Baby, I Can’t Drive My Car
August 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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2 Responses  
Jessica writes:
August 25th, 2009 at 8:12 am

Great post, Christina. I learned to drive 4 years ago and I still HATE dealing with the tires. You captured the moment perfectly at the gas station–I often feel so out of my element saying anything other than “fill ‘er up”. But you also captured our generation teetering between, “where’s my man to help me” and “that’s right! I can do it myself and am proud of it”. I think people 25 years older or younger than us would not quite grasp the poignancy. Love your blog, been following it!
PS–did my 1st carwash the other day all by myself. That was a trip!

Meredith Resnick writes:
August 31st, 2009 at 6:22 pm

We live in southern California and (I don’t need to tell you) everything is about cars and driving. I love the independence I feel being able to just get in the car and go, but sometimes it’s nice to not have to do that. I think your post brings out a deeper point that you see you are truly the only driver of your life right now (not only of your car). It’s a wonderful thing, a big thing.

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