Snarky newcomer opines, basically

Rainy day woman

Posted 7/26/23

The store within walking distance didn’t have the plastic birthday candle holders I needed to light candles on ice cream instead of on cake, so I took the car. 

I wasn’t really …

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Snarky newcomer opines, basically

Rainy day woman


The store within walking distance didn’t have the plastic birthday candle holders I needed to light candles on ice cream instead of on cake, so I took the car. 

I wasn’t really supposed to take the car; I didn’t have a license. But I did anyway, since it was raining very hard. 

As I was tooling down Staten Island’s narrow hilly streets with cars parked higgledy-piggledy along the roadsides and potholes, like zombies, suddenly appearing, I realized I didn’t know how to turn on the windshield wipers or the lights. I jiggled this, jaggled that, swerved right, thunked left. Somehow I got the windshield wipers going at the right speed, the lights were on and I was feeling terribly competent.

I got to the grocery store, parked the car, went in, bought stuff (but not the candle holders; the store didn’t have them), went back out through the rain to the car, put the key in the ignition and it wouldn’t turn. It just wouldn’t. No matter how I wiggled the key, the ignition drum just sat there, frozen like the good guys by the white witch of Narnia. 

Letting machines rest sometimes gets them working again. They can get cranky when they’re tired. So I sat calmly for a few minutes.

Calm wasn’t working. My mind was busy going over the ways I was going to be in SO much trouble. I wasn’t far from home, I could get back easily enough. But I was not supposed to be driving the car, and my husband Mark would kill me if he found out I left the car in the grocery store parking lot and the grocery store would not be too happy about it either. 

If there was anything really wrong with the car we probably couldn’t afford to have it fixed and if I had to have the damn thing towed that cost would cut severely into the bill paying.

I tried the key again. It still wouldn’t turn. I couldn’t move the gear shift. 

I checked that the car was in park. 

I pressed down on the gas; that didn’t do anything. 

I squeezed the brake pedal; that didn’t do anything. 

I kept looking for something to tell me what I had done, what I should do. 

I pushed and pressed random things around the dashboard.

On a lever on the steering column, a row of symbols explained MIST/INT/TIME/diagram of the light bulb inside gauge/OFF/ON, but I was too thick to understand.

A loud bang came from the back of the car. Assuming someone had hit me, I turned around, ready to be angry, and saw a woman in heavy makeup and elaborate Republican blond hair the rain was not affecting. 

She had very shiny fingernails that she was waggling at me. I wondered if I’d combed my hair. I was pretty sure I’d brushed my teeth. She said earnestly, “It’s OK! It’s OK! Your gas tank cover was open,” probably from my assorted button pushing, “and I just popped it shut.”

Putting aside my assumption of superiority a bit shamefully, I latched on to her, a real human being who was already speaking to me, “Please, do you know anything about cars?”

This sainted woman put her groceries into her car and turned to me, in the rain, all hairspray and helpfulness. “What’s wrong?”

“I don’t know! I just got in the car and I can’t turn the key. I think I’ve locked the steering column and I don’t know how to unlock it.”

This woman I was ready to dismiss for style and condemn for carelessness a moment ago, got into my driver’s seat and started fumbling around. She was determined to help, though it quickly became clear she knew about as little about cars as I did.

“Is there anything wrong with this key? This is the right key, isn’t it?” She examined it as if it could have had Transformer powers, and might have unexpectedly reshaped itself.

“Yeah, I had no problem driving here with it.”

Now we’re both befuddled, but at least I wasn’t alone in the rain anymore. And she was braver than I. She waved at a young man over near the grocery store; he moseyed over. We asked if he knew anything about cars. He said, “No no no, I don’t know about cars!” as if two helpless women in the rain were way too much for anyone like him to bear, and he scurried away. 

Another man passed by, not moseying but hurrying through the raindrops as anyone would, and she boldly pulled him into her orbit and asked if he knew about cars. He got into the car, did something, turned the key and the car started. “Psssh vroom vroom.”

That was awesome. That was the cavalry arriving. That was the ticker tape parade for sports victors or war heroes, and the woman and I were the Rockettes standing behind the mayor on the reviewing stand, big smiles and little clothes.

We asked, in breathy voices, “What did you do? Oh, what did you do?” so that next time I wouldn’t be stuck, and he said “I’m from Brooklyn,” gave a rather dismissive wave, and dashed off.

I got into the still vrooming car, and headed home. When I get nervous I drive very badly. That’s why I failed my last driving test. I had made a mistake early in the test and that threw me off completely for the rest. So the way home was harrowing. I was driving very jerkily, the traffic and the rain were both pretty heavy; I wasn’t feeling competent at all.

I got home, carefully maneuvering the car into the driveway backward as my husband always does, as if for a quick getaway, so that it looked as if it hadn’t been driven at all.

I’ve never told my husband. Until now.

snarky newcomer, opines, basically


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