Tag Archives: cars

Day Four: “But It’s So Confusing!”

I wish my nails were as nice as this stock photo person's are.

I wish my nails were as nice as this stock photo person’s are.

When the Daughters were learning to drive, Hubby became Super Dad.  He had infinite patience with their behind-the-wheel time and knew just what to say to keep the lesson an educational and soothing one.  Me, I spent most of my time saying “OK, OK, OK you can use the brakes now like now now NOW!” which is why I did one session with each and that was the end.  But back to Super Dad.  He was terrific with them and outfitted them with everything they could ever need:

  • The AAA card so they would never be stranded.
  • Jumper cables.  I don’t think they knew the car had a battery, but whatevs.
  • Emergency flares.
  • Solar blanket.
  • A neat carrying case for everything.
  • Maps

This last one mystified them both.  “What do I need these for?”

Super Dad was baffled.  “How else will you know where you’re going if you’ve never been there before?”

Driving Daughters pull out cell phones and point to apps for Scout and Google Maps.

Super Dad was even more baffled.  “Okay, but you need the bigger picture.  You know how many times those things are wrong?  And what about when you need to exit a highway to find a Dunkin Donuts or a bathroom, you need the map to know how to get back!”

Driving Daughters shrugged and went on their merry ways.

Recently Super Dad pulled out a map for a trip one of them was planning and pointed out the route and where the best driving might be.  He gestured at various cities that built loops and beltways and discussed the merits of each one and their relation to the overall trip.  He turned the map over to show the larger cities in their own little maps and where they might want to stop for a meal.  Satisfied he had made his point, he folded up the map expertly and handed it to the Daughter.

“That’s too hard and confusing,” she said.  “It’s easier to use the phone.”

“Please,” he said.  “Just take the map.  Just in case.”

She relented, more to make him happy than to actually use it,

To this day, I don’t believe either one has ever looked at a map to get a picture in their head of where they might be traveling.  The punchline to all this, of course, is that they both majored in History in college.  Hello!  Where would History be without maps?????

Super Dad just smiles.

That's my new swear word when I'm driving now.

That’s my new swear word when I’m driving now.



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I’m Giddy and I’m Up and You Know What That Equals!

(If you don’t, then why are you here still reading?)


Younger Daughter is coming home today for Spring Break.  I’m very very happy about this even though it makes me a really mean mom.  I didn’t want her going South for Spring Break.  Not because I’d be afraid that she’d end up on “Girls Gone Wild” or anything like that.  No, she actually wanted to be in New Orleans helping out in Katrina-affected areas like the altruistic little soul she is.  But Mean Mom didn’t like the thought of her driving 1700 miles straight through and having strangers (and by strangers I mean not carried on my insurance) drive her car and possibly driving a car she’s unfamiliar with as she’s still a relatively new driver especially since this wasn’t a group sanctioned by the college and there’s no liability happening and…..yeah, I’m Mean.  But I learned a long time ago that Moms get to play the “gut” card and if it doesn’t feel right to you, you tell your children upfront and hope and pray that they understand this is a Very. Big. Deal.  Lucky for me, Younger Daughter is an understanding soul, as well.  She will get her altruistic fill right here in Jersey helping in Sandy-affected areas, as well as being spoiled for a week.


I’m also helping Older Daughter to buy a car, and it’s from a really really nice man who sold Younger Daughter her car.  It’s such a nice change from an anonymous dealership and I think I will buy all cars from him going forward.  The test drive is today and we’re both giggling a lot over it.  Then we’ll have a week of jockeying four cars in our itty bitty driveway but I don’t care because that means everybody is home and I love it.  We’ll see movies, we’ll cook, we’ll bake something really unhealthy, we’ll probably hit some Dr. Who reruns, and then we’ll play Cinderella.


For reals!  We’re actually going to a Charity Ball and we have to get very dressed up and made up and hairdo-ed up (totally just invented that word, I’m getting it trademarked.  Wish I knew how to do that little TM thing on my computer.  Don’t steal it, ‘kay?) and then figure out how not to get all messed up with seatbelts while we drive for an hour to get there.  Then we’ll be feasting and dancing all night and this band they have is AMAZING and I just love the thought that once a year I can say I’m going to a Charity Ball and it really is everything I think it’s going to be.  Which, as we all know, totally means sweatpants the following day.

But this weekend, we’ll have nothing on the agenda except Daylight Savings Time which, really, why do we still have it?  Does it really do anyone any good at all?  Who’s good with losing an hour of sleep and showing up disheveled everywhere?  Doesn’t “disheveled” look like it needs two “n”s in it?  Spellcheck says I’m wrong.  Does Spellcheck know anything about Daylight Savings Time?  Hmmmm?????  Take that, Sassy Spellcheck.

Yep, I’m giddy.  

