Crazy B*tch (Memoirs of a Lemon Lover in Recovery)
Chapter 13—Evil Step Sister Hand-me-downs
Each time I got into my car, I discovered a new item, mysteriously left there by the car fairies. Okay, there are no such thing as car fairies, but crazy father just doesn’t have the same whimsical ring to it. My dad kept giving me cast-off “accessories” from his car, the car formerly euphemized as my “evil step-sister”. The first item was a steering wheel cover—leather. It was a nice surprise, save for all the traumatic “evil step sister” memories it conjured up from my driving lesson days. The next item, equally pleasant for reasons of creature comfort, were sheep-skin seat covers. Since these items were so aesthetic and practical, I saw no reason to question or challenge these offerings. I did always make sure I said “thank you” and give my dad a big hug for these items.
At first, I thought that was his only motive: to help me celebrate the joy of my shiny new blue car, and perhaps, enjoy the hug. It turns out that my dad was just buttering me up for an onslaught of crap he didn’t have the heart to throw out. The most refuse-worthy of the crap were a set of some kind of pukey, faded, shamrock green car floor mats. These mats herald from the days of Sputnik and the cold war—a time when green was offered as the trendy, fresh alternative to black in car colours. They looked, and smelled, horrifically old. They were beyond “retro” and approximately a half a mile away from “pre-historic”. I don’t think my dad even owned a green car from that time—perhaps they belonged to my grandpa, and my dad was going to offer them up as some kind of family heirloom.
I didn’t have the heart to say anything, so I just took the mats back to the garage where my dad parked his car and deposited these Sputniky-green mats back into Evil Step Sister’s trunk. Twenty-four hours later, those mats where right back to where I first found them. Again, but in stealth, I returned them to my dad’s trunk. The next day, I opened my car and was confronted, nay assaulted, by the smell of 1950’s plastic. The heat accumulating in my car started to ‘melt’ the Sputnik-green mats. My dad was persistent, so I had to brooch the topic with him, because subtlety was being lost on him. One day, at dinner, I asked him, “So dad, someone keeps leaving those old green car mats in my car.”
“Yes, I figured you could use them to help preserve your real car mats—those things aren’t cheap you know.”
“I know, but those green ones…they…umm…”
“What? Not pretty enough for you? Don’t match the interior? Want something fancier?”
I didn’t have the heart to tell him that if I did have something fancier, he would still just cover it up with those stupid mats anyway. “no…what I was going to say is that they smell kind of…toxic…like the plastic is starting to break down into carcinogenic PCP’s.” I knew if I phrased it that way, I would get my mom’s attention. One of her phobias is the toxic properties of degenerating plastics and rubber. One matriarchal arched eyebrow later and I was enjoying custom, fabric floor mats—and the Sputnik green mats were never seen again.
My dad always maintained that his driving skills were so adroit that he did not need winter tires. You can imagine my surprise, and mild insult, when he trotted out a pair of barely used hand-me-down winter tires for me to use. They were on a set of rims and needed only a little clean up and air. I then realized that these tires probably came with his car, and as a result of his keen negotiation skills, he not only landed winter tires but several other accessories to foist upon me at a later date—all that and for a ridiculous amount over the listed price. It all made sense now.
Winter tires meant that I would get a refresher lesson on tire removal and changing. I didn’t mind really, it was invigorating standing out in the cold to enjoy a 30 minute task that lasted three hours. It was father-daughter bonding time. I realize that when held in comparison what passed as genuine father-daughter bonding time, my dad and I could make circus freaks seem normal, but whatever it was, it sort of, kind of worked for us. My mom, ever supportive, bought me a set of mit-gloves, and a bunch of those little heat packets you see in the emergency packs hikers use. She brought her child into this world with ten fingers and ten toes, and she would be damned if some car-enthused mad man would cause her child to lose even one of those digits to frost bite.
The first part of the lesson included a highly detailed explanation on how to safely jack up a car. I was encouraged/forced to use the jack that came with my car so that if I was stuck on a road-side somewhere, I would be prepared. Next came the pumping up of tires—with a high pressure bicycle pump. Apparently this pump could eject two p.s.i of air with each plunge—that meant only 58 plunges per tire. While I worked on pumping up my tires, my dad dusted and polished his industry spec. air compressor. Finally, there came the refresher lecture on mounting (and hand adjusting the torque on) tires. Hard as it may seem to believe, that part took longer than the tire pumping. After six hours, my car was resplendently ready for winter with her nearly new, properly installed, winter tires. Given my first winter driving/tire experience, I felt my dad and I had made such tremendous strides. It made me feel all warm and fuzzy I as contemplated this while dressing the blisters on my hands.