Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Check Engine Light

I'm driving the husband-in-law's car today. Mostly because his has gas in it, and mine doesn't, plus my tires are low, and his aren't. Every time I try to put air in my tires, I let the air out instead, so it's a good idea if I don't do that.

When I dropped off my Mom for a doctor's visit in it, the only thing she said was, "for God's sake, don't break it. It probably cost more than you make in a year." (I suspect she underestimates his car and overestimates my job.) He left the insurance card with the key though when he and my gay husband jetted off to Santorini, so I'm sure he's well covered. And I'm an excellent driver. Excellent, excellent driver.

I have to admit, it's darn sporty. Not to mention quick. As much as I've always loved my monstrous SUV, I bought it primarily to haul two monstrous dogs, who aren't around any more (God rest their souls). My friend Walt made no small amount of fun when I got it, marveling at how he'd never seen a straight girl so obsessed with large dogs and tow capacity.

Push it. Push it real good.
It's a little ...liberating...to hit the gas and not be dragging three tons of steel behind me for a change. And anyone could grow accustomed to the attention it gets. At first, I thought my new haircut was really working it, but then I realized that the men pulling up at traffic lights and whistling admiringly were actually pointing at the car. I had just forgotten I was driving it. I'm also guilty of forgetting the fact that it is a nice ride, because it's one of the few that could legitimately wear the bumper sticker that says, "my other car is a Ferrari." (And here it is a few Easters ago, captioned, as it usually is, with "Push It Real Good.")

I could've been driving it if I'd really wanted the men-at-traffic-lights attention, but first, I would've had to get it started, and then I would've had to hope it would make it around the block. And while it's admittedly a beauty, it's a beast to drive. That's a high class problem, but it isn't my high class problem, because it isn't my car. But my general experience is that performance cars are just like those men, a lot of work. (Though everyone jokes that the guy I marry will have to wear a t-shirt that says, "my other husband has a Ferrari." And not one guy I have ever gone out with has thought that was one bit funny.)

After a summer plagued by mysterious "engine trouble," I have had to think about the much-dreaded day when it comes time to replace the old workhorse. This SUV is only the third car I've ever had. I don't choose them lightly. And my primary pre-occupation with them has always been, and always will be, does it start every single time I get in it, and will it take me from point A to point B without any unscheduled maintenance stops along the way? Nothing inspires me to fall apart faster than a breakdown. Will I be trapped? Can I walk from here? What if I can't get home? Do I have to live here now?

I read Stephen King's story "Big Driver" this summer -- all about the worst things that could ever happen to a woman stranded by car trouble -- and trust me, it's nothing compared to what goes through my head every time a transmission stutters. One of my girlfriends was driving her brand new convertible on a Chicago expressway this summer when everything suddenly and inexplicably died. Every instrument, gauge, and needle. Dead. Telling me the story, she said, "oh, I knew exactly what you'd have been thinking."

"What?" I asked.

"That I got ripped off. That I'd bought a lemon. That I should've taken you shopping with me."

All good guesses (and all true), but nope. I'd have been thinking one thing when all the lights went out. "Nuclear winter."

She clearly wasn't expecting that answer, but that would've been my go-to theory. That, or an alien invasion like War of the Worlds. I'm no scientist, but I know there's something about atomic bombs and aliens that kill the electromagnetic pulses, so yeah. That would've been my assumption. Humoring me, she acknowledged that, ok, that might've been ... plausible... except, she asked, "wouldn't you notice if all the cars around you kept going?"  It's a testament to my sheer ability to catastrophize that that hadn't even occurred to me.

I'd have to let go of some of those obsessions if I traded in my ultra-hardy survivalist four-wheel drive for some zippy little two-seater.  I don't see it happening.


2003: Car Trouble
My First Car

No comments:

Post a Comment