About Me

My photo
Las Vegas, Nevada, United States
"No, really!"

My Favorite Bit of Paper Cup Philosophy

The Way I See It #76

The irony of commitment is that it's deeply liberating - in work, in play, in love. The act frees you from the tyranny of your internal critic, from the fear that likes to dress itself up and parade around as rational hesitation. To commit is to remove your head as the barrier to your life.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Maybe I Should Just Walk

I come across sometimes as very level, a soother, a comforter, a nurturer. Peaceful like. Optimistic. Philosophical. And I am. Yet, sometimes I have trouble giving myself those gifts as easily as I give them to others. Sometimes, no matter how much I learn about how many things, I jump from earth to the planet Freak Out in a nano-second. Sometimes, no matter how much I learn, I waste angst and energy on feeling certain I will collapse - yes, this latest trial will be the one that fells me! Despite staggering evidence to the contrary. Actually, I do all right for a girl. But I don't like freaky stuff about my money and I don't like freaky stuff about my cars. Occasionally, "I can't handle this. I just can't." flits through the cranium.

I do not understand cars. I do not know how a combustion engine works. I do not get the physics, mechanics, or anything else elemental to cars. I want to put in my key and have the car fly me, like a magic carpet, to my destination. No, I'm neither lazy nor stupid. I have enough IQ to understand about cars. I know how to Google and read. It's just not intriguing to me. That's what the father, the husband and the significant other were for. While I fed them. A fair division of duties. But I don't deny that the ignorance feeds the fear when something goes wrong with the car.

Recently at a staff meeting, the men guffawed at me as I told them whenever a car does something to me - oh, say, like having a flat tire - I want nothing further to do with that car ever again. Sell it! Of course, I don't literally sell a car over a flat tire, but when the occasional car problem arose, I was pretty good at talking Ex into trading cars with me permanently. My current car is an unremarkable, sensible, economical, age and size appropriate vehicle of a color that is variously described as gold, silver, gray or champagne. Its actual color name is radium. The car is four years old and it just turned 21,000 miles. It has been well maintained and has produced none of the normal, pesky troubles that cars sometimes do. No, no, Lucy Sue has been a pretty good car, causing me few worries of the usual sort. She is, however, a lightning rod for the "that can't possibly have just happened" sort of mishap.

During our four year relationship, the side mirrors have been knocked off three times when I've been nowhere in the vicinity of the car. Once the mirror was dangling by its electrical cords and twice it was lying in the street. One morning, as I ate my 10:00 a.m. cucumbers at my desk, I watched as a gigantic pickup truck crashed into my car and nearly tore the back end off of it. Both back windows have gone awry and have been jury-rigged with suction cups to keep them closed with the glass in a completely upright position. Hey, the motors for those windows cost about $300 - $400 each and the economy was scary! I'll replace them now that I'm more comfortable about the economic rebound. And neither of those back windows was heavily used. I don't believe I've transported anyone in my back seat more than 10 times ever. For fixes with suction cups, and to secure a dangling mirror after a 5-mile drive to the office with it dancing in the wind, I rely on Cesar who has been called the Mexican MacGyver. He is resourceful. He knows how to do a lot of things with little at hand.

I've been readying myself for a road trip. On my journey, I will have cell phone signal for only the very first and the very last miles. There are few settlements, with few services along the highway, and only two small cities. One wants to feel secure setting out on a pleasure trip, so I decided to ask for help to get the car in order. Cesar and I are simpatico. He understands which are my hot buttons, what distresses me, and what needs to be explained to me. He completely inspected the car to this standard: "Cesar, I want that car in good enough condition that you'd let Isabella drive it to Phoenix." Isabella is his 3-year old daughter. It is time for an oil change whether I was traveling or not, so that recommendation didn't surprise me. New air filter? Check - expected. "Les, you need to buy tires." What? They only have 21,000 miles on them!" The tires were cracked - baked for four years in the desert blaze. All right. Tires are important. He went and got the tires put on the machine for me. We've talked spark plugs and serpentine belts, transmission fluid and tire pressure . . . and I'm learning some things. Who knew?

The time was drawing near to the weekend Cesar would take my car home to work on it. He went to the parking lot with a pad and pen and came back up the stairs looking a little startled. "Les, your hood won't open. I'm going to call around, but I've heard when this happens, you have to go to the dealer and it can get pricey." Grand! "All right, please find out. My trip has already been delayed twice." All we need is to get the hood opened so I can get the oil change and Cesar can work his magic. It's not like the car is on its last legs, and I don't want to pay a fortune for this.

