Finally, I arrived at the dealership, hyperventilating, sweating profusely and with a kink in my neck. "We" made it.

I breathlessly explained the problem to the repairman, who nodded and told me he could not repair the car until the following week.

I felt safe with the repairman. I knew he would have the answer to why the airbag light was on, and would tell me that my husband's friend was full of hot air and not to worry about driving the car back home. I knew he would say all the right things to dispel all of my fears and I would feel silly for driving all the way here lying on my back. So I chuckled nonchalantly and asked him if it was safe, in the meantime, to drive the car with the airbag light on like that.

He looked at me with his kind, understanding mechanic eyes and quipped, "Legally, I can't tell you."

To the average person, that remark might have meant, "Legally, I can't tell you." But to a person who just drove a mile and a half with a live bomb ticking inside her steering wheel, what I heard was, "The last time I told someone the airbag wouldn't go off, it deployed right after they drove out of the parking lot which scared the driver so bad he lost control, hit a couple of gas pumps at the gas station across the street and blew up the entire town."

At that point, driving the car home seemed, I don't know, suicidal?

"Mind if I wait for it?" I said.