Hung Up

I’d never noticed these little thingies on the palm trees at the beach.

Miles run today: 3

Words written in my novel so far: 37,574

Car essays I should write for a best-selling memoir: 52

You may not believe this, but I have another car episode to share with you. If you’re playing catch-up, you can check out some of my earlier angst here.

So today, I was over at my hubby’s work, helping out around the office and finishing Cutting for Stone, crying and hoping the person on the other end of the phone thought I had a cold.

After lunch with the hubs, I rushed off, thinking of the ten million and one things I needed to get done.  I turned out of his industrial street singing “Call Me Maybe,” sunshine and happiness, and all heck broke loose.

Just over my left shoulder, on the driver’s side in the region of my Achille’s heel, the sliding door, a God-awful metallic thumping-and-banging started up.

My first thought: my door has decided to take leave of the minivan, all on its own.

My second thought: crime has finally come to my town, and someone has jumped on the side of my car, Fast and Furious/Jason Bourne-style, trying to get in, wielding a machine gun. Or machete. Yes, machete sounds more ominous.

So I pulled into a right turn lane that I had never seen anyone pull into so I could climb out and do battle with the machete-wielding dude on my rear wheel-well, and the car right behind me was turning right. I’m serious: people never turn right there.

I hop right out with my best ninja pose.

And there was no one there. The door was still on the car (albeit missing a handle).

But a mangled, twisted clothes hanger was sticking out of my rear tire. And it had been beating my car, trying to get unstuck.

So I used my big-girl muscles and yanked it out, expecting air to come shooting out of the tire in a big WHOOSH!

Nothing.

I drove into a nearby parking lot and did what every self-respecting, independent woman does when confronted with tires that are supposed to be spewing air but aren’t: I called my husband.

Two calls.

Three calls. I mean… I was just there.

“Hello?”

“I got a coat hanger in my tire.”

Silence.

Sometimes I get the feeling people aren’t excited to talk to me. This was a time like that.

“What did you do?”

“I pulled it out.” Duh.

Sigh. “I wish you had called me.”

This is when I kept my mouth shut so it doesn’t say things I don’t want it to.

That’s how I ended up about a quarter of a mile down the street at Tire King, which I’ve never visited, which is right next to the defunct Dog House, which looks like a large version of a dog house with a huge hot dog on top, which I also never visited but never ceased to interest me, which is just across the street from Capi’s Deli, which is actually a gas station which everyone tries to convince me sells the best sub sandwiches this side of the Mississippi.

So I enter Tire King in my old running clothes, no makeup, all ready for The Run That Never Happened (or really, the run that happened after all this, in 90-degree heat and sun).

I told the woman at the counter my sob story and asked if they could plug the hole.

She had the cool kind of silver hair that’s all spiky, and you could tell she ran the place, man. I bet if Larry the Tire Guy said the “F” word, she would probably give him a Look and remind him how profanity doesn’t happen on her turf. I knew all that about her and more just by seeing how she tucked in her Tire King polo shirt all neat-like even though she dealt with greasy guys all day long.

“We don’t plug; we patch,” she said.

Believe me when I say that if she had offered to stick part of her turkey sandwich in the hole just so I could finish my errands, I would have paid her $25.

She gave me an I’m-so-sorry look. “I have 25 cars in front of yours; it’s the Friday of Labor Day weekend,” she said.

But inexplicably, she followed me out to the car, leaving her turf unwomanned. The tide of my luck was turning.

We both bent over the back tire and made faces at the scratches the hanger had made on my sliding door’s paint job. It’s amazing how much damage can occur in a quarter-mile.

Then I got in the car and did a cool reverse jobbie with the door open that I never get to do, so I felt cool and kind of like a car expert. Next thing you know, I’d be jumping in the driver’s side window, Dukes of Hazard style.

A Tire King jumpsuited guy came over and sprayed the tire with Windex, which made me think, “Well, now, I know it’s dirty, but uh…”

Supposedly, magic bubbly things would happen had there been a hole.

No magic happened.

“So, wing and a prayer, huh?” I asked them, trying not to imagine my crunched-up body landing in some ditch with a tire blowout.

The Tire King directed me to an open bay and filled up all of my tires.

And there you go: I got all of my tires filled up for free. I mean, that doesn’t happen every day, folks. Even the gas stations charge you 25 cents.

“Well, you might have a slow leak…” Tire King said, who smiled and said he was headed out to a local lake for the long weekend. “Have a great weekend!”

Do you remember in The Princess Bride when Billy Crystal/Miracle Max is in the little hut, watching the heroes leave, and his wife asks if he thinks they’ll make it, and Miracle Max says, “It’ll take a miracle!”

Yeah, that’s the way I feel about whether I get most places these days. Cross my fingers, say a little prayer. Try not to get hung up.