In our work world, we are nominally related to David's business partner, George, who owns a mechanic shop among other enterprises. He has a relationship with auto body businesses and other helpful services and he's generous with advice to any of us who work in the secluded little office plaza under the stucco arch. He's good to us when we take our business to him, as well. I had the brainstorm that Cesar should ask George if he knew how to apply a can opener to my hood. "Toss your keys down, Les, he's going to take a look at it." And soon enough I saw George ascend the staircase headed in my direction. He opened it! With no special tools, not at his shop, but right in the parking lot with only his know-how at work. He had news of Lucy Sue's latest weird malady. After four years of use, a cable has stretched out like worn elastic under the hood. The expected result of that is that the hood can't be opened. These cables are meant to last the life of the car, but no. "You're going to have to have it repaired. You can't go around unable to get inside the car." Yes, well I intended to have it repaired and asked if this was going to cost me $5 or $5 million. "Would you like me to find the part and take care of it for you today?" I would. I have an agenda to stick to.

George stepped pretty lively coming back up the stairs. "It's a special order part. It will take a week to get here. The good news is I can give you parts and labor for $144.25." None of that troubled me too terribly. The price was far less than I expected. And now the hood would open for Cesar to complete his part of the great send-off. Why was George so distressed? "Do you have any duct tape up here?" I rummaged around unsuccessfully for awhile and he said he'd look for some down in our service yard. "Leslie, the hood won't close and latch now that it's opened. We're going to have to tape it down and wait for Thursday." ?!#*?!#* Tape it down? With duct tape? Folks, I've been married. I don't have all that much faith in the infallibility of duct tape. I didn't say anything. It took me awhile to gather my wits. I walked out onto the deck. Peering over the rail, I spied George and his assistant feverishly applying tape to the car. "Men, does that even have a chance of working? I don't feel really secure about this." They responded that I certainly wouldn't want to drive on the freeway, and there was a chance it might work. ?!#*?!#* "Stop sticking tape on my paint job. Order the part. I've got it now." I radioed Cesar to relate the turn of events and he could tell I was worked up. "We'll tie it down, Les. It'll hold. But he's right! Don't go on the freeway." I vacillated between thoughts of just renting or borrowing a car and thoughts of the hood snapping off, coming through the windshield and decapitating me. Maybe I could drive one of our war wagons for a few days - no, they're not reliably in the lot when I arrive and leave. Have I mentioned it's windy in Las Vegas this spring?

After he tied the hood down, Cesar took pains to tell me all of it. "There's a little gap between the body and the hood, Les. There's some play in the rope, so you might see the hood bounce a little. Come here and give it a tug so you'll know it's well-secured." Driving home the first evening, I learned how fierce wind resistance is and how that affects gas consumption. The next morning, I asked Cesar to check the rope, because the gap appeared a little wider to me. He said it was taut. On Saturday, I drove slowly down rather empty streets against a pretty good crosswind for four miles. That wasn't so bad. When I turned north into the headwind, I knew I was in for a ride! The wind was fierce, and the hood moved up and down like it was breathing. My eyes popped, but I arrived at the office safely. Ten to twelve men have stopped me at various locations to say, "Hey, lady, I think your hood is up." It charms me that people are kind, but I admit to having the occasional crabby thought, "No shit, kind sir. Did the two inch gap between hood and body give it away?" Thursday arrives the new cable kit. I'm ready.

In my ears right now:
The Three Stooges, and you may hear them, too.

Something that charmed me: Some of the homes have taken up golf and this made be grin from the first telling because my men are less like country club types than any humans I can think of. I'm reminded of a line from a really poor movie, "It's a country country club." That would be more suitable to this group. But Cesar has recruited them, and they go quite frequently. They are tearing up craigslist and garage sales finding clubs and bags and shoes. The Badger has a collection of golf balls for them, found in the streets when he rides, and these men are fun to watch. I remembered an old clip from the Three Stooges and located it. The film is old and was made long before my guys were born. But it has made me believe in reincarnation. Cesar is Moe - he's the smartest and runs the show. Justin is Larry. And Matt is Curly - he looks like Curly, he's as loud and goofy as Curly and he sports the same haircut.


  1. I took Applied Mechanics at school and so I do know how the internal combustion engine works. I’ve drawn pictures of them, 2-stroke, 4-stroke and the absolutely fascinating 3-stroke. But I could never get excited by the actual thing. I’d forget to check the oil and water and basically expected the thing to work because I willed it. I don’t own a car just now and haven’t for about fifteen years. And I’m so much happier without one. Because all I did with a car was try and cram more into an already overfull life. Now I’m never in a rush to get anywhere and so much happier for it. Well, what passes for ‘happiness’ with me.

  2. Your description of the vagaries of your car, Les, is wonderful. I, too, suffer appalling ignorance when it comes to cars, and I don't have to drive through high winds on a regular basis.

    Wonderful post.

