Rocinante’s Reprieve

CargoThe roads around here have been dicey lately, what with incontinent weather systems leaving piles of precipitate all over the place, so it wasn’t until Sunday morning that it was safe to push Rocinante, my loyal Honda Civic, past fifty on the highway.

At which point he started shaking so hard, I thought he was going to lose a tire and jettison his undercarriage—not a happy prospect when one is a quarter of the way across a slick bridge above the frozen Mississippi, with two kids in the back seat making those “uhuhuhuhuhuhuhuh” noises that kids like to make when they vibrate.

We managed to arrive safely, if shaken (Hey-o!), at our destination, where I asked my friend Larry—the one who lent me a roll of duct tape when Rocinante’s driver’s side mirror fell off this past summer—what he thought it might be.

He thought it might be a lot of things, most of them expensive.  Of course.

We managed to get home again, by dint of taking streets with speed limits of thirty-five and briefly irritating the crap out of the other drivers on the bridge who would have liked for me to go just a tad faster.  But I started to notice other things, too, like the way Rocinante was lagging when I hit the gas, as if he had to figure out how to get his wheels all going in the same direction first.  And how even at slower speeds, I was feeling a definite wobble in the front wheel on the driver’s side.

I  had to wait until Monday evening to get Rocinante to our favorite mechanic, and I’d already half-decided that it was time to trade in my faithful 2005 steed, with his battered body and imaginative gas gauge.   Instead of  laying down the money for new struts/tires/axel pins/exorcisms, maybe I should use it for a down payment on something new, or newer.

I wasn’t thrilled with the idea of a car payment, but maybe it wouldn’t be too bad—surely a nine-year old car with under 65,000 miles on it would earn a decent trade in, dents and dings and broken latches aside.

Or I could sell him myself.  Surely someone would want to adopt a small loyal car that might be a bit . . . homely . . . but always started—battery willing—and offered effective heating, low gas mileage, and a brand new windshield . . .

Maybe for parts.  Or the demolition derby.

I suddenly realized why some people spend thousands of dollars on chemo for their pet goldfinches.  Unfortunately, in this situation, “Over my dead body” isn’t just a phrase, and I had the safety of my children’s’ bodies to consider, too.

So I drove to my mechanic’s shop with heavy heart and light pocketbook and told my car wizard all about it while one of his guys took Rocinante out for a test drive.

The guy came back and drove my baby onto an empty lift.  My mechanic went out to talk with him and about fifteen minutes later, he came back into the office, where I’d been reading depressing magazine articles about cleansing diets and echinacea,  and shook his head.

My heart sank.

“Charlie didn’t feel that vibration at all,” he said.  “When’s the last time you drove it over forty-five?”

“Yesterday morning,” I said, wondering if I should call my kids in as witnesses and have them demonstrate that “uhuhuhuhuhuhuhuh” noise for him.

“Did you park inside last night?”


“Is your garage heated?”


“Okay,” he said.  “Your struts are fine and everything else looks good—bolted down tight.  But you have a lot of ice and packed snow around your front wheels and I’ll bet it was worse before you reached your garage and some of it melted off.  That can throw off your balance by several ounces.  We just cleared all that out, so why don’t you take another test drive with Charlie, and see if that fixed it?”

“Um, okay.”

So I did. And it had.  And I was charged $17.60—but only because they replaced my wiper blades.

Rocinante is in fine, inexpensive shape, at least on the inside, and I wouldn’t trade his ugly mug for any of the prettier ponies out there.

Not even for heated seats and a USB port.


What are you driving these days?


Hindsight in the Fog

My driver’s side mirror was knocked off yesterday morning—and I know that’s in passive voice, thank you, but I’m avoiding full responsibility for the damage, which is what the passive voice is for.

I’ve spent the last day and a half alternately worried that I couldn’t adequately see the traffic behind me and certain that someone will rip off the carefully duct-taped mirror from my car while it in the library parking lot.  I’ve also spent a lot of time adjusting the damned thing manually, which is a lot less hit-or-miss (HEY-o!) when I can use the automatic controls, which I can’t do because the wires apparently loosened once I taped the mirror case down, or open the window, which I can’t do because it’s taped to the mirror case.

I’m sure there’s a life lesson in there somewhere, probably more than one, about hindsight, foresight, merging, paying attention to one’s surroundings, the obstacles to establishing budgets, the usefulness of duct and electrical tape, and the essential viciousness of garage door frames.

CargoThat last is a lesson I should have learned the time I tried a slow hairpin turn in our old two-and-a-half-car garage so I wouldn’t have to back down the long, curved, steep driveway, which had a stone wall on one side and one made of railroad ties on the other.   It did work . . . mostly . . . and the garage door still closed and the dent over the front passenger tire gives Rocinante that jaunty air of weltschmerz that all good, faithful, and neglected modes of transportation should have, unless you’re trying to calculate your trade-in value* without wincing.

But that was over a decade ago, and my memory is only good for certain things, like what the founder of our town had for breakfast over 160+ years ago on the day he was murdered and where the bathrooms are located in any building I’ve ever visited.  And, of course, HobNobs.

Accidents that were clearly my fault don’t get many memory cells allotted to them.  If a falling tree clips a Honda in a forest and no one remembers where that dent came from, no harm, no foul—right?

