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.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Spounce Away

Well, folks, it's finals week, beginning in exactly 1 hour and 13 minutes. (I considered providing you the exact seconds, as we all know how important precision is, but really: a line must be drawn.) In that hour and 13 minutes, I should grade 9 more student homework assignments, at roughly 20 minutes each. In that hour and 13 minutes, I should also finish 3 take-home essay prompts due tomorrow by 10 AM. (All right, I confess: when I say "finish," I really mean "start." And when I say "start," I really mean "read the questions.")

So what does the advent of finals mean for us "diligent student" types? Right when I should be putting my nose to the grindstone, pedal to the medal, my shoulder to the wheel, or what have you, what am I doing instead?

Why, creating a blog, of course. No longer am I on the outside of all that is Cool with a capital C in the early twenty-first century. No longer will I wallow and despair in my Luddite tendencies. No longer will I be denied the privileges of saying things like, "Something funny happened to me yesterday. You should read about it on my blog." (This, in my mind, is nearly the embodiment of modern hauteur, surpassed only by phrases like, "Have your people call my people." Ah, I aspire to the day when I can say--and mean--such a pretentious thing. Alas, with a Ph.D. in linguistics as the plan, this day is far from likely.) Yes, that's right, dear reader: I will now officially break into the ranks of the technocrati, and my new-blossoming blog can be the blog created this second. (That's the average rate of new blogs created. Were you aware?)

Of course, this Finals Week Procrastination (capitalized in the most magnificently Teutonic way, of course, as if such orthographic conventions might count as studying for my German final) is nothing new. During finals week last semester, Optimistic and I crafted the best Board response ever. During finals week the semester before that, I started and finished Les Miserables, a thick tome of a book. During finals week the semester before that, I started rereading the Old Testament, and got halfway into Numbers within three days.

So, essentially, I am obligated to start this blog, if only to maintain my own long-standing tradition of wasting time in fantastically obvious ways. This is no mere spouncing*, friends; this is squandering.

You all may resume your normal activities now. If your normal activites happen to involve squandering, or even just spouncing, I know a great game. If you're actually trying to get work done, you'll kill me for even mentioning the name, so I'll just hint at it: it starts with Sn-, and rhymes with "brood," and it's not "Snyood."

*spounce, v. To waste time in small amounts by doing various activities, none of them significant in themselves, like playing "just one more" game of Minesweeper, writing "just one more" email, or reading "just one more" blog entry. Etymology: semantic extension from "spouncer," a small craft tool, or "innovative stenciling sponge on a handle." (See above image.)