Suzylocks and the Three Cars

I’m coming to you from the modest motel in San Francisco, where the foghorns are blowing up a storm, so I’m guessing it’s dark grey outside. You may wonder how I got here with Miss Scarlett in the shop and the loaner Honda clearly not up to the road trip.

The day after Thanksgiving, Megan, Jarrett and I went to the craft fair in the Village, our holiday tradition. Then we went to the Big Town, where we confidently drove up to the strip mall where the DMV is and the one car rental place used to be. Used to be.

I checked my confirmation email on my iPhone and learned that the car rental place had moved. We went to the new location, which is a fancy way of saying “desk with a girl inside a car dealership”. It turned out that she only had one car available, even though it was nearly 4:00 in the afternoon and they close at 5:00. Apparently people who promised to return their cars had not kept their word.

Since the car rental place is closed on Saturday and Sunday, I had no choice but to take the enormous and hugely hideous Jeep Compass. Megan and Jarrett callously left me there to deal with it with the insouciance of people who have driven an ambulance (Megan) and currently drive a gunboat sized 1977 Chevy (Jarrett). I asked if I should bring it back full, and she said, “No, it’s at a quarter. So bring it back at a quarter.” Not only did this necessitate an immediate trip to the gas station, where it took me forever to figure out how to get the key out of the ignition as the day darkened, but I’ll have to try and finesse my gas purchasing to make sure I don’t give the rental people an early Christmas gift.

Did I mention that the monster gets about 18 miles to the gallon?

Although huge, it’s claustrophobic inside, with surprisingly little trunk room. Also the windows are tinted, making vision difficult at dusk, and the rear window is partly blocked by the absurdly high seat backs, even at their lowest setting, and is difficult to see out of at all due to the odd angle.

I felt like the universe was saying, “You don’t like the tiny, noisy, rattly old car with no radio or stereo? How about a huge, quiet, new car with a CD player?” I had an almost physical longing for Miss Scarlett as I drove along the Ridge, in peril of the three foot deep car eating ditches. This one’s too hard. This one’s too soft. This one’s just right.

One of Those Days

Oh, it’s been quite the morning so far.

The little heater I use in my uninsulated and otherwise unheated bathroom crapped out on me before my shower – hello, 50 degrees! – which was not quite warm enough despite only using hot water. On emerging from the warmish shower, I reached, glassesless, for the pink towel turban I use for my hair, discovering that a spider was in residence.

Now, I’ve pretty much learned to peacefully co-exist with my arachnid roommates, but this was unexpected and somewhat horrifying as the spider skittered down my face.

Imagine how the spider felt.

I got into the 1986 Honda that I’ve been driving during Miss Scarlett’s hospital stay. It’s creaky and rattles and sounds a lot like the Waltons’ old truck that was always breaking down. I can barely hear the rattles and creaks over the sonic boom of the engine, however. There’s a hole in the exhaust pipe or similar, so it sounds like a plane taking off even when you’re only going 20. It also doesn’t have any kind of power assist for steering or brakes, with the result that I am now driving like the old lady I am, or, dare I say it, a tourist.

Good thing, too, since as I came around a curve on the ridge on my way to the jobette this morning, there was a dog dancing happily in the middle of the road. I slammed on the unassisted brakes while the dog bounced around happily. He reminded me of the good old days when Schatzi used to prance around in front of my car on the driveway, necessitating getting out of the car and making sure she was safe before heading on my way. I’d do anything to have to check on her safety now. I sure miss that girl.

I stopped off at the mechanic’s on my way to work and they were still working on estimates, but the numbers under discussion were alarming. We’ll see what happens. I may be the only girl in America who is less stressed by Thanksgiving than the rest of my life. I wish I was running up a tab at a bar instead of at the mechanic’s.

Ugh

So yes, we did get the rain. Two and a half inches of it in three days, though we are now back to sunshine and I fear that I will once more be watering the garden with icy cold water before too long.

On the rainiest of the rainy evenings, beset by logging truck backwash and the futility of headlights, I was just a few miles from home, driving up the hill from the Gro when I noticed that the car was barely going 30. The engine light came on, and then I lost all steering and brakes, not fun on a dark, rainy country road. Somehow I was able to steer Miss Scarlett off the road and more or less off the Ridge, though her capacious butt was closer to the fog line than I would have liked.

I went down to the house whose driveway I was unexpectedly occupying and knocked. It was locked up with no lights and all the shades drawn, so it’s likely a vacation rental. I made my way to the Gro, where there is a pay phone to call for help – no cell service in these parts – and a nice place to wait for it to arrive. I was offered rides home and possible diagnoses of what ailed the car.

