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October 30, 2005


The battery in our Beetle is dead.

This isn't such an ucommon occurance, having a dead battery. It's more that this is the first car thing that has happened since our move. Our move that places me over 1000 miles away from my regular mechanic--my Dad. My Dad is utterly capable when it comes to mechanical things. He's the guy you call when you need a light rewired, a fence built, a major kitchen appliance installed, or a car repaired. He spent a lot of time when I was a teenager trying to get me to understand how important this sort of thing might be someday. I thwarted every attempt. It's only now that I really wish I had paid more attention. Of course, I never planned to live anywhere that he wouldn't be able to come to my rescue.

Car things really freak me out. I can deal with a lot of stuff pretty rationally (despite my recent bouts of irrational homesick declarations, "I hate Washington! It hates me. Where are the avocados in this state? I want to go back to California!") and am excellent at making decisions in stressful situations. However, something about cars just short circuits my brian.

The only thing I can point to that drives the emotionally meltdown when it comes to car repairs is My First Car. My First Car was an 11 year old Ford Bronco II. This was the first brand new car my Dad has ever bought--purchased on my ninth birthday. I felt a kinship with the Bronco from the moment it drove up--shiny and new--with my family's first VCR sitting in the front seat to seal the deal. I learned to drive stick on the Bronco and, although it was never said, I knew it would be my car. It was my birthday destiny, or rather, a curse, looking at it several years later.

By the time the Bronco was officially tranferred to my ownership, I was 19 years old and driving weekly back and forth from San Diego to Irvine for school (75 miles one way). Add this to the 200,000+ miles already on the car and you get the most unreliable transportation ever. The car developed a number of mystifying quirks that I couldn't afford to have diagnosed, let alone repaired.

Planning on stopping at that stop sign? Hope you don't plan on moving for 10 or 15 mintues, as the engine would die and not start again until it had a breather. Need to get somewhere quickly? Schedule 5 or 10 minutes to jiggle the key around in the ignition until the car decides to recognize it. I didn't used to know what U-Joints are, now I know they hold the drive shaft on, because one broke and my driveshaft rested on the freeway as I drove along one time. The Bronco went through those like The Jeffrey goes through chew toys (weekly, in some cases). I had a U-Joint savings account. At one point my local repair shop began carrying numerous coolant hoses in stock just for me, as they fell of about twice a month, no matter how carefully and tightly they were attached. And my favorite; the day I was traveling along at 55 MPH on the freeway to work and suddenly the engine just died, along with the power steering and power brakes.

That last one was the breaking point for me. I managed to jerk the car off to the side of the highway, turned on the flashers, and walked to the Denny's a mile away at the offramp. Once there I burst into tears and begged the hostess for a quarter to use the pay phone. She took pity on me and offered me their phone. I'm surprised my Dad could even understand my hysterical blatherings. I sobbed something about being broken down with no money and no idea what to do. My Dad (who despite being handy and helpful, is not always the most compassionate) immediately told me to put down the phone and wait right there. He would be there within a half hour to fix it.

I remember that I ordered an iced tea, although I had no money to pay for it and my bank account was overdrawn. I also remember my Dad arriving and calling a tow truck...and that's it. I must have just blocked everything else out. I don't remember if I went to work or not. I don't recall how I got home or even where we took the car to be reapaired. All I can think is that I gave everything over to my Dad to fix. And he did.

In hindsight, I wish I had paid more attention to his oil changing lectures and advice on checking the water levels in my car battery. I'm sure he knows that as the temperature drops, car batteries tend to die. The poor Beetle, used to a cozy garage and the mild weather of Southern California is suffering the fate of many cars in colder climates.

I doubt my Dad would fly in just to change the battery for me. But you never know.

Posted by Ensie at October 30, 2005 08:18 PM

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Dads rock. Mine bought me a digital camera to take pictures of problems so he could diagnose them and lead me through solutions long distance. I know you're having a tough time in Seattle. Hang in there, sweetie. It'll get better.

Posted by: Violet at October 31, 2005 08:53 AM

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