Happy “Ugly Volvo Wednesdays! Again, I would like to remind you that while some of my writing is non-fiction, the story shared on “Ugly Volvo Wednesdays” is pure satirical fiction and not intended in any way to defame, condemn, or violate any real person, place, or product.
Chapter 7—The Mental Misadventures of Elsa and Ol’Bruiser
By the time I got behind the wheel of Ol’Bruiser, months had transpired and she was well broken-in in every way. The lionesque purr had aged into a kind of rattle’n’hum that was both diesel and not diesel-like. Many of her repairs had the golden seal of ‘good’n’nuff’. There is only so much one could do to a “sow’s ear” after all.
Since I didn’t have to pay for the car, or any parts/repair, I really wasn’t in any position to complain too much. Since “Project Bruiser” my Dad hardly mentioned the time I “killed the power steering”. Time was starting to heal all wounds (and power steering hoses).I had every reason to believe that my dad would make every reasonable effort to ensure that he provided, me, his daughter, a safe and operational car. He was, first and foremost, my dad—I could count on his instinctive nature to protect the “fruit of his loin”—probably…
Aside from the whole ‘keys to the tractor’ debacle, Ol’Bruiser opened up a whole new world for me. I could come and go as I pleased, within reason, and before the rain, ice and, snow hit the roads, she drove like a treat. Ol’Bruiser was nowhere near as spiteful nor as delicate as my dad’s car. She inspired a sense of adventure, and no matter how fast or slowly one went, the engine whirred like it was running the Indy-500. The car did not have power steering, but I hardly noticed because the steering wheel was huge! It was to steering wheels what those thick pencils were to kindergarten and grade 1 students—freakin’ awesome! It was rough, rugged, and very odd looking—but it represented everything that was emancipation for me. During my first autumn with the Ol’Bruiser we were—as the Turtles song puts it “…so happy together!” It was a sunny and special time….until it rained.
It had been a long, cold and damp day. The autumn had been so kind and gentle that many people were still wearing sandals a couple times a week. When the seasonal weather hit, everyone stumbled around in a state of shock. People drove like they had never seen rain before, and all the buildings everywhere had seemed to have forgotten how to turn off the air conditioners. I suffered through my classes with blue finger nails and chattering teeth. The only thing that kept me going was looking forward to getting into my car and turning on the heat—full blast.
I ran for my car leaping puddles like some kind of graceful gazelle on speed. My toes were numb and desperate for some dry heat. I had my key at the ready and entered my car swiftly. As I sat down I could hear and feel a “sploosh”. It was like peeing your pants–but with ice water. My butt hadn’t that cold and wet since I was a young kid who thought tobogganing without snow pants was the pinnacle of living dangerously. Unlike times from my wild and crazy childhood, I was neither amused nor impressed. The fact that the drive home seemed beleaguered and belaboured by a flash mob of idiots rendered even dumber by driving in the rain, did nothing to really improve things either. I was a soggy, sobbing five-foot-ten package of self-pity and rage by the time I got home. The word livid seemed too soft and gentle to accurately characterize my mood. I passed “livid” on the highway, on the way home (it too was driving like an idiot on valium).
I recall very little of just exactly how I found my way into the house, or if I even shut off my car. I was in a blind rage, my cold fury made even icier by my cold, damp behind. I found my dad curled up by the fire, and reading the Haynes © manual for his car. He looked up and asked, “So how did Ol’Bruiser handle the rain?”
When I get angry, really angry, I tend to start speaking in clipped, strangled tones. So my response to my dad’s innocent question was spat out, “She. Didn’t.” My dad seemed genuinely flummoxed, but I was too incensed to buy it. When he sought clarification, I offered him my soggy ass as indisputable proof. It wasn’t my most respectful, nor brightest moment, but I am not sure if anyone else would have handled it differently.