Except it was foggy this morning—if ever a natural analogy there was—and all I could see from the mirror for the first few miles was the yellow line next to the back tire because I’d forgotten all about my little contretemps and either the mirror isn’t holding its angle or my beloved offspring are messing.  The mirror makes a neat click-click-click when you push it, so I know which way I’m betting.

If anyone is curious, side view mirrors were invented so that a driver doesn’t have to bodily turn the whole of her attention behind her to merge into the flow of traffic while zipping quite fast towards the cars ahead of her, which have slowed down to do the same thing.  While her younger daughter’s stuffed pig does the Rhumba in her peripheral vision.

I knew this already, so I pulled over before the Insterstate on-ramp, click-click-clicked the mirror into place, and continued on.

Disaster averted, analogy generated.

The budget will have to be similarly adjusted to pay for repairs—and to those who just said, “Ha! Passive voice,” well spotted.  The ambulance bill hasn’t arrived yet . . .

But we’re all safe for the moment and, since it’s my turn for the late Monday shift, I spent the morning as a library patron, editing pigeons and pressmen in the quiet . . .  in front of a window facing the parking lot, so I could see if anyone paused beside my car.

And after my shift, supposing that no one vandalized Rocinante while I was working, I’ll drive to the grocery store for food, diet Pepsi, and more duct tape.

Guess I’ve learned my lesson after all.

How’s your Monday going?


*Or, rather, the trade-in value of the car.  My trade-in value isn’t much, even in spare parts.

. . . except for the knitting

The Rejectionist asked us yesterday how our pre-resolutions are going. I left a brief comment over there, but needed a post today, so here’s the expanded version:

My tires are new, balanced, and actually grip the road—what a peculiar sensation it is not to skid to a stop.  As mentioned in a previous post, I spent a little extra to get them done quickly and conveniently, but prefer to view it as spending five years worth of tire money all at once.

I took the kids (and my husband) to see Tangled on Saturday. Everyone liked it, even Janie, who spent about three-fourths of it hiding behind me in case something scary happened. She loved Maximus, though, and the faire dance—which in my opinion was set to the best music of the movie.

It’s a good story with amazing animation—though, as my husband said, if the eyes were any bigger, it would be a Bug’s Life. Regardless, we both thought that the style would be perfect for Terry Pratchett’s Discworld. Especially for Nanny Ogg. I would also swear that the design of the biggest thug was based on Clancy Brown’s Kurgan from Highlander—a movie dear to my heart and an actor dearer. I may have to go back and see both movies again to be sure . . .

The only part of this resolution I missed was the popcorn part—the kids turned me down, because they were full of shoestring French fries from the restaurant. I didn’t think that was possible. Afterwards, though, my husband took them for blizzards at the DQ while I collected my newly-shod car and hoped my credit card wouldn’t melt.

I’m pretty much meeting my daily two hour writing goal, though I’ve learned to plug in the tunes and shut off the WiFi. I write before the kids get up, at work before I clock in, on breaks or lunch, and after the kids go to bed. I’m budgeting time, too, if there’s something I want to do with the family.

That almost seems . . . responsible. Weird.

I’m also more aware of free floating minutes that might be used for writing and the consequences of using those minutes for Youtubing or channel flipping. Though sometimes, the consequences are a more relaxed writer with a better handle on what might come next . . . it’s a balance, surprise, surprise.

So my pre-Resolutions are going pretty well.  Except for one thing:

My mother’s handknitted-with-love-and-cat hair Christmas socks remain untouched. 
Because I still can’t find them.

The Pre-Resolutions Uncontest: Tires, Time, Tangled . . . and Socks (maybe)

The Rejectionist has provided us with yet another Participatory Self-Actualization Opportunity because that’s just the kind of person she is.

This time, she’s asked her loyal readers to join her in her tradition of making pre-Resolutions.  Unlike the usual January ones which are meant to be kept all year, and which I generally kick into the cat box around March 3rd, pre-Resolutions are  to be kept for the month—or any part of the month, no matter how small—of December. 

Here are my pre-Resolutions for December 2010:

1. I will buy new tires for my car before the end of the month, as I am still driving on the 2005 originals.  Not only can I see all of Mr. Lincoln when I try the penny test on what can no longer truthfully be called the treads, but the bridge I use to pass over the mighty Mississippi at least twice a day—with kids—is starting to develop that icy sheen.* 

 And it $&#@ snowed yesterday. 

2. I will write at least two hours a day during the month of December.  Words on paper, pixels on screen. To save my sanity, the time will be cumulative, not sequential, but there will be no carryover or make-up minutes. I will write every day.

Blogging doesn’t count, so expect shorter posts, y’all.  You can thank me later.

3. I will finish the socks I started in May for Mom’s June birthday—all the way up, none of this “Mom prefers anklets” business—and send them  to her in time for Christmas. 

If I can remember where I put them.

4.  I will take my kids to see Tangled the very first chance I get and buy them too much popcorn and not worry about how much gets inside the kids or outside the containers.  And I might even take them twice.

So that’s the plan for December.

With perseverance and a little luck—I seriously have no idea where those socks are—I might even make it past Hanukkah!


* ‘Cause the mighty Mississip goes all the way up, that’s why.   The sultry deltas get all the press, so people tend to forget the ice floes at the other end.