Saturday, August 22, 2009

parallel parking only

Nothing makes me long more for the public transport system of London than a car breaking down. My car, specifically, Chi-Chi the regal Buick, beige arrow of the Williamsburg byways, scourge of squirrels and students alike. When last I had an oil change the mechanics warned me that I would probably need a new battery before November. "November" became "August" Tuesday night, when I turned the key after work and instead of a purr was greeted with a pathetic clicking noise of an unsuccessful starter. Damn. I called the boyfriend to give me battery a jump, and while I was waiting called dad and cried into the phone until I felt better. Honestly. I felt like such a girl about the whole thing. I knew perfectly well that the battery just needed a little help, and then I could get it to the shop and they'd change it for me--or better yet, I'd get my own damn battery and then dive in there and change it myself--but not having a set of jumper cables or a portable battery sort of put a crimp in my style. Jeff arrived and we successfully got the car started...and then we had the brilliant idea of turning in off to see if it would start again.

It would not.

And, in our continued attempts to get the car started a second time, we managed to melt the positive terminal off the battery. So instead of driving my own car home, I got a lift from Jeff. The car was so dead, I couldn't even get the key out of the steering column because the car had died when the anti-theft device was activated. When I got home, I called dad again, and cried until he suggested that maybe a shower and bed would make me feel better (It was nearly midnight at this point), and he would call AAA in the morning and see what he could do.

He got me hooked up with the AAA Roadside assistance, so the next afternoon I called them to come and tow my car. You should have seen the looks on the faces of the interpreters heading home from a work as the gate swung open (by the way, did I mention my car died in an employee parking lot? It died in an employee parking lot, safely behind a keycard gate. arg.) and a bloody great flatbed tow truck rumbled in, diesel engine growling. It's a very humbling and yet thrilling experience to see your car slowly hauled up on to the giant hydraulic lift like a whale onto the back of a Japanese trawler. I had the guy take Chi Chi back to my apartment, since the AAA people said that they could send a battery truck. But when the battery truck got there, the guy popped the hood, took one look at the corrosive streak left by the acid slowly dripping out of the battery and announced that he couldn't help me.

It's a very thrilling and yet annoying experience to see your car hauled up onto a flatbed truck by the brilliant light of a new morning. This time, I had them take it directly to a professional shop. By 10:40 on Wednesday I had a message saying that my car was ready. I was so relieved to finally have my own car back. Oh, it was glorious to get behind the wheel and be greeted by the purr when I turned the key.

I had two full days to consider and contemplate the innumerable joys of having personal transportation, especially in the light of the fact that the William and Mary students are back in all their blinkered, pedestrian glory. Driving to meet a friend for lunch in the historic area today, I made sure to go extra slowly, avoiding a freshman with a goatee that would have made Tesla jealous. It's the one year anniversary of Kismet's adoption, so we were headed down to the historic area for a walk and some ice cream. It's about a hundred degrees here. A cold front is holding Hurricane Bill off of the coast, but the humidity is ninety-eight percent, and the dewpoint is in the seventies. Not too hot, but wet as the inside of a pitcher of water.

I was lucky enough to find a parallel parking spot in front of Barnes & Noble...I haven't parallel parked in a while, but when I was in driver's ed, I was the class star. Today I had a bit of trouble...banged in to the curb once..or twice...but I figured, since I was very nearly parallel, that a little more gas would slide me along the concrete and I'd be fine. Not so much. When I got out of the car, I discovered that instead of sliding along a concrete curb, I had been firmly jamming my tire into a steel sewer cover. When you hear "pssssssss..." coming out of your know you are in trouble. I took a deep philosophical sigh and went to eat lunch. On the way back, we stopped for ice cream. I prepared to call AAA (again) and then realised I didn't know the street I was parked on, so I stuck my head in the Baskin Robbins and asked the lady behind the counter what street it was. "Do you need directions? Where are you going?" "No, I...I have a flat tire, I'm calling AAA." "Oh, well, Dave could fix it for you. Dave! C'mere!" And this stringy sixteen year old came trotting obediently around the corner. I mentally weighed up the pros and cons of handing the welfare of my car into a complete stranger, figured I had nothing to lose and five minutes later Dave was laying under my car, wiggling the jack under the axle. And twenty minutes later the doughnut was on. Thank God for mechanically inclined sixteen-year olds.

So now the wheel is sitting at the mechanics shop, waiting for a new tire--I'll get it back Monday--and Chi Chi is Williamsburg-bound for the weekend. So no Yorktown for Kismet on his birthday...but we did get over to Maggie Moo's for some ice cream, and he looks very handsome in his new collar and leash.

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