Saturday, January 29, 2011

Bad Vibrations

So the spymobile had to go to town for a check-up this week, and since the tires were as smooth as Howie Mandel's head, the S/O kindly offered to take in and have the fluids changed and new tires put on. Unfortunately that meant that for the day I was stuck driving the Vibe.

The Vibe and I don't really get along. The clutch is alternately too stiff or too spongy, and the gears are all squinched together so that if I'm aiming for third, I'm far more likely to hit fifth. Reverse is down and to the right instead of up and to the left like it is in the Volkswagen, so I have to mentally prepare myself to back up so that I don't shoot into whatever's in front of me. Add to that the S/O had some kind of arcane Star Wars stickers on the back, so that I look like a nerd, but not the cool nerd I actually am. (To be fair, I'm sure my nice Catholic sweetie isn't thrilled about my favorite bumper sticker, depicting Cthulhu snacking on a Jesus fish.)

I make my initial foray to the Piggly-Wiggly down the street because A) it's expired meat day, when you can get slightly brown ground beef for like 79 cents a pound (it's fine as long as you cook it long enough), and B) I need to re-acclimate myself to driving someone else's car.  Ah, I miss my fine German engineering. Nazis make great cars, but terrible popes. (Just kidding. I'm sure there probably aren't any actual Nazis left making Volkswagens.The pope, however, is still a Nazi.)

It doesn't go badly, so I set out for the afternoon trek, which is actually more like the Bataan Death March, but in a car full of children. First I have to pick up the small child from kindergarten, then pick up my daughter at college, drop her off at work, run errands, go back and pick up kid #4 from drama practice, take the small children home, then pick up my daughter from work. (I have a flow chart, lest someone get left behind).

I soon realize that things are going to be fine as long as I don't have to actually stop.

For some reason, if I come to a complete stop, downshift to first and then try to move,  the Vibe dies. I try different combinations of clutch/gas. I recall the gear ratio being vastly different than the spymobile, but I don't recall ever having so much trouble accelerating in first. I'm getting nervous, because I really don't want to leave my sweetie's transmission in little smoking bits on the roadway. To make things worse, it's all stop and go for the next four hours.

I figure I'll get the hang of, I just need to adjust. I figure wrong.

I stall at every red light and every stop sign. People honk. I'm frustrated, because I can zip around town in the spymobile like nobody's business. I want to get out and scream at them, "I'm not a bad driver! It's a the stupid car!" Because obviously it IS the car, and the car is laughing at me.

Also, too, there is no clock in the car. My car has a clock. Everything has a clock: cell phone, microwave, computer. Why does this car have no clock? How do I know if I"m running late? I either have to flip open the cell phone or keep circling past the funeral home, which does have a clock. Unlike this car.

Finally, one kid in the car. Now off to the college, where it's 3-ish and everybody is getting out of class. Everybody. I park in my daughter's dorm parking lot to wait for her to do whatever she does. I pull out the cell phone to text her that I'm not driving my car. It takes forever, because I believe texting is no excuse for bad grammar. Unfortunately, my phone has some kind of predictive text function that I can't turn off (because I'm old, dammit) and it refuses to let me type Vibe, replacing it with "vibes" every time. Eventually, I just send the stupid message. "I'm outside your dorm. I'm driving the vibes."

In frustration, I drop the phone. This is when I notice there is a ginormous, wicked-looking knife on the passenger-side floormat, the kind that some greaser hoodlum out of Stephen King's "Stand By Me" would pull out after he was done rolling his pack of cigarettes up in the sleeve of his white t-shirt. This surprises me, because the most dangerous weapon the S/O is likely to be in possession of is a pair of nail clippers.

I call the S/O and ask, "Why is there a huge knife in your car?"

"Oh, I found that in the Piggly-Wiggly parking lot, and thought I better not leave it around for kids to find. There's no blood on it, is there?"

This is good question, because now I'm imagining it's the weapon from a trailer-park triple murder, ditched quickly in the parking lot when the hoodlums stopped for expired ground beef. I am now calculating the likelihood that I'm either going to slam into somebody while trying to reverse the car or be hit from behind while I'm stalled in the intersection, and the investigating officer is going to say, "Ma'am, why do you have that giant knife in your car? It look just like the one that killed them folks out to the HappyTime trailer park."  I quickly shove it into the glove compartment under the owner's manual.

Finally, my daughter arrives. As I said, everyone is leaving the campus. I stall the car roughly 8 times between the dorm parking lot and the cross street. I let out a string of expletives, mostly creative variations of the word "fuck." My daughter arches an eyebrow at me and says, "What happened to you trying not to curse so much?"

I reply, "All rules are fucking suspended until I'm out of this fucking car!" and wave my hands wildly in the air like Bill Paxton at the end of Aliens. It's 3:30, and I've been in the car for almost exactly an hour.

We painfully make our way in bumper-to-bumper traffic to her place of work, where she gratefully exits the car. Since there's not enough time to go home, I set out on the errands. I have realized that in addition to lifting one foot off the clutch while slowly depressing the gas pedal with the other foot, I must also focus all my mental energies on willing the car forward. The car has become Tinkerbell, and if I don't clap loudly enough it will die.

I'm still stalling at roughly every third stop. People are still honking. I resist the urge to get out of the car and walk up to them and scream, "IT'S NOT MY CAR." I resist the urge to pull into the Home Depot and buy a sledge hammer and beat the Vibe into a piece of stationary modern art. 

Albertson's has no mini-eggrolls. At Burger King  the small child enjoys a kid's meal, drinks too much orange Fanta, and tells me about his day. I don't want to leave the Burger King. Winn-Dixie has an amazing deal on toilet paper. Finally, it's time to pick up kid #4.

Drama is in the old chapel, which sits on a one-way street. I manage to park, and once kid #4 is the car, find I cannot pull out because A) I'm on a slight incline, and B) the 20,000 cars attempting to pick up kids are all enormous SUVs waiting to crush me. I finally dart out, and amazingly enough, we are not instantly killed.

I run the small kids home, thinking I'll be able to sit down for 45 minutes -- my leg is completely numb and I have a cramp in my foot from riding the clutch -- but when I pull into the driveway, the phone rings. My daughter is off work early. I fling the children, the 45 rolls of toilet paper, and my daughter's laundry onto the porch and leave again. (Kid #1 + fiancee are home to watch them -- I'm not totally irresponsible.)

Finally it's 6:30, and after four hours and roughly 90 stalls, I am home. I've survived and the transmission doesn't seem to be on fire. The S/O finally makes it home. The good news is the mechanic said that the spymobile is in pretty good shape for a car with almost 300,000 miles on it. The bad news is it needs a little front end work and the parts on are order for next week. Sigh.

So next week, if you're in my neck of the woods and you see a woman in a blue Vibe stalled in an intersection, don't honk. She has a knife.


  1. This is the most awesome story anyone has ever told for any reason to anybody.

    As a side note, have you READ Peter Pan? Tink dies at the end and Peter doesn't notice. And that's the least fucked up thing about this book, which I would never read to a child - and from me those are strong words indeed.

    Also, that was the most awesome story ever. LONG LIVE MURDER KNIFE!

    Further commentary restrained to prevent diluting the essential messages.

  2. Separate note: Your spam-reducer just made me type 'cuoighho' and I was terrified to do so lest I summon an Old One.