Sunday, February 11, 2007

My Kingdom for a Horseless Carriage That Works

Yesterday started pretty well. I slept in, drank a lot of coffee, wrote a few pages on the screenplay—all before noon. We had a few errands to run, but nothing major. I could get back home and write some more, watch a movie, get a good night’s sleep. Everything looked good.

Until the RBO decided to break again.

We stopped at Noodles & Company for lunch, and our last errand was a visit to Half Price Books. I had a box full of books I wanted to sell and needed to reload my reading list. We never got there.

When we left Noodles I started the RBO, let it warm up for a few seconds. I try to treat it gently, since I know it’s decrepit and liable to disintegrate at any moment. After the engine sounded comfortable I put the car in reverse—and the shift lever thunked and flopped loose in the console. It wouldn’t move side-to-side, but wobbled front-to-back without any resistance. My car was permanently in reverse. Like my luck.

“I can’t take any more,” I said. I couldn’t even muster up anger or frustration. We have three months until Michele graduates, twelve weeks before we’re secure enough that we can deal with this kind of thing as just another obligation. If the car lasted ninety more days, we could happily wave goodbye as the junk-man hauled it away. We could throw a retirement party for it to match the one my mom had last week. But no. It has to shit the bed during the coldest stretch of the winter (again), and add to the accumulating tension of waiting for grad schools to decide our future.

Where’s the nearest dynamite store?

Anyway, Michele made a call, and Future Brother-In-Law came to the rescue. We gathered our box of books from the back seat and he drove us home, where we were going to get into Michele’s car and finish our errands.

FBIL dropped us off in the parking ramp, we waved goodbye and got into the other car.

It wouldn’t start. The battery was dead.

So a little later the FIL/MIL rescue team showed up. FIL and I went to push the RBO to a car-fixin’ place a couple of blocks from where it died. We did a little low-speed bumper cars thing along the back roads, FIL easing his truck up to the back bumper of the RBO and pushing while I sat in the zombie car and steered.

So we got the car to its destination, I locked it and dropped the keys into the little slot in the door. And realized I’d just locked my hat and gloves in my car. That’s okay, though. The temperature had to be at least zero.

The good news is that we were able to jump Michele’s car to life. Now I can drive that to work for the next couple of days while we wait to find out if the RBO’s worth the cost of fixing it.

I’m back to being tempted by the idea of living in a cave. No phones, no lights, no motor cars—not a single luxury.


Mike said...


It reminds me of the days of yore dealing with the oldsmobubble nickel and diming me to death before I cut bait and bought a newer used car. live in the simpler times when all one had to worry about was keeping warm, scanvenging for food and the avoiding the plague or the red death.

Diana said...

That sucks! Since I seem unable to pass the MN driver's test, I just try to scam, I mean, ask, people for rides. If they're going that way, anyway...

dchmielewski said...

This feels like a blast from the past, lets call the past about 15 years ago. Except, that I always seemed to be able to coax my Accord to life (sometimes by blowing fuel through the carburator with a bicycle air pump ;-) and it never really cost me any money besides a starter from the junk yard and a new battery. That feeling ended abruptly when my grad school stipend allowed me to purchase a "brand new at the time" '92 Civic Si (aka, the tomato). That thing ran like a dream. I wish you a tomato in your near future.

Jerry said...

I truly feel for you. I have had my share of car issues in the past and some in the recent past. I agree with your idea about dynamite. . .Perhaps I should open that store.