A Simple Machine and Turning 100!

100 blog posts and counting! Thank you for stopping by.

Miles run today: 8

Words written in my novel so far: 29,180 (there was some slash-and-burn and rewriting)

Blog posts written since I started this blog in January: 100!

First of all, I wanted to say thank you to every one of you who has chosen to follow this blog or just stopped by once and a while. As a writer, it’s nice to think that someone out there in the world is reading some small thing I’ve written. I appreciate all of your comments and support. And happy 100th blog post, Writing by the Numbers! Yippee!

I think I’ve said it before, and so has my mental soul-mate, James Dyson: Things should work properly.

My problem, of course, is that I expect them to work properly in a forever kind of way. Whether it’s cars, can openers or human bodies, I am dismayed when things cease to function. Why, world? Why?

As my good friend pointed out the other day, you are only healthy and bouncy and fit until you aren’t.

And in a weird parallel to a car-obsessed teenage boy, my car issues distress me far more than they should.

Let’s go back, Wayne’s World-style (doo-doo-doo, doo-doo-doo), in time: Our minivan, a vehicle which was helping me overcome my car trust issues, began showing its age earlier this year.

First there was the tire pressure sensor, which has never worked on our minivan. Never.

Then, the check engine light came on, which actually only means that the knock sensor is broken. I alternate from being completely paranoid and sure that the car will blow up at any second to oddly detached, imagining a memorial service with a poster-sized photo of our minivan propped up beside my collection of ashes.

This spring, the door latch for the hatchback broke. No trips for us! My husband sent off for the part and fixed it.

About a month ago, my kids and I were headed out on a routine visit to the library. We walked out to the car during a slight drizzle, and I pressed the button on my key fob to open the side door. It opened obediently, and my kids hopped in.

I glanced back at my son, like ahem, please close the door. He gave me a Look.

It was the Look of Impossibility. That door was not closing. Not on its gentle runners, with the click of a button, not manually, with a gentle shove. Nope. Not happening.

And the drizzle? You guessed it. Monsoon season began. Rain was driving its way sideways into the minivan.

I rushed out, summer rain drenching me within 1.3 seconds. I pushed the door, I pulled the door, I beckoned it into its appropriate place. Uh-uh. A crack the size of the Nile allowed water to drip-drip-drip inside.

Later, when I came back outside to work on it during a more manageable deluge, I got it closed. My husband said I did it exactly the wrong way.

Trust me on this: there was no right way except closed.

So now, there is another sensor on the dashboard that screams at me: POWER DOOR.

What this really means is: NO POWER DOOR.

I started calling it a Serial Killer Vehicle. You can get in, but you can’t get out.

This might have been the point when God started laughing at me, like “Woman, you think this is bad? You really are naive.”

A few weeks later, the kids and I were packing to leave for my parents. My husband, vascillating between a “Yippee! I get time to myself!” and “Awwwww, I’m going to miss you guys” decided to detail our car as a going-away treat.

As I stood in the bathroom, packing toiletries, he came around the corner with his hands behind his back.

“OK. Don’t freak out,” he said.

I’m freaking out I’m freaking out I’m freaking out. “OK, I won’t.”

My hands were also behind my back, the fingers crossed. Raise your hand if you wouldn’t be freaking out. Hey. You there, with your hand in the air. You’re lying.

“So. I was cleaning the car, and I was being really gentle, and I wasn’t being rough or anything… and, um…” He brought his hands out from behind his back. There was a broken door handle in his hand.

“What’s that?” I asked, still comfortable in my ignorance. The little broken door handle didn’t look like such a big deal.

“It’s um… the door handle for the sliding door on the other side.”

“The what?!?! The other side?!?!? I’m freaking out I’m freaking out I’m freaking out!”

“Yeah. I was afraid of that. Now listen…” he said.

And he walked me out to the car and showed me how we’d have to open the sliding door from the inside.

As the kids and I set off on our adventure, I told them that when they were little, I worried that someone might try to open the door and jump in. But now I’m not worried. Ain’t nobody jumping in our car. Our minivan is like a riddle wrapped in a mystery wrapped in an enigma. Or something like that.

As parts continue to fall off of our car, I feel nostalgic for stuff like teleportation and astral projection and stuff.

I am exactly like the Highlander (the TV version, although the movie was campy-good, too): destined to watch well-loved simple machines around me crumble and die.

As the hunky immortals with the Scottish accents once wondered onscreen: How can you risk your love on something you know you will outlive?

I’m sure I’ll get over it. I’ll move on. But not before another few car parts fall off as future fodder for my blog.

Ode to My Things

O, can opener,

O, key fob,

O, computer,

O, car with so many vexing moving parts,

Why can’t you be like me:

A simple machine.