German Cars and Scarlett O’Hara

Sometimes, life throws a few tacks in our paths when we should stop, take notice, and reassess. I’m probably not one to be discussing how to handle these particular opportunities since I’m currently the poster child for What Not to Do. I am better now, though, at recognizing the tacks in others’ paths so that they can avoid problems that will only make things worse.

The MoH is swamped at work right now. Buried. Shot. Flatter than a pancake. His tongue’s dragging on the ground. So unfortunately, his optimistic, “I’ll be home by early afternoon” this past Friday didn’t pan out. It rarely does, as he’s usually the last one in the office taking care of what needs to get done. When he did finally arrive, he let me know that he’d be working both Saturday and Sunday. Saturday is normal, but Sunday? During football season? Like I said. Swamped.

He set the alarm for 7AM, but he’s stuck in that cycle of not being able to sleep because he thinks about work while he’s sleeping, then wakes up. I guess he was awake for over three hours, so the alarm snooze button was hit several times over the course of an hour Saturday morning before he dragged himself to the shower, and then without making his morning cup of tea, went down to the garage telling me he’d be home after 2:00 or so.

Some time passed, and I could hear noises coming from the garage. It sounded like the MoH hadn’t left yet, so I tentatively went to find out what was going on, and he opened the door right as I was ready to turn the knob.

“What are you still doing here?” I asked, cheerfully, because I’m never sure what kind of reaction I’ll get. I glance behind him to notice his car still in its spot in the garage, and the hood and trunk open. “What’s wrong with your car?” I continued, wanting to help because the MoH is not mechanically inclined in any way on this earth. I know he could be, but he’s just not interested, and that’s fine with me because he throws things occasionally when he’s forced to deal with small parts that don’t look like numbers. “What’s it doing?”

Act like you’re checking under the hood. “It’s not doing anything. That’s why I’m still here,” he told me, more resigned than pissed off.

“Get in and start it,” I told him, nudging him back to the car. He complied and instead of an engine turning over and the resulting low growl of the mean, lean, driving machine, all we got was a series of loud clicks.

“The battery’s dead,” I said, because it sounded important, but I found myself thinking it could also be the alternator. Ugh. Or the starter. No, the starter makes a funny sound when it goes, but it had been so many years since I’d experienced that, I went back to the more attractive battery diagnosis instead.

“Do we have jumper cables?” he asked, looking at me and knowing what my answer would be.

“Uh. No,” I told him, remembering that when my oldest son was “en casa,” we were completely spoiled, because he completely understands cars. He’s the one who would have the jumper cables. Not the MoH or myself. I sighed and asked him to get out his car manual being the nerd I am, thinking that somehow, the manual would provide some insight. At the same time, I couldn’t help but think that the MoH was just not supposed to go to work that day. It hadn’t been more than a year that his car was completely gone over after the conclusion of his lease, and presented as a “certified pre-owned” brand-spankin’ sorta new car. And since we were the former owners, what could be wrong?

Sardine Car Parts Encased in Plastic or Something What is up with the way car engines look now days? Everything has some kind of a cover over it and is so tightly packed together, none of it resembles anything recognizable. I used to be able to find a battery in my old Honda Civic and my ’72 Jeep CJ-5. I knew where the alternator was, the carburator, the radiator…Now I can sort of tell what the engine is, but it’s covered in some kind of a case, too. By the time my daydream ended, the MoH was searching through his car manual trying to find where the battery was. It was a bit sad, the two of us standing there, feeling like we were supposed to know something — anything — about automobiles.

He ended up digging in his wallet for his Roadside Assistance card and headed into the house before I told him to take my car and that I’d take care of his cute little, very high maintenance vehicle that shouldn’t have any need for any attention. Ever. Especially considering that my trusty car is in dire need of a check up and just keeps plugging along. How long has the “Service Needed” light been glowing on the dash?

I called the Roadside Assistance number sheepishly wondering if one’s garage counts as “roadside,” and feeling very incapable. The woman who answered the phone was the goddess of all customer service representatives as far as I’m concerned. I’m still in awe just thinking about the experience. I don’t think I’ve ever been called ma’am, or Mrs. W. as many times as during that phone call. N. I. C. E. I was told a service vehicle would be out within 60 minutes and that he would jump start the car. If that didn’t work, I was to call her back so she could send a flatbed tow truck out to pick up the car and take it to have it looked at. I wondered if they’d send a blanket to keep it warm on its ride as well.

