Baby, I Can’t Drive My Car
Aug 24th, 2009 by Christina

Source: The Brain Toad

This week has been all about my new relationship with driving and the ways in which my car forces me to face, unflinchingly, my single-female status. It used to be the car or our car and now, for better or for worse, it is just plain my car–my Sob (nee Saab). I am grateful for the smooth ride it offers, its pretty swirly wood dashboard and very cool cup holder. But being the single mom of a sometimes-surly Swedish station wagon has also been trying. A sampler:

  • I got axle grease  (is that what they call the black stuff?) on my dainty little hands while filling the car’s needy tires with air at the Hess station. I was acutely aware of my pale-blue skirt with sequins on it and wondering if the men watching me were thinking why is that light-blue-skirted lady touching something as filthy-dirty as a tire? Doesn’t she have a man around, for goodness sake? Has the world gone mad? Is chivalry completely dead? (It’s possible I was projecting a bit.) Another part of me thinks: Wow, I’m a cool chick who touches tires, pumps gas, and wields power tools. Men? Who needs ‘em?!
  • Last weekend, the girls and I flew to visit relatives in Rochester. I decided to drive to the airport and leave the car in long-term parking so we could save money on a car service.  In an attempt to make things as pre-planned and painless as possible, I reserved a spot online at the reassuringly named Smart Park long-term lot near JFK. Unfortunately, despite my excellent planning, at 7:49 am the next morning (the flight was at 9:15), I couldn’t find Smart Park, which apparently is not quite smart enough to provide a street address for me to enter in my GPS. I have become totally dependent on the GPS (yep, if it told me to drive off the Empire State Building, I probably would.) In these situations, I try not to let on to my daughters that things have gone awry. It usually doesn’t work.
    Daughter: “Great, mom, now we’re LOST!”
    Me: “We are not lost. We just haven’t found the parking lot yet. There’s a difference.”
    Daughter, bursting into tears: “We’re going to miss the plane! Our whole weekend is ruined!!” Then, the withering zinger: “You’re our mother. You’re supposed to know where you’re going.”
    While all I wanted to do at that point was to get out of the car, leave it in the McDonald’s parking lot and hitch a ride to JFK, I knew it was another one of those you have to live through this moments with no escape–like when I threw myself out of the tree. And so the creaky little gps in my brain took a brave breath and became the little gps that could. I whipped the car around, said to hell with Smart Park and followed signs to the generic JFK brand of long-term parking. From there, it was only about a mile walk in the searing heat to the AirTrain, which miraculously dropped us at the JetBlue terminal about five minutes before our flight began boarding. I figure when all was said and done, deciding to drive to the airport cost only about twice as much as a car service would have.
  • Shortly after our return from Rochester, I took the girls to Target to buy school supplies (a stressful event in its own right because they didn’t have the right size post-its.)  On the way home, the Sob had a tantrum and shut down completely–i.e., died–about 10 blocks from our home. My first impulse was, again, to grab the girls and our Target purchases, walk home, and let the car think about its behavior and figure out how to fix itself. Then I called R and begged him to don his Superman cape and rescue us from the meanie vehicle (he was willing to call the mechanic to give him a heads-up.) I called Triple A, found out my membership had lapsed, renewed it with the help of a “membership counselor” and arranged to have the car towed to the car-fixing place. The next day a guy who called me “ma’am” delivered the bad news: The Sob needed a new drive belt and an alternator (of course I know exactly what those things are) and would I authorize the roughly $600 worth of work?

Like, do I have a choice?

(photo credit: The Brain Toad)

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Baby, We Were Born to Run-On
Aug 9th, 2009 by Christina

I was so busted this weekend. october_27_054

I went to a delightful gathering of a few of my writer pals at the Jersey shore, which was great fun. We all seem to agree that the English language is increasingly abused and disrespected, that journalism is the new blacksmithing, and that anyone who thinks it’s ok to use a lower-case I to refer to one’s self probably has a personality disorder–because there is no other satisfactory explanation.

The five of us literary ladies were strolling along the beach, ranting about how hard life has become for we who still respect the rules of grammar, spelling and punctuation. (Also, we tried to pretend that we were down at the shore or down by the shore, rather than just down the shore, which is the vexing phrase people on the East Coast use when they visit New Jersey beach towns.)