My mom swooped in and encouraged me to get into some dry clothing. She was every bit the mom in that moment. She cooed and soothed. She offered words like “I know” to all of my rants. I am not sure how, but she did manage to calm me down. When I revisited the conversation with my dad, I was patient enough to endure his many questions designed to convince me that my soggy drive home couldn’t possibly have been Ol’Bruiser’s fault.
My dad was a master persuader—or so he thought. His technique was to beat his opponents down with question: one question rephrased in countless different ways. He was like a lawyer who asked the accused the same question over and over until he cracked and admitted guilt. I had seen him do that to the poor guy who sold us Ol’Brusier, and also with the paint guys at the dealership. My placation was short lived, and now that I was dry, my rage was not as much blind as it was ruthlessly lucid.
First he got me to explain, just exactly where the water pooled. His attempts to challenge these facts were met with my wet jeans and undergarment—I invited him to hire a forensic team to examine the water marks and saturation value. He then questioned the manner with which I opened my door, at this point my mom shot him down. Then, he entreated me to examine the exact nature of the weather in that particular area of town. He questioned just where and how I parked. I was incredulous—he really thought I would believe that my parking technique (or lack thereof) could anger the rain gods—seriously? His questions soon went from cagey to downright silly.
Before he could realize it, the tides turned on my dad. I had the upper hand—for once both logic and my mom were on my side. I also had indisputable concrete evidence, and it was highly damning. My dad’s haranguing, circular questioning, and back pedaling started to cough and sputter. I had him right where I wanted him. I hit him up with a question he couldn’t side-step or deflect. I asked, and demanded a response explaining why this highly tarred and fibre-glassed vehicle-reborn could have a hole in such an inconvenient spot.
He sat pondering, and then he answered: “hmmmmm…..well…. that shouldn’t happen.” Really Sherlock? That is your grand assessment—“that shouldn’t happen”? Wow, talk about your hollow victories. Turns out that this was as close anyone had ever gotten to getting my dad to admitting responsibility—for anything. The phrase “hmmph—well that shouldn’t happen” would soon become his staple phrase, and I was there for its inaugural launch.
There were many incidents filed under “Hmmmph…that shouldn’t happen”. Engine timing issues that caused random stalling, engine timing issues that caused random acceleration, strange smells, and odd clunking sounds. Twice, while encountering cars driving the wrong way down a one-way, my horn failed to work, and one cold and stormy evening—my brakes failed. To my credit, in those moments my actions prevented things from being far worse than you would normally expect. In the case of the cars barrelling towards me on the one way—a blink of my high-beams was enough to jar them back to reality and out of my way. With the case of brake failure, I was able to combine down-shifting and the use of my hand brake to safely find my way home.
In all instances, my mom was in the room listening to my stories of surviving the ‘that shouldn’t happenings’ of Ol’Bruiser. Her eyebrows arched at the no-horn story, but during the story of brake failure, she did not hold her tongue. She, in fact, flew into a rage. The thought of her baby driving a vehicle that had no brakes poked the “mama bear” in her. “THAT shouldn’t happen?! REALLY? Our daughter narrowly escapes death and destruction and all YOU have to offer her is ‘that shouldn’t happen’?—No-no, don’t start going on about what a good driver she is that she can handle it. No driver should have to handle crap like that! How would you have felt if she hadn’t of been able to stop? What would you say at her funeral—That shouldn’t happen?!…” She went off on him and shamed him in all kinds of ways.
When my mom was done with him, my dad hung his head like a whipped dog. He came up to me, handed me the keys to his car and said, “you can drive her to school while I repair your brakes—you will help me when you are not in school, and together we will get Ol’Bruiser up and running again.” It was my dad’s way of apologizing. My mom made him see the error of his ways, and he genuinely felt bad about it. As for me, I was happy to help my dad work on the car. It would be cold, dirty, and I would be subjected to more information than I could handle, but it would be sweet relief from driving my dad’s delicate little dream car.