  3. I SO agree with you about cars! I figure every mechanical thing in my life, be it a car, a computer, a microwave oven, a vacuum cleaner, etc. out to work as dependably as the iron I took to college and used for 25 years until the cord was so frayed I decided the time had come for a new iron. BTW, my sewing machine is heading toward 50, ailing but still working, love that baby.

  4. @ Jim ~ I surely thank you for boarding my bus today. In the western US, in a big city, it is very difficult to manage without a car. Some people do it, and they are admirable to me. More walking, use of public transportation or carpooling is good for everyone in so many ways. I walk a great number of miles every day and I walk to buy groceries when my list does not include large, heavy items. My commute to work is only 5 miles in each direction, and other than the occasional road trip, the car isn't used much otherwise. Still, I have not made that concentrated effort to completely eliminate it from my life. I'm not as admirable as that yet. Perhaps I will someday be motivated by pecuniary interests, as I detest throwing money at the machine for fuel, insurance, maintenance and [weird] repairs. By the way, when I have visited the UK, one of the things I actually enjoy very much is eschewing the daily use of a private car. While I have driven on the "wrong" side of the road and had fun with it, I also love using BritRail, the Tube and the big black taxis or simply walking to my destination. But I think that is enjoyment in another culture, and when I return home, it's back to business as usual.

  5. @ Elisabeth ~ To use a term you'd understand, I suffer multiple personality disorder about the car thing. One persona simply doesn't want to know or learn. Another realizes my ignorance is foolish and an invitation for mechanics and others to take advantage of me. The one that beats me up says "Come on, you love learning about things! What's the matter with you?" The crabby personality says, "What happened to the days when one spent many thousands of dollars on a reputable vehicle and it both worked and held together for just awhile?" My most pathetic one says, but only for a moment, "I simply don't have the coping skills to deal with this." Then I dig in and deal with it. But I have to have the meltdown, first.

  6. @ June ~ I thank you for popping aboard today. Your comment resonated with me. It's apparent to everyone who will read my post that car things put me over the top. And yet, you made me ponder something I hadn't realized. I inherited my grandmother's much loved Singer Featherweight bought the summer I was born and used to make special things for me for as long as she lived. That makes it nearly 58 years old. Now, I GET a sewing machine. I can oil it and change out all kinds of its parts, including the electrical cord. I wonder if part of why I am daunted by a car is because it is so large and dirty.

  7. @ the Readers ~ As she sometimes does, Mother Badger popped up in my e-mail to say she'd read my post and it was fuuuuunnny, but not to me. Actually, I've had to grin a time or two, to prevent myself from jumping off the deck and throwing myself to the asphalt below. As for things that dump us, she's with me - she never wants to trust the thing again and believes some things simply have bad karma.

    Mother Badger awaits my visit and she advises me we will see all manner of golf equipment for the homes when we go to the garage and estate sales in her retirement community, so I need to find out the sizes needed, etc. She advises me to carry a few gallons of water for the car and myself and suggests that I keep the rope - I may need it to tie the trunk down with all I'll be carrying back!

    Mother Badger started her e-mail saying, "This is your big day to go hoody" and I have latebreaking news about that. I heard no word from George about the arrival of my car part, so I started to rattle cages early. For two hours I awaited a response from his assistant. "Your part will be here tomorrow," I was told. "This is Thursday. You said Thursday." "Yes, but this is a short week." "When you told me Thursday last week, did you not know this week was a short week? Look, if the part comes tomorrow can you do the work tomorrow?" "Sure, as long as the part arrives in the morning! Otherwise Monday." Yow.

  8. I'd like to tell you the things that can go wrong with a car, especially an old car, but it's hard for me to type with both fingers crossed, so I'll just have to end it here.

  9. @ Kirk ~ I feel your pain. My doesn't happen to be old. She just happens to be covered with invisible bullseyes and is presently held together with spit, string and hope.

  10. Oh Limes, am I ever with you on cars! I just want to put gas it in and drive. Denial and fear are how I deal with anything car related. I so hope you get to make your road trip as planned!

    WV: eimen Dear God, please get Limes safely down the road. eimen.

  11. Notice that I refrained from saying anything about what a class act you must look like, driving down the road with your car duct taped together? hahaha :-)

    Another great WV: vilyzest I just couldn't vilyzest!

  12. ah, i'm on the other end of the spectrum. i love machinery, the bigger the better. i ran the manufacturing end of a printing plant-huge presses!
    when i began driving, my dad made me learn how to change a tire, and assorted other basic stuff. i drove old cars, so i figured i should know something. over the years, i've done oil changes, brake repairs, engine, clutch, and transmission rebuilds, tuneups, etc., some unaided, some with help. i love getting my hands dirty.
    kinda sad that i can't do that anymore. the upside is that i can hold a very intelligent conversation with auto mechanics, so i don't get totally hosed for repairs.

  13. I don't know if you watched the last episode of LOST, but a character says, "I don't believe in much, but I do believe in duct tape."

