That Time I Knew Something About a Car

This is how the last week and a half has gone:

(Natalie breaks down that one Saturday.)
ME: Something’s wrong with the car.
DAD: (fixes it)
ME: Yay, thanks!
(Drives short distances for a day. Smoke no longer comes from under hood. Happy, appropriate-for-summer music)
NATALIE: I’m not feeling so good…
ME: Something’s wrong with the car.
DAD: No, it’s just bad gas.
ME: I don’t think so…
DAD: No, really. Driving is the only way to fix it.
ME: …Okay…
(Drives. Natalie gets sicker.)
ME: Something’s wrong with the car.
DAD: No. Drive it. Nothing’s wrong.
(Drives to places very far away, like auditions and book signings in other states. Natalie gets premium gas and feels a little better. Then I get home from New Jersey)
NATALIE: (hears swan song, cries tears of oil)
ME: There’s something wrong with the car.
DAD: No. It’s bad gas part two.
(Today, I drive to the gym. On the way home:)
NATALIE: (goes to meet maker in the middle of a busy, busy main road.)
ME: There was something wrong with the car.

So, needless to say, it wasn’t bad gas. Also needless to say, I was not happy that Natalie broke down in the middle of the road. But I was kind of happy that she broke down in general (and that it didn’t happen in Jersey) because my dad never would have believed me that something was wrong until it was proven by something as big as that (the fact that my car wouldn’t go more than 40 mph when I was flooring it wasn’t enough.) I also got lucky; not ten seconds after my car stopped moving, a policeman came along. This was good because when my dad fixed the car, he purposely disabled the window mechanism for the driver’s side, so I couldn’t power down my window and wave on cars behind me; I kept having to drape myself across the car and flap my hand outside of the passenger’s side window. He looked at all of my documents while I was on the phone with AAA and my father. Another officer showed up, and with one driving in front of me and one pushing my powerless car from behind, they got me onto the shoulder of the road.

It was both lucky and frustrating that my car broke down pretty much right outside my apartment complex. I could have been at my front door in five minutes. But I couldn’t leave my car, and AAA wasn’t going to be there for at least half an hour. So I sat in the car and read, waiting.

When I was on the phone with AAA, I had told them that the tow truck driver only had to take my car the .2 miles to the parking lot of my complex. But then my dad called and told me to have the car taken to the garage recommended by my uncle, who lives in the area. So when the tow truck driver showed up, I gave him the address… and he flipped out.

“Where’s this?!” he demanded. “Uh… Lansdale,” I said, thinking that was obvious from the address I had scribbled on the back of an old audition sheet (you know you’re an actor when…) “Yeah, but WHERE? How many miles is it from here?” “I don’t know. I’ve never been there.” “You’ve never been there?” he repeated, almost mockingly. “No,” I said. “I’m not from here. I usually take my car to my hometown to be serviced.” “Well, how am I supposed to find it? How am I supposed to know the milage? I thought I was only taking you there.” He pointed angrily toward the apartment complex. I explained that yes, that had been the original plan, but this would be better than a useless car sitting in a parking lot. He practically rolled his eyes at me. ‘Well, you’re gonna have to pay,” he said finally. “Um… how?” “Cash or cheque. It’s $4 a mile.”

I had $15 in my wallet, and my chequebook was in my apartment. But even if I had had it… $4 a mile, on my non-budget budget, could be disasterous. He insisted that we go to my apartment building so I could run upstairs, get my chequebook, and pay him. As I climbed into the truck, I thought back to the car breakdown last summer, and how dangerous it is for girls on their own to have no choice but to get in cars with these strange men. I had taken the gate sensor from my car so I could let us into the complex. His truck was much bigger than my car, and the gate wasn’t picking up the sensor. He impatiently inched his truck up. “Why isn’t it working? Why isn’t it working?!” He was acting like I was doing all of this as a funny joke.

I had texted my mom that the guy wanted a cheque from me and she texted back, “NO!” She called and demanded to talk to him. He got on the phone with AAA. At one point, I was on his phone and my phone at the same time, one to each ear like a comedy sketch, except in real life it was not funny. Eventually, it was worked out that I could pay by credit card to AAA, and he got directions to the garage, which was only fourteen miles away. His reaction to having to drive those miles was akin to someone having their arm sawn off. Isn’t that his job?

It has been pre-diagnosed that it’s the transmission, and it might be the end of Natalie. Thankfully, I don’t require a car this week except one time when it would be helpful. But the general fact that the car might be dead is not so good.


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