Crazy B*tch (Memoirs of a Lemon Lover in Recovery)
Section Two—Shiny-New-Blue Car
Chapter 12—First—Reverse, Potayto—Potahto…
My dad was adamant about not registering my shiny new blue car until we sold Ol’Bruiser. When it came to my dad and his unique approach and attitude regarding cars, I soon learned that my mental survival would rely heavily on my ability to cunningly choose my battles. This was not a battle of my choosing, thus I waited. It really wasn’t the most horrible thing. The weather was warm, so Ol’Bruiser was starting without issue. Her proclivity to stalling randomly was still in play, but I had adapted in ways that would make Darwin proud. There wasn’t anybody who could shift and turn the start quicker than yours truly. I was like a cheetah, so fast the human eye couldn’t even process the movement.
It could have been my imagination, but I am pretty sure that I heard angels singing during my “maiden voyage” in the shiny new blue car. Compared to Ol’Bruiser, the engine was so quiet, there were times when I wondered if the engine was even running at all. My habit of obsessively checking the tachometer did not cease with this new car, nor did my paranoia about random stalling. But still, driving this shiny new blue car felt soooooo good! There was power steering, and some kind of hydraulic linkage in the transmission. Suddenly the act of driving took on a whole new fluidity I had yet to really know. I also had functioning seat warmers and adjustable lumbar support. I had arrived, and driving got a whole lot more luxurious.
With the flurry of repairs to get this car road ready for me, there was one subtle detail that got overlooked. It was a tiny thing, mechanically speaking, but had a huge influence over the general operation of the car. There was a control arm or some thing-a-ma-jiggy that distinguished gear shift position between first gear and reverse. It was a safety measure to prevent one from accidentally shifting into reverse instead of first. Safety measure. Yeah….safety.
Most people would find the whole thing a little frightening. I can’t argue much, but I will say that a person will not miss something that she never had. That’s right, Ol’Bruiser didn’t have that thing-a-ma-jiggy either, and that was not an omission in the proper sense. That feature was not conceived at the time in that particular model. The linkage was different, and the risk was not great. You really had to work to get the transmission into reverse, so there was really no chance of accidentally starting off in reverse. My dad felt confident that I would not accidentally shift into reverse. He had taught me well, and I was an excellent shifter. However, just to be considerate, neither he nor I brought this little oversight to my mom’s attention.
I was driving for a few weeks before I gave my mom a ride in the shiny new blue car. I never would have thought she paid any attention to my shifting. She never really concerned herself with such details before, and I was a little surprised that she would start now. Her eyes were like saucers. She became increasingly more anxious. Before long, I could hear an audible gasp at each stop. I did not let on that I noticed. I learned early on not to indulge another’s anxiety because then I would also get anxious. If learned nothing from all of my dad’s unique instructions it was important to remain calm in all circumstances. In hindsight, my Zen-like approach to driving may not have packed its desired wallop.
When got home, the wheels had barely stopped rolling and my mom leaped out of the car. She ran into the house screaming my dad’s full name. The screaming of one’s full name is universal mom code for “you are in effing trouble”. It is usually reserved for offspring and rarely deployed between spouses. This was a special and rare occasion, so I did what any sensible woman would do: I hid. While hiding in the neighbour’s root cellar, word on the street was that my dad said “yes dear” a record half-a-million times. By the time I returned home, my shiny new blue car was on the hoist, and my dad was setting to show me just how my transmission worked.
The repair itself was a relatively quick and simple one. However, we uncovered some other information about my transmission. It turns out that there was some oil on my clutch cable. My dad didn’t seem too concerned, but he did advise me to inform him the moment my clutch started “slipping”. I wasn’t sure if I even knew what that looked or felt like. Maybe it was already slipping and I hadn’t noticed. My dad laughed and assured me that once it started happening, I would know. Given what I just witnessed from my mom, I also felt that I didn’t want to know just how my mom might react to that tidbit of knowledge. So, in the top five of my rhetorical questions, I listed “When will he learn?” at number one.
Fortunately I already had a bit of an OCD thing going on with my tachometer, so I was vigilantly looking for the first signs of clutch slippage. My dad warned me to look for the kind of revving that is consistent when a car is out of gear or in neutral. This translates to mean that while the revs go up, there is no proportionate response in acceleration. I went for such a long time without experiencing this phenomenon that I almost forgot to obsess over it for a time.
Instead, I allowed myself to have moments of shear enjoyment. I was driving a shiny, new, blue car. It had fuel injectors, it was one solid, shiny, colour, and it never stalled randomly without reason. It also had a sweet stereo system (happy coincidence: not design). Oh, and I should also mention, the roof never leaked on rainy days, but if it did, my seat warmers would go a long way to offset that cold and damp discomfort. Dammit, but this was my honeymoon phase and I was going to enjoy it for as long as possible.