Miss Scarlett was ignominiously towed back to town, where it was discovered that there was a problem with a belt, pulley and tensioners. They further discovered that there is a hole in the radiator, which is buried far, far inside, necessitating an entire day’s labor to replace it.

I called my brother, who said that I should have called him when it happened, so that Rob could have towed it to the family property and worked on it, saving the exorbitant labor costs. I pointed out that he was at work in town and Rob was out when it happened, and I was so shaken up that I wasn’t thinking straight. I am barely an acceptable adult at the best of times, and this was not the best of times.

My brother is going to go and look at it on Monday and figure out whether it’s better to tow it back to Hooterville or let the mechanics work their magic. Stay tuned….

Friends

This morning, I dropped Miss Scarlett off to get two new tires put on, just in time for the rain that’s supposed to arrive tonight. Tires have a short life expectancy around here – they’re basically all members of the 27 Club. Maybe not even that old. If they last two years on the rocky, rough, rutted country roads, you’re doing well. Which is why I always feel like I’m buying tires. Because I am…

After leaving the car in the capable hands of the tire technicians, I walked to the jobette. It was nice to walk in the cool morning air, but a couple of blocks down the street, I was honked at. It turned out to be my friend Liz from the pool. She said they were all worried about me – I haven’t made it to the pool in the past couple of months due to my crazy work schedule(s) – and missed me. I explained some of what had happened and she was really sweet. I have promised myself to go tomorrow.

As I walked down the street, I felt so lucky to live in this odd little corner of the world, where people actually care about you, and to have somehow landed here, surrounded by friends and family. On Friday, we had a late season BBQ at my brother’s place with our friends Rik and Lu (and their dog Harlow, who is Star’s BFF), Lichen, and my siblings’ land partners, Dave and Jennifer, who were so kind and helpful during the Great Schatzi Search this summer. They are buying the property along with my siblings, and one of these days they will have a house on their half of the 68 acres, so they will be neighbors as well as friends.

The sun was setting and the moon was rising when I arrived:

My brother was manning the grill and everyone else was gathered around the fire pit*:

Lu and Rik went on a medical mission to Honduras earlier this year, where they helped villagers who hadn’t had any medical help in months or even years, and they are going back in February. They specified that they wanted to be posted to same village so they can check in on the same folks they met last year and see how they’re doing. I’m so proud of them for caring and making a difference, not just here but abroad as well.

After dinner we sat by the fire feeling as relaxed as Harlow looks here:

It was a good evening with good friends.

*Which used to be a well ring.

Car Reflections

Selling the car has made me think about the whole thing. Have I learned anything from what was essentially a really expensive mistake?

I didn’t learn to drive until I was more than 30 years old, which should be an Awful Warning to others. If you’re going to do it, do it when you’re young and fearless. If you wait until you’re old, like I did, you realize that not only is Death inevitable, but it’s coming for you personally. And driving just makes it all that much easier for the Reaper to get his scythe on you. When I’m driving on the freeway, I’m going the speed limit and everyone else is passing me and I’m thinking, “If anyone hits me, I’m dead.”

When was learning to drive, people kept telling me, “Look at all the idiots who can drive. Anyone can do it.” I did not and do not find that comforting, because that means that some, if not most, of the cars jetting by me at 80+mph are being driven by stupid people. This does not decrease the danger, in my opinion.

I’m just not one of Nature’s drivers, and that’s that.

However, I didn’t know that right away, and once I got my license, I wanted to buy a car. I started looking at used cars, with my brother’s expert guidance, and was shocked by how much a decent used car costs. When I discovered that I could by a 1966 Mustang convertible for the same price as a reliable ugly car, you know I had to go for the Mustang. It was like jewelry I could drive. I never want the sensible and boring if I can have the pretty and impractical instead. And it’s not like I needed a car to commute in every day or take the kids to soccer practice. It was a frivolous car for a frivolous girl.

I didn’t heed my brother’s caveats about old cars, either. In my ignorance, I figured, how much could go wrong with it when it’s such a simple machine? I mean, you look under the hood and there are about 12 things in there. You can see the ground. What I didn’t understand then was that something will always go wrong, and that vintage cars are holes you pour money into and which put you at the mercy of mechanics named (and natured) Snake.

So, I guess I learned that not only am I not one of Nature’s drivers, I’m not one of Nature’s car owners, either. I’ll leave cars, like children, to those who really want and/or need them.