Well, the guy got there in 20 minutes — just enough time for me to put real clothes on, brush my hair, and slap a bit o’ make up on. I didn’t want to scare him off with my usual hag state. The car started right up, he told me to let it run for about 20 minutes, and then things would be fine. I didn’t have to sign anything and was told to have a nice day. Okay. Roger that.

But I did make the very conscious mistake of deciding to go down the hill to Trader Joe’s even though I’ve never liked driving the MoH’s car. Even though I don’t know where any of the buttons are. The store is only five minutes away, and I needed things for a friend’s luncheon, so down the hill I went, making it half way there before my constructively pessimistic brain began its litany of reprimands about:

1) choosing to use the car when we weren’t really certain whether anything serious was wrong; 2) leaving the Roadside Assistance card on the kitchen counter right next to the car manual; and 3) having a cell phone most likely hidden and uncharged in the depths of my purse, and wouldn’t that be a bummer if the car didn’t start and I had absolutely nothing to help myself.

I enjoyed my shopping time at Trader Joe’s anyway. Right up until the car wouldn’t start after I’d loaded all my groceries into it. Yes. Then.

Since I’m the epitome of a calm human now, I had nothing to be upset about. No pressing issues, no stresses or strains. Absolutely not a one. So after taking about ten minutes to find how to hook my cell phone adapter to the cigarette lighter and smiling the entire time, I tried to call the MoH to tell him my news. There was enough juice in the battery to operate the windows, dash readouts, and so I knew I’d be able to use my phone. The MoH had put his cell on message, so didn’t have to listen to me tell him about my morning adventure so I called my VBF who was supposed to be getting ready for the luncheon (no, not crustless sandwiches and tea) for our mutual friend.

She had jumper cables.

It took her a while, and in the time I waited, I began to worry that she couldn’t find them, or that she was trying to call me, but didn’t have my cell number. None of my friends have my cell number, because I don’t really use it. I know. Stupid.

I sat there, beginning to think of alternate plans, like guarding the empty parking stall to my right which was close to the battery. Luckily, I had watched the technical service guy that morning and at least was armed with a modicum of possibly worthwhile information. But then two females pulled into the space, sitting there a while discussing a drama from their Friday night. Bummer.

Plan B was to call the RT and have him read me the Roadside Assistance number, and they could send a tow truck to the parking lot to get the MoH’s car. I could have my VBF take my groceries to my house, and I could wait for the tow truck. Then I could walk home since I had my tennies on and god knows needed the exercise. If that isn’t making lemonade outta lemons, I don’t know what is.

But my VBF pulled up behind me right about the time the two females came out of the store, so things were looking up. We’d get the MoH’s persnickety car jump started, I’d be able to make the treats for the luncheon, and we’d figure out what to do about the car later.

Vivian Leigh as Scarlett O’Hara in Gone with the Wind As Scarlett O’Hara said, “Tomorrow is another day.” Right? And one would think that this situation would be much easier a Southern Belle having to eat potatoes out of the field and saving Tara, wouldn’t one?

Well, fiddle-dee-dee. I couldn’t figure out how to open the MoH’s hood. My VBF couldn’t figure it out, either. So that got her wondering if he could open her own. We had already begun to giggle because it was a bit embarrassing. But at least she had her car manual.

She didn’t, however, have her glasses, and she’s more blind than I am. Even in the sunlight. At least I can see in the sun. With my arms extended as far as they can and my head tilted back so I can squint down my nose at the small print.

I called the MoH to find out where the hood latch was, and thankfully, he answered his cell. He quickly let me know where the release was inside the car that would allow me to release the latch in the grill. I told him not to worry, that I’d figure things out, and to go back to work.

