As most of my readers know, I am shackled with an older car that is systematically falling apart. I hope one day to enjoy the benefits and joy of having a car I don’t feel like I have to park out of sight when meeting someone at a coffee shop. But alas. I won’t belabor the point, as that cross has already been carried.
Since reading every last book I had in the house, I had to replenish my supply, and make a trip to the Library. This is usually an exciting event for me, being the intellectual geek I am, but I was only going to the local one, and let me just say, that it’s very much a reflection of the majority of the population in this little village–Republican, Christian, and Retired. There would always be certain types of books I could never find on their shelves,like, God is Not Great, The End of Faith, and one of mine: ISO (In Search of): Dating, Relationships & Sex for the Discerning Lesbian. But thankfully, I am interested in a wide range of things, some of which meets their approval.
While browsing the shelves someone came in and asked who drove the blue Cutlass. Me. Seems I left my brake lights on. I wasn’t aware that one could leave the brake lights on–the parking lights, maybe…but…anyway. I went out to check. It was raining. A portent?, but anyway, sure enough, they were glowing. I checked the light switches and there was nothing on. I banged on the light covers. Didn’t help, So I went back in to finish gathering and checking out my books and went back outside, checked the lights again and they were off. Mmm. Must have been a short.
Got in. Turned the key.
Okay. Nothing like a dead battery in my situation. I have no local friends. So I went inside to see if i could find someone with jumper cables, and of course, someone who would provide the running engine to jump FROM. I asked the elderly clerk at the desk. All of them there are, shall we say, senior citizens. But that’s reflective of local demographics, so I’m not surprised. One reason I’m anxious to make my move to Colorado.The lady did have jumper cables, and then pried herself off her stool and hobbled to the door with me, holding her keys. From just outside the door she aimed the keyless entry module and her trunk popped open. “I really don’t want to get in this rain…” she murmured. I dashed out to her trunk as she called, “The cables are in the blue tub.”
Pulling them out, I noticed that they were a different species of jumper cables. An older species. Like the difference between humans and amoebas. I can’t recall ever seeing a pair of jumper cables like that. This indicated to me that they had not existed in current use for some time.I tried to Google a photo of these cables, but even in the rich plethora of data on the Information Superhighway, i could not find a likeness. I felt rather like Stephen Jay Gould, brushing powdery dirt away from the skeleton of what i thought was another Archeopteryx, but which turned out to be just a strange gnarling of tree roots. Anyway. In a moment of brilliance, I realized I could just take a picture of the cables, myself. Blame it on lack of caffeine, since, as I write this, I am only on my first cup of the day.
I rejoined the library matron by the front door and there was this awkward moment where I realized it hadn’t occurred to her that I also needed her car engine. She seemed confused about why I wasn’t dashing outside and hooking those puppies up. What was I to connect the other end to? the Ficus tree? I said, “I’m going to need a running car, now, to jump my battery…”
She looked out into the freezing drizzle for a few beats, then I saw understanding change her face. “Well, I really didn’t want to get out into this rain…” But she reluctantly started for her car, braving the vicious torture of water drops on her person. As she does, I’m thinking, what is this aversion people have about rain? she’ll probably go home after work and get in the shower without even thinking about the correlation…And if she suffered such a debilitating aversion, why didn’t she carry an umbrella? Maybe she had an aversion to them, too.
As she pulled around, I began the tedious process of unwinding the 7 miles of string she had wrapped around the cables in three different locations. The string also seemed to hail from the Precambrian period. When she arrived, I opened the hood of my car as a man emerged from the library, noticed, and asked if we needed help. I briefly explained, and he hung around to offer assistance. Men are like that. While I appreciate the help, this type of gallantry has to come with its own version of mild insult: The idea that women are incapable of doing things that are traditionally the domain of men. I thanked him graciously, anyway.
The Library Matron pulled up next to my car, and I said, “pop the hood.” She looked bewildered. I went to her window and she grudgingly cracked it an inch to tell me, “I don’t know where that is.”
I had to tell her to open the door so I could find it. There it was, to the left of her left leg–a lever with a helpful illustration of a raised hood. I pulled it, and she made haste to close the door again after i was barely clear of it, as if the wicked rain also gave off poisonous vapors, which you are wise to avoid.
At the engine, me and the Good Samaritan realized she had one of those batteries that did not encourage jumping. I was afraid to mess with it. I’m so used to having older cars, that the new ones sometimes scare me–I’m not sure if they have security devices to ward of would-be jumpers, that they might be rigged to, like, explode or something. I asked him if he had a standard battery and he said yes and went to get his car.
I returned to the window of Library Matron and through the second minuscule crack in the window, released her from duty. She gratefully re-parked her car and hurried inside, lest the vicious, burning, evil water drops permanently disfigure her well-earned wrinkles and moles. Can you earn a mole? I wonder what you’d have to do for it? Can’t be that you’ll brave the rain to help someone, as this seemed a completely foreign activity for the Library Matron, and she had moles. It must be something like the opposite: you gain a mole for every year of your life in which you were crotchety and afraid of rain.
Done with the footnote? Good. I realize they aren’t at the foot, but that was because you’d have to scroll up and down a lot, and I am loathe to aggravate my readers. Other people, yes. Not my readers….I used to call these parentheticals “digressions,” now I just call them footnotes.
Anyway, so in short order, me and the Good Samaritan got my engine zooming to life and I thanked him for his kindness and shook his hand, saying, “It’s good to know there are still Good Samaritans.”
He countered with, “Well, I’m always for helping a damsel in distress.”
I quelled the knee-jerk response of eye-rolling, and opted for another engaging smile.
Leaving the engine running, I headed for the front library door and was met promptly by Library Matron. (Maybe she did not want me to come back in…I’m the one always looking for books on secular humanism, after all. A despot. An Infidel.) I tried to hand her the cables, and she said she was just giving them to me. I didn’t fall for it. I knew this was not so much an act of generosity as an act of getting rid of some clutter that she had only moments ago discovered would not serve her. In the interest of social harmony, I offered her an indulgent thank-you, against my instincts.
My next stop was the local grocery, and I’ll skip the edifying conversation I had with the Produce Manager and move on to the part where I went outside to load my items into the car. The bell-ringing sentry, complete with the Salvation Army kettle, had of course noticed that I left my engine running. As I was putting the 10 jugs of distilled water (it has no fluoride–more on that in another blog) he said, pointing at my car, “It’s still running.”
“I had a dead battery,” I offered with a smile.
He said, “That’s what I figured.”
Capable of sustaining small talk when necessary, I added, “Yeah, my brake lights stayed on at my last stop and drained the battery.”
He obligingly suggested that I might check the water levels in the battery cells. (not for a short in the brake lights, mind you) “Have your husband or boyfriend pry the caps off and check–”
I let that one go, loathe to again explain that I did not have a husband nor a boyfriend as I was a card-carrying lesbian, and eschewed the chastisement for his assumption. Instead I thanked him, and made my way back home.