"What's the letter, Moe?" Narleen, attacking her lunch, asked between bites.
"It's a rambler, that's for sure," I replied. "The gist of her question is: She has been told by her mechanic that she should change her oil at certain intervals, because with use, the oil's additive package breaks down. So, what the heck is an additive package, anyway?"
The letter is signed: Angela.
Always first to react, Narleen hurriedly swallowed a mouthful of ground round. "When I stop to think about it," she said, "I really don't know that much about oil, myself. I do know that some of the chemicals they stick in are called EP additives. These substances react with metal surfaces to form a protective layer that slows mechanical wear. But that's about the size of my knowledge."
I had to act cool. "I always remember anti-oxidants, because Mrs. Motorhead works for a doctor. This additive keeps oxygen from mixing with the oil. Corrosives in oxidized oil can damage the delicate metals that are used in the rod and main bearings."
We turned and questioned Guacamoto with our eyes. Guac fidgeted on his stool and remained silent. Finally he responded: "I am not well versed in the magic of lubrication, but I know who is: Let's ask Mr. Viscous."
Narleen and I looked at each other and gaped. "Who the hell is Mr. Viscous?"
"You don't know Mr. Viscous?" Disbelief ran off Guac's tongue. "Mr. Viscous is the ancient, cosmic god of oil. He's been around forever. Prehistoric Mayans knew him as Muca, early Romans called him Lubriticus and the pioneers of the American West simply used the name Porkrindo. We now know him as Mr. Viscous.
"In order to contact him one must chant certain olden refrains that will conjure his visage and vast stores of knowledge. However, we'll need some kind of vessel or venue, like a TV screen or a fish bowl. I'd bet your computer monitor would work.
"I'll start the chant and you guys join in." Guacamoto settled into a meditative trance and began: "Clicka clacka, hi, clacka hiney ho." After a few rounds, Narleen and I joined the chorus: "Clicka, clacka, hi, clacka hiney ho."
Suddenly the angelfish screen saver gave way to a countenance with a bald head and enormous ears. "Ross Perot," I thought, yet the facial bone structure was less familiar. The face on the screen twisted into an intimidating scowl.
"What do you want? How dare you awaken a great god in the middle of the day? Who are you? I haven't even had time to wind my turban. Awwk!"
Guacamoto spoke up. "Oh, your honor, ah, your godyness, I wasn't sure you existed. I thought you were just one of those stories my grandfather told. But you're real! Wow! Mr. Viscous, we've got a women here who needs to know about oil additive packages. Can you help?"
"I know, I know," Mr. Viscous turned suave and happy to see us. "I've been watching you out of the corner of my sleepy eye. Motorhead, you and Narleen were right to mention Extreme Pressure Additives and Oxidation Inhibitors, but that's only part of the story." He zoomed back on the monitor screen and stood at a podium addressing us. "The oil additives you failed to mention may be the most important ones," he said. "There are detergents that deter deposits from forming, and dispersants that carry them away if they do. There are rust and corrosion retardants, and chemicals that keep the oil from foaming by allowing air bubbles to escape. How about chemicals that make your oil pour when it's thirty below?
"Man, you guys are so lucky. When I was a boy...." The Ross Perot image changed into the likeness of a young Timothy Leary and disappeared.
We were back to the angelfish and the lunch counter. Narleen and I sighed, rested our chins on hands supported by elbows. I turned to Guac, amazement in my eyes. "Guacamoto, my good man," I asked, "was that real? I've never seen anything like it."
"I don't know for sure, there might have been acid in the hamburger." Guac resignedly said, "But I didn't get any kind of a stomach rush, did you? My grandpa knows his shit. It was probably real."
Angela, I hope that you have a better understanding of oil additives. But I wouldn't be surprised if you were still as confused as I am.