Car trouble (or, how a lack of a car gene makes you look like a tool in just a few easy steps)
I like to brag sometimes that I’m not a typical “guy,” though as I get older I’m not even quite sure what that means anymore. For example, I have impeccable taste in shoes, but at the same time am most comfortable in bare feet or old Chucks. I think that is what they call a paradox, or irony, or something like that. Anyway, one of the downsides to my lack of guy-ness is that I know absolutely squat about cars. I was born completely missing the “car gene.” I know my car runs on unleaded, and I can change a tire in a pinch, but outside of that my only really concern about my car is that it has enough head and leg room for my 6’4” frame and that I can somehow transport my bike in it if need be.
The downside to all of this is that I probably spend more money than is needed on simple car repairs and I don’t know what the hell to do when the car doesn’t start. Well, I take that back, I know to call AAA. I’m a premium, gold card member of AAA baby. I’m resigned to the fact that my lack of car skills is helping to support the local economy by this point. Still though, there are times when other guy looks down on me for my lack of car skillz. They don’t say anything, but I can tell from the scathing looks of scorn and disgust that they are judging me, the way the rest of society views Scientologists or people who watch Teen Mom.
Today was one of those days.
I was set to leave work in my trusty 2004 Honda Odyssey (yes, it’s a minivan, even now I can feel your scorn) that has 165,000 miles but still runs well and is of course completely paid for by this time. (My attempts to make it “cooler” by adding a sweet bike rack and Merge Records sticker have only been minimally successful.) I put the key into the ignition and turned, only the car wouldn’t start. No problem I thought. As the car has aged it sometimes starts sluggishly, but usually if I give it a sec and maybe tap the gas it starts right up. So I tried it again, and was met with the same “ku-chugga, ku-chugga” sound, but it wouldn’t fully turn over.
I went back inside the office and gave the car a few minutes to rest. She’s old and is just being cranky I thought. After 10 minutes, I went out and tried again – no luck. No luck a few minutes later either. Well, like I said, I’m a gold premium plus awesome AAA member (that might not be the accurate name of my membership level , but it’s close). So I pulled out my trusty card and called, and within minutes help was speeding my way. While I waited I called a few folks and let them know what was going on, and, before you know it, tow truck was there. He was friendly and professional, but I could still feel the shame he felt for me in his eyes as I described my problem.
He asked me try and start it again so he could hear the problem, and I laughed and said something like “Boy, I’ve been trying to do that for half an hour, wouldn’t it be funny if it started right up.” He chuckled politely, but I know deep inside his shame for me was growing, even though he never betrayed his true feelings.
Guess what happened? It started. Of course it did. By this time I could feel my smiling tow truck drivers shame for me spilling over into equal parts pity and outright disgust, like a wayward samurai in a Kurosawa film who has brought everlasting shame and dishonor on his family by his dastardly deeds.
I thanked my friendly driver, but couldn’t bear to meet his gaze and look him in the eyes. My shame was too great. I took advantage of my running vehicle to bring it into the shop (it’s a Honda dealer, I told you I’m a moron) and get it looked at, so here I sit, surrounded on all sides by car guys. I know they are in the back, pointing and laughing, probably making up ridiculous, nonexistent problems (“Well, sir, it seems that your Johnson vibration rod has deflagulated.” “What’s that you say? Please, take my wallet and excuse me while I go sell some plasma.”)
At least they have pretty decent coffee and a rocking 80’s soundtrack playing (But not, as it turns out, working wifi, so you won’t read this tale of woe until after the fact). I just sang a rousing rendition of I Can’t Fight This Feeling Anymore along with the Speedwagon in my head. (Now I have an irresistible urge to go roller skating.) Maybe if I stay here long enough I can look up some videos online that will teach me how to change oil or do something complicated like deflagulate rods. Wish me luck.