Monday, August 22, 2005

when you’re a Jet-ta: "adventures" with cars

Just once before I die I’d like to say I traded in a car instead of tried vainly to donate what was left of one.

Well, darn if our car shopping stalled a long time ago and darn if that didn’t come around to kick me in the pantelones. The fact that my car would choose to die on a weekend when there is a major car show in town attracting people from all over the world who want to show off, sell, and/or buy each other’s incredibly expensive, sleek, racy machines is not something that surprises me. The car gods have no mercy. They are a cruel, mirthless lot that enjoy irony and human suffering.

It’s really not as bad as it sounds, though. I mean, when my car just refused to continue moving in the intersection of two busy four-lane roads with my baby in the back, causing me to fear being rear-ended before I could find my flashers and extract Isaac from his car seat and then dodge minivans (it’s always the freaking minivans!) to reach safe ground, I was, after all, on my way to a gynecological check up. So you see how my life doesn’t completely suck.

Once we escaped to the sidewalk, I turned to the first people I saw walking by – two men, one possibly approaching fifty and smoking a tiny cigarette butt, and one older and more wizened in the face. I had failed to find my flashers myself, you see, and I asked for their help. They kindly suggested actually pushing my car off the road. Ah, this sounded like a plan even better than the one I had concocted.

They were on it in a skipped heartbeat and then, before I knew it there were more of them – two more, three, four, five? At least six or seven men had convened on my lame vehicle – appearing all at once out of carpet showrooms and from behind desks at notary publics. They were all around the blasted Jetta shouting and steering and aiming for the nearest parking lot. They had, it would seem, been waiting for just this moment: staring at the clock ticking slowly through their Friday afternoon, just wishing for a chance to push a car. And then I showed up and their dreams were realized.

I called my midwife – whose house I was headed to in the first place – and she set out to get me and the babe. By then, most of the cleanup team was withdrawing, back to their sorry 9-5 existences, their short-lived glory a fading memory.

The two original men and I had questions for each other: "Are you sure your friend is coming?" they asked in chivalrous tones. I told them yes. "Are you sure I can leave my car there for a while?" I asked them. "This is our neighborhood," they told me, "We’ll take care of it." All of a sudden I was in West Side Story? (When you’re a Jet-ta, you’re a Jet-ta all the way…) "Give a call to Wayside Garage," they further advised. "Tell ‘em Woody sent you," said the older man. He’d been behind the wheel in the triumphant pushing episode. Woody. Yes, of course. Of course, your name would be Woody. What else would it be?

This is where your parent brain kicks in and you turn to your baby who is squinting from the midday sun and thinking about beginning to wail, and lie as best you know how. "We’re on an adventure!" I said brightly to Isaac. "Here we go!" I continued, as if reading a conversation between Pooh and Piglet, and punched the button for the cross walk signal harder than I needed to.

The people at the carpet store brought a chair out on the sidewalk for me to sit down. And that’s where I was when Maggie found me. Planted in orange floral upholstery, absurdly stationed on the sidewalk of Broadway Avenue, still sticking to my "adventure" story.

In the moment the adventure line makes some sense, but I refuse to carry it too far. I don’t know about your childhood photos, but ours have always included the shots with the cars. There’s the family, standing next to the car. The brother posed with the first moving hunk of metal he made run himself. "Oh that was the station wagon your father loved," people caption. Or, "Remember that Ford? What a good car," they muse, looking past the collection of small people dressed up and looking miserable clustered in front of the heavy doors. How come there’s never a picture of the piece of shit that had a penchant for untimely hood releases, or Kodak moments of when the U-Haul hitch broke on the bridge that time? If we’re gonna document here, then let’s get down to it. When I get myself back to the new spot where my car died for the second time after Mike added the part he was sure it needed, I’m bringing the camera. It’s going in the baby book. "Look here, Isaac. This car sucked. See the peeling paint on the roof? Here we are standing by the side of the road, stranded."

The only thing worse than having a car die, is the exercise of buying another one. Stay tuned.


tracy said...

My Jetta tried to kill me. You're lucky yours just tried to get you a date with Woody.

Seat heater caught on fire and nearly burned me (seat heaters come with leather whether you want them or not. I happened to like them. Had no idea they would try to kill me).

This was after a dozen trips to the dealer for all these oddball things. I finally bought a Scion and am happier than ever. *sigh*

I do hope you don't have a Jetta like I had. RUN!

Kitty said...

hey, we ARE living parallel lives...we've been seriously considering scions. do you have the box or another? how's their safety record?

Anonymous said...

Two comments:

1. No one ever says remember that great FORD. At least no one in my family whose been screwed multiple times by my mom's f-ed up Tempo.

2. I can beat Woody: My aunt's car broke down years ago and she just left it with someone named "Snake." I'm not kidding.


tracy said...

I LOVE LOVE LOVE the Scion. I got the xA because, if you are patinet, you can get one with side airbags. In my case, it was totally serendipitous that the dealer had one on the way when I walked in that day. Put my name on it, drove it home when it came in. It drives well. I got a sunroof put in (you cannot do that in the boxy xB), added leather because of the dog... alarm and tint (which is required in this part of the world) and totaled out around 17k. Starts at 13 though. Very lovely car. I have no problems on the highway keeping up with traffic. And parking downtown is awesome. Highly recommended.

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