For your thinking and head-tilting pleasure:


And they kept it. How very ool.

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It occurred to me this morning as I was waiting for my car to be serviced that all places having to do with cars smell exactly the same.  Why is that?  From a dealership showing the fancy pants living-room-on-wheels to the dirtiest, greasiest one bay garage it’s that…. that…. odor.


It’s not a very pleasant odor, either.  It’s the kind that makes you notice right away, and your nose kinds of crinkles up and you realize in the part of your nose that has a brain that “hey, I don’t like this.”

What?  Don’t you know that all your body parts have little brains in them?  Aren’t you glad you have me here to educate you on the finer points of anatomy?


It is a smell, though, that brings me back to childhood.  My dad was very knowledgeable knowledgable smart about cars and did a lot of the diagnostics and repairs himself, which often required trips to the car parts store.  Anywhere my dad went, I wanted to go, mostly because I wanted to go somewhere where I wouldn’t be nagged to clean up my room, and also because I really really loved my dad and he made even mundane trips seem interesting and amusing.  I remember several trips to the supermarket where I would be reduced to hysterical giggling tears and people would look at us strangely (strangely look at us?  look at us in a strange manner? do I care??) and it would be the one time in my life I didn’t mind people thinking I was weird because I was with my dad and he made me feel so wonderful.


Anyway, on the rare occasions he did need someone to help repair his car (usually involving lifting out the engine which he really couldn’t do in our suburban driveway with the uphill curve) I would go with him.  Those trips usually happened on a Saturday after he realized he couldn’t do it himself and he was in a slightly grouchier mood because he would be stuck waiting at the mechanic’s shop and my mother had probably prodded him to take me so she could have some relative quiet to herself.  He would be dressed in his Saturday pants and a blue plaid shirt, always with thick black shoes and socks.  In my cutoff shorts and flip-flops, I used to smugly think I was so lucky to be a girl, that I didn’t have to wear pants and shoes on a warm Saturday.  (Clearly this was before I started menstruating.)  (Sorry I brought that up, gentlemen.)  


We would enter the mechanic’s shop and that greasy-rubber-oily-raggy-petroleum-dirt smell would hit me full force and I would probably look around for an open window.  The faint daylight that seeped through the smeared window that had probably been painted shut since 1937 pretty well summed up the experience I was going to have there.  After speaking in a foreign language to the mechanic (carburetor! manifold! spark plug! gasket! ) who always wore a blue ticking shirt with “Ray” embroidered over the left pocket, he would shake his head and settle into one of the green pleather-covered seats with the split right down the middle and stuffing trying to make an escape.  I’d find a seat next to him and settle in as well.


There isn’t much to do in a mechanic’s shop.  There are no arrays of magazines, like in doctor’s offices.  There are parts manuals which my father would read out of ultimate boredom (and probably to avoid my attempts at sparkling conversation. After all, this was no trip to the supermarket!) and I would be stuck looking at a brochure for fishing equipment.  I have no idea why it was there.  Probably somebody was so excited to get out of there when their car was ready that they dropped it on their speedy way out.  


There was also, always, two machines.  One held gum, but not the cool, round, jaw-breaking variety.  No, this was the flat, square-shaped gum that looked vaguely like Chiclets and promised to be spearmint flavor.  No kid likes spearmint, I can tell you that.  The other one had salted cashews.  I would ponder those machines for quite a while, wondering how skinny your arm had to be to reach up inside the little keystone-shaped slot and grab a cashew, because of course I didn’t have any money.  Why would I have money?  I was going with my dad, he would always take care of me.



“Hmmm?”  A particularly wild set of sprocket wrenches in the catalog had him enthralled.

“Can I have a dime?”


“Can I have a dime?”

“What for?”

“I want to get a cashew.”  I really didn’t, but I was bored beyond belief and I figured the cashew might also help with the smell.

“You want a dime for one cashew?  That’s nuts!” he went back to his spine-tingling manual.  I’m not sure he knew he had made a joke.

“That’s what it says.  Look,” I pointed.

He looked over at the little machine with the scratched red top and the less-than-clean glass and said, “Nah, there’s probably worms inside it,” and shifted in his chair towards the greasy-filtered daylight.


Well, now I had something to do!  I moved over to the machine and looked at every possible angle, top and bottom, through the weird angle of the thick glass in the corners, and tried to find the worms that surely must be trying to eat their way out.  I jiggled the turning mechanism to possibly wake them up.


“Leave the machine alone.  I said you couldn’t have any.”

“I’m looking for the worms you said were in here.”

Red-embroidered Ray looked up from the depths of our car engine and hollered over “What?  Worms?  Where?”


My dad looked at me like thanks-kid-you-take-the-cake-sometimes.  And I squiggled back into my seat and smelled the depressing, morose smell of a long afternoon at the car mechanic’s.

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