I chimed in with my horror stories about the many incoherent online-dating profiles I’ve faced, and my friends agreed that poorly-written profiles are unacceptable. (Turns out we’re not the only ones who feel this way. Check it out: Do the Typos in Your Profile Spell Disaster?)

Later, during cocktail hour at Gwen’s house, my four very-married friends wanted to read my one very-unmarried online dating profile. So I brought it up on Gwen’s laptop–which was nestled on the table between the Chex mix and the guacamole– and the girls gathered ‘round.

I fear I shall never forget what happened next.

“You forgot an apostrophe,” said Jen casually.
“Ha ha–nice try, Jen. Good one. You’re funny,” I responded.
“You really did,” she repeated drily.

That’s when I turned into an over-tired four-year-old.

“No WAY! I did not! I did NOT!” I shouted.

“Um, yep–you did. See?”

And that’s when I realized that she was right. The word “let’s” was staring back at me on the screen, naked and un-apostrophized. I felt like a sham.

“I can’t believe I did that! I cannot believe I did that! How could I do that? How? I mean, I am so fanatical about not making those kinds of errors and look–I made one. I made one!”

The girls helped me over to a chair, forced a glass of wine into my fist, and pretended that we all make typos sometimes, that it’s not a big deal, and that of course they know I don’t really think you write “let’s” without the apostrophe. Silly me.

Now I can’t decide if I should fix the mistake in my profile, or leave it there and wait, fairy-tale-style, for my Prince Charming to come along and correct it.

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Ode on a Swedish Urn
Aug 4th, 2009 by Christina

You might have noticed that a craving for order is a persistent theme in my recent posts. I thrived on the structured life I enjoyed at summer camp. Then came my blatant convent envy. Today, I celebrate the mother of all mental-chaos tamers: Ikea._DSC2716

Was it coincidence that a new store opened right near me the same week that R moved out? I think not. I go there when I need to escape the madding crowd of clutter in my house and my head.

Shortly after R left, I entered a brief, semi-euphoric, whoopee-I’m-a-single-gal-now phase–which necessitated, among other things, an urgent bedroom makeover. Sleeping alone in a queen-sized bed was sort of sad, but it was exciting to have a room all to myself for the first time since 1990. (In fact, who decided married couples should share a room?)

During my marriage, I was unofficially in charge of home decor, but I tried not to impose too much femininity on our bedroom since only one of us was feminine. A few years ago, I fought my urge for lilac walls and pretty white things and chose a moldy green shade of paint, just to prove that I did not have a girly agenda. I now see that being enveloped by that ghastly hue night after night certainly cannot have helped our marriage.

That first post-separation trip to Ikea yielded, interestingly, a lot of round items–a couple of Ringum rugs, two Korda mirrors and the Ofelia duvet cover–all for around $100! Oh– and some nice ropey baskets to corral toiletries. And a sisal-ish rug for our back porch. And hundreds of things I never knew I needed until I was sucked into the vortex known as the Ikea Marketplace.

Since then, I have returned to the store several times, always soothed by the cheerful, orderly faux rooms with their drawers and shelves and cabinets and other forms of flimsily-made containment.

Today was an Ikea day. We’ve been transforming our third floor into a rental apartment, which means our remaining two floors are overrun with boxes of stuff, crap and junk that used to be upstairs.

After fretting about whether it would be worse to increase my credit card debt or to remain in this fragile disorganized state, I decided to make a pilgrimage to the blue-and-yellow temple. (I mean, really, it’s almost like getting stuff for free when you shop there.)

My goal was to find a sideboard for my dining area. It would house my marital silverware, tablecloths and other whatnot that the woman gets to keep.

As I entered the store, that familiar Swedish calm came over me. It was a weekday morning, so it was empty. The showroom was perfectly air-conditioned and orderly, and–freakishly enough–there was actually a tow-headed Scandinavian family shopping and chatting in a mysterious tongue. The Marketplace was, as usual, a more fraught experience and, once again, I was forced to buy things like placemats and trays and little boxes (fortunately, they have a good return policy.)

I didn’t purchase a sideboard (though I think I want a Besta combination when the time comes), but I did leave with restored faith that there is almost always a way out of chaos.

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