  14. @ Doozyanner ~ I surprised you're a car-trouble-phobe, too! You seem so sturdy and practical and independent, I might have thought . . never mind. I know your True Colors (a subject to appear in another comment below) and you're not the right color to tolerate and understand the whims of machines.

    You WERE kind not to mention how I must look driving that car. Ghetto is not my usual approach despite my calling men "homes". I don't go for ostentatious or shabby. The middle ground is all right for me. Right now, Lucy Sue is far south of the middle ground.

    You're on fire with the WV!

  15. @ Kirk ~ I believe in duct tape, too, Kirk. But not for all things. For instance, I may be a girl, but I seemed to be the only one in our plaza that day who understood that the gray stuff was NOT going to hold down that hood, and WAS going to mess up my paint.

    BTW, I don't watch LOST or really any popular TV. Sometimes it puts me at a disadvantage when people are talking about something they saw. But I'm pretty good at saying, "Tell me about it." I've never watched much television.

  16. @ somh ~ My jaw dropped when I read your comment. It will be a strain to not have this comment exceed the length of the original post. You can't imagine all the free association hot spots you hit in 12 lines of commentary. If we were sitting at the table at the virtual dinner party referenced in my blog's headline, your comment would have made me tilt my head at you and start t-a-l-k-i-n-g.

    Getting totally "hosed for repairs" had to be on purpose, right? I laughed out loud. The other thing you wrote that grabbed me was the word "spectrum". Keep reading.

    OK, coming in sideways now, but bear with me. I am a certified facilitator of True Colors, a simple model of personality identification. It has had a profound effect on my life because it gave me my first ticket to really understanding other human beings a little. Before TC, I was clueless. TC is so ingrained in me, I apply it almost before I take in the color of someone's hair or eyes, or their height. I don't select certain people to apply this to, it simply gets engaged as soon as I engage. So I can tell you Kass' and Tag's and Kirk's and Elisabeth's True Colors and probably in order of ascendency. I've known for a long time that you have a very strong streak of green and thought to say so recently when Kirk brought up the bland topic of god and religion, but the Blogger commentary would never have let in so many words and I've had to have explained about TC, as well. I couldn't have just said "You're green." Although you once put up a post that made me chuckle because of your greenness: It's Not Easy Being Green.

    All of that said, OF COURSE you would love machines and engines and mechanized and motorized things - you're green. That's what you do. You understand and appreciate them. I'm afraid of them. Doozyanner (a few comments back) and I have very similar True Colors rainbows, and I should have remembered that so I'd have known she runs on denial and fear about car stuff. We're scared of it! But, boy howdy, golds and blues and oranges do other stuff well.

    I'd like to say I wish I had some of what you're having there. And it reminds me that if I worked to punch up my green (usually the palest color in my rainbow), I could at least gain enough information and knowledge that I would not be a sitting duck for mechanics and others who might think I'm easy.

    Last thought ~ sorry, I warned you. When Amber was an infant we interviewed 11 potential daycare providers before I returned to work when she was 7 weeks old. Irma was sent to us by the angels and she truly was Amber's third parent. One day when I picked Amber up, Irma apologized for the condition of the child's clothing. They'd made mud pies together. I wrapped my arms around Irma and said, "I surely do thank you for that. For if you or Ex hadn't done the mud pie thing, the child would have to have missed it." I see my true colors shining through . . . (Cyndi Lauper)

    Thanks for boarding the bus today!

  17. you're welcome-it was a fun ride!

    i went to the true colors website, and from what little i gleaned, i'd bet i also have a streak of orange flashing about as well. yeah, mudpies. when i worked on cars i got COVERED in grease.

    there is a flavor here that is reminiscent of acupunture. in acupuncture, especially 5 element style, constitutional types are connected with color, sound, smell, body organ systems, and emotion. it all builds a picture of who the person is, where energy gets blocked, where it runs amok, where the balance point is.
    this, and brain gym, are the lenses through which i see the world.
    i just love it when i spot connections between systems that appear unrelated. then again, i think everything is related to everything!

  18. @ somh ~ If you glanced at the website, you probably learned that everyone has all four colors in their makeup, but we use different colors to approach different things and we tend to lead with one or two of the colors in most situations. So, yes, you also have a lot of orange going on. Creativity is orange working, so your poetry and photography are evidence of your orangeness.

    I don't know anything about acupuncture or brain gym, but I know how to Google. And I agree. Everything is related to everything. I'm a person who is always looking for the connections.

  19. I just flipped to 160,000 on my 13 year old Ford. i don't fix them any more. I call AAA and my mechanic Jim who fixes everything on the road from his little red Miata. For a road trip I rent, always. No worries that way. I hope your trip goes well.

  20. @ Tag ~ Renting is good! Let the problems be somebody ELSE'S problems.