Remember how I told you Christmas Day was wonderful? It truly was, except for the part about my BMW bottoming out on a rock on the dirt road next to my house.
That’s the last time I will drive down that road, the one that for 15 years I insisted not be paved because “it’s rustic.”
It’s rustic, all right.
After several small parts of my beloved vehicle clattered to the pavement in my driveway, I made the executive decision to be in denial about the incident until after the holidays. I ignored the warning light indicating that the all wheel drive no longer worked, and the message urging me to “drive with caution.” I parked the car behind my house where I couldn’t see it, and drove my mother’s Corolla, the one that squeaks and has roll-down windows, for a week, pretending I didn’t notice the difference between gleaming wood dashboard trim and gray plastic.
But of course I did notice.
So did You Know Who You Are, who insisted I had to address my BMW problem. He even drove (with caution!) my crippled car to the auto body shop, because he’s a gentleman. And because he hates roll-up windows, too.
While my new friend Nino assessed the damage at the shop, I headed to the Subaru dealer, figuring I’d trade in my broken BMW for a new car.
But guilt set in. I asked myself: What kind of person was I, dumping my dented auto just because I don’t have the motor coordination to avoid hitting a rock?
And I answered myself: The same person who once dumped a date because he showed up at my door wearing a sweater made of synthetic fiber.
Not to mention the same person who inconvenienced her neighbors for 15 years by refusing to pave the dirt road.
The joke was on me, and that is not where I like jokes to be. I started thinking maybe I should let my neighbors pave the road, after all.
Then, in a happy reversal of karma, Nino reported that the damage to my car was minimal, dire warning lights to the contrary. By the time my BMW emerged from his ministerings, it was scratched, but not much the worse for wear. And since Nino isn’t a crook like the “repairman” at the gas station, it didn’t cost much to fix, either.
A Christmas miracle!
Nice mixed signals, karma. So — to pave, or not to pave?
But karma’s a tricky thing — open to interpretation, but you can’t ignore it altogether.
So bye, rock.
There are currently three cars in my driveway, and only one driver in the family. It’s time to get rid of a car. But which one?
Not the BMW, which reminds me of the first luxury car Michael and I bought, a black Infiniti. We loved that car. I had never owned a nice car before. Michael had a leased Jaguar when he ran a company with his cousin before we were married, but he had to give it back when it turned out his cousin was a crook. So technically the Infiniti was the first nice car Michael owned, too, since it wasn’t paid for from questionable business accounts like the one that funded his cousin’s three-week safari in Africa.
Driving around in the Infiniti made us feel special and magical and maybe a little smug, which karma didn’t like, evidently.
One night Michael went to buy a pack of cigarettes. He didn’t smoke very often because he felt it wasn’t worth the nagging, but we’d had a stressful, long flight with two little children that day and he felt he really, really needed a smoke. So much so that at 11 PM he drove to a pub in town, left the car running and ran in to get cigarettes. When he emerged from the bar minutes later, he discovered the car had been stolen. You can imagine my reaction upon waking up at midnight to find Michael arriving home in a police car to sheepishly explain that his nicotine habit had cost us our car.
A few days later, we got a call from the New York City police: They had picked up someone in the Bronx who didn’t look like he should be driving an Infiniti. The car now smelled foul, was littered with fast food containers and had a big rock sitting on the passenger seat, which the police explained had likely been used to smash the windshields of other cars, in the interest of stealing things. Or injuring people.
Poof, the magic of the Infinti was gone.
At least Michael never smoked again.
But my BMW still feels a little magical, and drives great in the snow, so that one’s a keeper.
There’s also the Toyota Corolla that my mother gave me after she had to give up her license. It’s a peppy little vehicle and fun to drive, and will be perfect for Patrick if he ever decides that being able to drive is worth sitting through driver’s ed for. (His sister has warned me not to bother passing the car down to her when she’s 16, as its roll-down windows are “too much work.”)
Which leaves the minivan. It’s a 2006 Odyssey with less than 30,000 miles on it, since it was the car the babysitter just drove around town for carpools. I really like the car. The navigation lady is nice, and the DVD system was a lifesaver when the kids were little. But now I don’t have a babysitter, we haven’t used the DVD system since the kids got addicted to iPods, and owning a car that fits seven teenagers means means seven drop-offs at 11 p.m. when I’d really rather be home watching reruns of Two and a Half Men.
Plus, I have twice sideswiped stationary objects while driving it, so the door has scratches.
Want it? I’m selling it for $17,000, but for you, I’ll make it $16,000.
I realize that still leaves two cars and one driver, but a backup vehicle really comes in handy. You never know when chipmunks will make a nest in an engine, or a car will need gas when it’s raining out and you don’t want to get your hair frizzy, or pay for full service at the gas station.
So very soon, I will drive the minivan for the last time.
Bye, navigation lady.
Today was the last time I had someone else fill my car’s tires with air at the gas station. I learned how to do it myself.
Filling a car’s tires with air wouldn’t be a big deal for most people, but it was for me. I didn’t even figure out how to use the self-serve gas pump until I was 40. Between living in the city for years and not needing a car, then having a husband who did most of the driving because I can’t parallel park, it just wasn’t an issue. Car tasks were Not My Job.
Now, of course, everything is my job. It has been for over eight years, but somehow I avoided filling my tires with air. Maybe it was done when I had my car serviced? At another point in my life, I probably would have just replaced the tires if the little warning light went on. Can you imagine? “My tires must be broken, I’d better get new ones.”
Anyway, this morning the warning light went on in my car as I was pulling out of the driveway to get coffee. I picked up my friend — let’s call him You Know Who You Are — to go to the coffee shop and, pointing to the warning light, hinted that “someone” would have to get the tires filled. You Know Who You Are knows me better than to think I planned on doing it myself, but evidently car tasks are Not His Job, either. At least, not my car tasks. You Know Who You Are figured that “someone” would be the man at the gas station.
So an hour or so later, worried every minute that my tires would explode because the light was on, I headed for the gas station. There were two men working at the station, and both were very busy tinkering under a car. One ignored me, and the other acted annoyed when I asked him how to fill my tires with air. He just pointed to the machine and slid back under the car. But when he glanced over and saw my bewildered look as I fumbled for change, he came over to help. He showed me how to take the caps off the tires, and when I dropped the first cap into the tire, and couldn’t get it out, he brought me a new one.
Awww. Mr. Cranky was really a softie.
We eventually got all four tires filled. Mr. Cranky tried to refuse a tip, but I insisted (and gave him a good one, because Mr. Ignored Me was watching). I turned on the car and the warning light was off, so I drove home.
I know it’s silly to get a sense of accomplishment from doing something third graders can do with their bikes, but it felt good to add to my list of Things I Can Do. There are so many things I can’t do — carry a tune, keep my favorite soap opera on the air, make my children stop missing their father — that it’s nice to add something to the list that I can control.
I know — maybe I’ll finally learn how to parallel park.