Saturday, August 21, 2010


The second week of my job, a tall, thin, white man walks into my office and seats himself. "Are you Dr. Dieu?" he inquired.
"Well, I'm Mindie. I'm not finished with the doctorate yet."
"I'm J--. I hear that you commute. I want to know if I can ride with you every week from Norman."
"Uh, I drive a Miata. It's like a pop can with wheels." It's true. Sometimes I think I outweigh it. I stuck my friend Ken in there to take him to lunch the other day. He's a big guy, over 6'4" tall and not exactly petite. Good thing I had the top down because his head stuck up over the windshield.
"That's ok. I'll pay you $xx per week in gas money." It was more than enough to cover the 45 gallons of gas I'd be buying a week.
I thought about it. Starving grad student. Someone willing to cover just about all of the gas. We made a deal for the year.
My Miata hasn't been feeling so good. The a/c sort of sputters and the back window is broken. Driving in the heat on the way home is pretty exhausting. The headlights don't work.
I decided to look around for a different car- something bigger that would fit more than a supermodel. Something that would fit my giant hairy dog and a commuter.
Since I'd bought the Miata through Craigslist, I decided to try a different route. I saw a PT Cruiser online through a dealership and went to check it out. Three hours later, I felt dirty, like a used car salesman had run his fingers through my hair and over my pocketbook. They had tried to sell me a different car- a Ford Taurus with a wobbly front tire, a broken tail light and hail damage. I insisted on test driving the Cruiser. It was a great car but had too high of mileage and a cracked windshield. When I walked out, he got the sales manager to come sweet talk me. I felt like just dropping the pretense of politeness and just running away. Or punching the guy in the throat. Somehow, I got away. I went home and took a shower with lots of soap.
I had to pick up J-- for the drive on Friday so I asked Luke if I could borrow his Escape for the day. It's nice, roomy and has air conditioning. He agreed and drove my car to his gig, where he played in the sun all day. At the end of the show, He couldn't get the damn car to go in gear. The clutch was out. Damn damn damnnit! I just can't catch a break. And Luke was stranded, in the heat, after sweating his ass off all day.
He caught a ride to his mom's house in the city and I went to pick him up. I apologized profusely to Luke, who took it all good naturedly, and I bought him a huge cup of coffee. Most people are placated with food or wine; Luke is most easily made happy with the application of a large dose of caffeine. I'm not so easy. Suddenly, I didn't just have a car problem, I didn't have a fucking car. First the headlights don't work, then the back window breaks, and then the air conditioning sucks. Now this. I swore that if I ever got that car running again, I'd just drive it off of a cliff. But what to do? I'm not sure at this point if I will ever be able to walk into a car dealership again without a semi-automatic or a sawed-off shotgun. Pretty disheartened and feeling like I got taken in a car deal. I had a few moments of feeling very sorry for myself before getting sick of that and devising a plan to cope. It will turn out ok, it will turn out ok. I have to keep pushing forward.
None of my friends had cars for sale or that they could just give me. Darn. Back to Craigslist. This time, I was looking for something that didn't get horrible gas mileage, was big enough to transport my big dog, would be heavy enough to drive comfortably during the winter months and didn't have over a certain amount of miles on it. I bought a 2-door Ford Explorer. I think it will work. Private seller in a good neighborhood in Shawnee. Not too many miles. Tinted windows.
I drove the new car to get the old one towed. We called the tow company and they sent a truck. While I was waiting, I contemplated all of the ways in which I felt slighted in purchasing the Miata. They didn't tell me about the back window. They didn't tell me about the transmission being bad or the way that some rats chewed up the wiring. They outright lied about the air conditioning. I should've been more careful. I should have never purchased a sports car. I wondered about the state of capitalism in the United States and how we feel as though it's our God given responsibility to step on others in order to get anywhere in the world. The more you squish, the richer you get.
The tow truck driver broke my reverie. Sherman was embroidered in his work shirt. Older guy, missing a tooth, sweaty hat and deep set blue eyes.
"What's wrong with your car?", he asked, lowering the bed of his truck.
"I think it's the clutch cable or something. It won't go into gear."
Sherman stopped the hydraulic lift on his truck.
"Open it up. Let me have a look."
I did so and he pointed to an empty container right next to the transmission valve. It said "Clutch Fluid".
"Your car doesn't have a clutch cable. They break too easily. You just need some brake fluid for the clutch and it will be fine to get you home."
Really? Am I that lucky after all? Luke ran to the store for the vital elixir. I sat in the air conditioned cab of the truck listening to towing stories from last winter and humming a little to myself.
Sure enough, when we added the brake fluid, the car started shifting like it should. I threw my arms around Sherman and told me he was my hero. He told me that he'd just screwed his own company out of some money and just charged me for the service call.
I'll actually retrieve the car tomorrow. Luke had driven me to Shawnee and then we both went to Rose State to get the car. He'll drop me off tomorrow to limp it home. Good thing there are no cliffs between Midwest city and Norman.

And on Monday, I'll pick up my commuter promptly at 6:30 and be on my way.

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