Saturday, April 29, 2006

Mr. Mechanic, Will You Marry Me?

I am in love with a mechanic. Head over high heels, I fell for a balding middle-aged man this morning, and, in the midst of this burning passion, I wish to shout my good news from the rooftops. (Or, you know, post it on the internet. Same thing.)

There's a reason for this, of course. In the aftermath of finals, my car, that wonderful white warrior, has been acting up. By "acting up," I really mean "squealing like a stuck pig whenever it moves." This has been going on for a while--maybe, oh, a month?--but only in small, quiet doses; in the last few days, though, its noise knows no bounds. I think it's reacting to my neglect of our relationship during the last few weeks of the semester, and, like a deprived child, misbehaving in the hope of attention.

Well, it's getting attention, let me tell you, and not just from me. Other drivers eye me suspiciously, as if my car's own impending doom threatens their own. Pedestrians turn and stare, mouths agape. Tolkien Boy, after following my car in his own for a quick 5-minute drive the other day, announced upon stepping out, "When my car made that noise, the mechanic said there was about 15 minutes of driving between me and death."

I guess, when I think about it, that they're right to stare. After all, it's not every day you hear a car squeak like mine. It screeches when I apply the brakes in drive, and it growls when I apply the breaks in reverse. Sometimes, it even shrieks when I'm not applying the brakes, as if it's just warming up for the big league, when I'm ready to slow down again. People, I'm serious. It's bad. It's like dolphins singing opera. I come to a stoplight: "Siegfriiiiiiiiiiiiiiiied!!!! EEE EEE EEE!" I shift into reverse: "Brünnhiiiiiiiiiiilde! OOO OOO OOO!" I drive a straight road, and it's all the Rhinemaidens together: "Whistle! Whistle, click, chirp! Götterdämmeruuuuuuuuuuuuung!"

Clearly, it was time to visit a mechanic. The problem, though, is that I try to avoid practical matters at all costs. Fearless and active as I am in intellectual domains, the moment I have to complete reality-based, world-savvy, part-of-normal-adult-life-in-this-modern-world errands--making phone calls, paying taxes, visiting doctors, dealing with insurance companies--I freeze with panic. I tend to adopt a more passive approach to these tasks; indeed, I close my eyes and think of the Empire, hoping that if I lie quietly, it will all be over quickly. In general, this means that I faithfully write these tasks on my to-do list and opt to do homework instead. In one notable case, a task of this sort remained undone for slightly over two years.

Auto mechanics are even worse than doctors, insurance agents, or customer service representatives. I know nothing about cars--I originally wrote "next to nothing," and was forced to revise--and I'm convinced that I'll betray that within the first five seconds of our interaction. In my waking nightmares on the subject, the mechanic asks me what's wrong with the car, and I can't even describe the symptoms. "It...makes noise," I'll say, fluttering my hands in feminine helplessness. Or "It just...feels wrong." Those who know me should see the problem here: I am not typically a victim of feminine helplessness. I do not typically ascribe problems to "feeling." And I do not--do not--"flutter." If asked to diagnose the problem, I'm sure I'd be even worse, and would end up looking like a total fool: "Maybe it's the muffler...belt?"

Nonetheless, this morning, I girded up my loins, gathered my courage, gritted my teeth, insert your own idiom here,* and drove over to the mechanic, my car practicing its high-pitched vowel sounds the whole way. ("AAAAEEEEEIIIIIIOOOOOUUUUU!") Reminding myself that muffler belts do not exist, I pulled into the auto shop's parking lot--screeeeeeeeech!--and idled for a moment, looking for a likely place to deposit my car before humbly approaching the mechanic, as a devotee to an idol.

I was startled out of my reverie by a tap on the window. It was the mechanic, bald, fortyish, overweight, henceforth to be called my One True Love. I rolled down my window, cringing in anticipation--thousands of dollars on repairs, maybe, or a long lecture chastising me for even daring to defile his workshop with my ignorance. Or was I about to park illegally?

"Your brake pads are shot," he said. "I could hear it as you drove in. $120. I'm not open today, but if you bring your car back next week I'll fix it. " My OTL walked away. I never even had to get out of the car.

The light broke through the clouds, and angel choirs harmonized with the dolphin sopranos in my brake pads. In my rear view mirror, the mechanic's bald pate shone like a nimbus of celestial glory. He was beautiful. The music was beautiful. Provo was beautiful. Life was beautiful.

Hélas. It won't last, I know. He's probably already married. I mean, how could a man like that not be snatched up like the last Green Power Ranger on the Toys 'R Us shelf? And, as it turns out, I particularly don't care; I'll indulge myself in the joy of the moment instead of pondering our future together. I'm more the mistress type anyway.

*Sometimes a pre-emptive strike is justified: I girded your mom's loins last night.** I gathered your mom's courage last night. I gritted your mom's teeth last night. And yes, of course, I inserted your mom's own idiom here last night.

**Mom, if you're reading this, I'm sorry. I mean no disrespect to mothers worldwide, I promise.


Master Fob said...

Re: Your sidebar:

Believe me, she knows.

FoxyJ said...

Our car made that noise for several months before we did anything about it. We both tend to just let things slide, since ignoring problems is always the best way to solve them.

lanada said...

much empathy. for the last many months, my car has been making jackhammeresque noises when it idles. will i ever get it fixed? highly unlikely.

i'm listening to badly drawn boy. thought you should know. thanks again for that.

Squirrel Boy said...

A hundred and twenty bucks for brake pads?! Good heavens. This is why I do all my car repairs myself. I count myself exceedingly lucky that I have a father who has taught me how to do stuff like that.

Toasteroven said...

This is one of the funniest blog entries I've read in a very long time.

flippin said...

You wore high heels?

Tolkien Boy said...

And here I thought your blog was a one-shot post deal.

It's a bit disturbing how much I associate with your description of behavior. I've been known to flutter at mechanics as well. I'm glad you're getting the car fixed, though - last time my brake pads were shot, I kept driving out of sheer stubbornness (i.e., I was afraid to go to the mechanics) and when I finally did, I was informed the brakes had roughly fifteen minutes of existence left.

Not the sort of thing you want to leave to fate.

Melyngoch said...

The above comment only adds weight and vigor to my supposition that Tolkien Boy will be dead by 35.

Petra said...

Tolkien Boy claims that as a child he was black with sun. I'm revising my estimate to 30. It's been nice knowing you, TB.

Also, flippin: of course I don't wear high heels. It seemed like a nice thing to say at the time.