When I got off the phone and went to help my VBF find her own hood latch, a nice middle-aged couple who had come to Trader Joe’s expecting a pleasant morning of grocery shopping and not two intelligent women fiddling with their cars, were headed over in our direction. “Can we help?” and “Pop the hood,” began their offers of help. But we laughed and said we didn’t know where the hood latch was. So she got on her cell to call her husband, and about the time that she was opening the driver side door to follow his directions, another young Indian couple came up, the man saying in his musical accent, “the release is usually right next to the door beneath…” he clearly knew what was going on and headed over to figure it out. And so did his wife, because by the time my VBF had ended the conversation with her husband, the woman had popped the hood. Hilarious.

Which thing-a-ma-jiggy connects to that which-a-ma-callit? But then we had to find the battery. So out came the manual again. The young couple couldn’t help us here, but after locating the battery — in a bizarre place behind the back seat? and talking about repositioning her car so we could hook up the jumper cables, the young man asked, “So if you need a jump, I can do that.”

We both looked at each other and laughed, because somehow until that point, no one had thought to ask that very simple question.

“She doesn’t need a jump, I do,” I said, surprising the young man, because through all the commotion of trying to get her hood open, and find the battery, I guess he thought that I was trying to help her. Goodness.

So they popped their hood, spent some time trying to get the cover off their battery as my VBF remarked that all the casing on car engines must be some attempt to force us to need mechanics for the simplest things. You know, like finding your battery. And hooking up the jumper cables.

The Moh’s finnicky little car started right up. Gushing with thanks to the good samaritans who were headed in to finally do their shopping, I quickly headed for home before something else could happen. After unloading the groceries, I left the motor running a good 40 minutes before shutting it off, letting it rest for five minutes, then trying it again to see if it would start.

I did. Hmmm…did I not let it run long enough before heading down to the store?

When the MoH arrived home from work several hours later, I had him try it again, but reminded him to let it run again to recharge if necessary. All went well. Things were fine.

Until this morning when he went out to the garage to go to work.

So there it sits. Waiting for later.

Sometimes you just need to pay attention to the signs.





8 responses to “German Cars and Scarlett O’Hara”

  1. A lesson I will learn some day. In the meantime can you inform me how to become the epitome of a calm human.

  2. AAAhhh now if I was around I could have donned by super redneck cape and swooped down for the rescue…when one runs a big truck for 30 years mechanical knowledge becomes a necessity…I guess a new battery is in order..or a check of the alternator…I find it’s handy to have a solar power charger which you can plug into the ciggy lighter…try your local auto parts store…If the women don’t find you handsome they should find you handy is my motto

  3. Cooper, dear. So many years it has taken to not only flame me up, but now douse that flame. Being hot is highly over rated. Hence, the blog. *sigh*

    Hey Robert. I would have paid money for the view of your redneck cape. Seriously. I’m hoping it’s not the alternator, but fear it is, because the battery’s not holding it’s charge. And OMG. They actually have a solar power charger now? Go figure! Who would need a cape with one of those contraptions? What a stud.

  4. Ritzy

    Sounds like quite the adventure!
    Great story telling!! 🙂
    I hope your luncheon was fun!

  5. Hey Amy — hows the photo business going? Is your portfolio finished yet? The lunch was pleasant. Everybody passed the baby around…

  6. loripea

    OMG that was huhlarryass! I felt like I was reading a really funny book ( I just read one from some Levine laday). That car problem sounds just like the trouble I was having with my mazda. One mechanic would say Battery, the other guy would say alternator, battery, alternator……… My car would actually die right in the middle on my driving adventure and I had to coast over to the side of Jamacha Blvd. and beg a guy to let me use his house phone, had the kids with me, he wouldn’t open the door more than a crack to squeeae the phone out to me (did I look like a killer or was it my 3 year old?).Three batteries and a couple of alternators later it ended up being the wire going between the two. Drove me nuts.

  7. I remember the Mazda debacle, Lori, but I don’t think you ever told me about having to ask to use someone’s phone. Sheesh. I’ve had to do that, too, with that damn Jeep. Remember when I was stuck on the side of the road in the dark at 4am on the South Bay freeway with two babies in the car? There was a huge embankment off the road, and I couldn’t see anything. A young man stopped to give me a jumpstart…

  8. […] is very straight forward, but you do have to plan ahead.  I thought I had, but had a bit of a problem with my husband’s car the day I made them, and well, good thing I hadn’t decided to "dip" or it would […]

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