Tuesday, January 12, 2010

On the fritz cuz my car is a ditz

Vinny died, but my co-workers weren't ready for his funeral.

Experts who heal the body are called doctors, but non-experts who heal the Volvo are called life-savers.

Cowboy and I made a plan Thursday evening, the night my car wouldn't start for the fourth time in as many weeks. But this time, Vinny was stubborn. Ignoring jumper cables they way I ignored my mother's pleas to clean my room, Vinny was cold, frigid and probably PMSing.

I'll replace the battery, Cowboy said, I'm sure that's all it is.

But what if it's not?

I'd agonized over a new car purchase for months. I've only done it once before, and by "done it" I mean my dad made all the calls, negotiations and even paid for it. I just had to test drive and sign. I don't have that luxury now. I live alone, in a state in which I know no car dealers. Used car salespeople are almost as scary as a 40 degree day in January: you know it won't last. Plus, adding car payments to my budget is something my current job and the income from this blog ($5 since October :)  ) barely allow.

So Friday morning consisted of baking, blogging and feeling sorry for myself over coffee I'd made the morning before and reheated in the microwave (note the budget). Exposing my emotions through writing allows a catharsis no car trouble can defeat. I posted a blog that day, but I left out the part of me weeping, in the shower, the stream of water fusing with my tears.

It sounds so over-dramatic. Gain perspective, Katie. You could loseyourjob watchyourchilddie contractcancer and getsomerealproblems. But my shoulders heaved with the weight of automobile asphyxiation anyway. I was wallowing in a misery not even peanut butter balls could cure.

I avoided Cowboy's call Thursday evening. I wasn't ready for him to hear me with crybaby in my voice. But screening him seemed worse. He knew I was home. I'd just texted saying so. To not answer may have caused more explaining, more problems, more tears.

"I can help you, you're my girl," offering reassurance I didn't believe.

So when the phone rang Friday morning and caller ID announced a foreign number, I answered wearily.

"When are you coming to work? The tow truck's waiting for you," the caller said.

Excuse me?

"It's all ready to go," she said. "We just need your keys."

Not planning to work until the afternoon, I was un-make-uped and unprepared. In 15 minutes or less, I juggled mascara with clean underwear, allowing just enough time to bag the cookies I'd made for all the co-workers likely to chauffeur me.

Within minutes, three colleges and myself (does standing there count as helping?) hooked a rope from Vinny to the truck, a redneck tow typical of foreign cars, co-worker said. Foreign cars are shit, she advised. They have hooks on both ends because they're towed so often.

Not offended, I begged her not to hook it, just ram Vinny, I thought. Ram him until his white paint bleeds.

So Vinny was placed in timeout, AKA, the office garage, where I embarrassed him in front of his peers, insulted his mother and kicked the front wheel tire. Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned. How dare you defy me make me cry? 

In the garage, another co-worker hooked up his battery charger and Vinny's block heater. In minutes, my car was warm, fuzzy and sucking on battery charger like breast milk in a bottle. I'm almost felt bad. You're OK Vinny I nurtured, patting his rear view mirror and stroking his bruised bumper, you'll feel better. 

On the third hour, Vinny's battery charged and I'm not kidding, the car ROSE FROM THE DEAD. I need some eggs and a bunny, it's freaking Easter around here.

By the end of the work day, my car not only defrosted, but started too. STARTED. And even though I thought my problems were over, the giving was not. One co-worker phoned his dad, an auto-mechanic by trade. What do you think she should do? he asked.

I don't know, what kind of oil does she use? he offered.

I shook my head. Canola for baking and olive for sautéing?

Another co-worker's finance with two kids of his own, skipped Friday night daddy-bonding time to clean Vinny's lines and test for additional deficiencies.

What do I owe you? I asked, a question typical of North Dakotans after someone jumps their car, gives them a ride or a push through knee-deep snow.

Nothing, he answered. Another North Dakota custom.

Sometimes people just like to do nice things, Cowboy said. They feel better helping someone than they do getting paid.

Well, not giving back makes my feelings of bad turn to worse.

So I'm going car shopping this weekend and making office-wide chili this week. If I can't fill my gas tank, at least I can fill the bellies of people who can.

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