…so I’ve been having some car problems this week. It started on Sunday morning, when I was driving up to the very top of Lake Avenue to go hiking. Suddenly, Ruby (my car) felt like she wasn’t going to make it up the hill. Strange, I thought, with trepidation in my heart and dollar signs flashing in front of my eyes (the flashing dollar signs thing has been happening a lot lately…you know, with moving and starting grad school in the Fall). Later that day, I was about a mile away from my house and it started happening again…this time I couldn’t get my car to go past 20 miles an hour. I kept checking the emergency brake, because it felt like it was on. By the time I got to my house (and after circling the block to find a parking spot, yay Pasadena!) there was smoke pouring out of my car next to the front passenger tire. I called my stepdad and tried not to start sobbing as I explained what happened. He promised to come out from Valencia and check it out that day. Unfortunately, after I got off the phone I DID start sobbing…is everything I own falling to crap? First my laptop (remember how it crashed? and now it keeps acting like it’s about to crash again!) and now my car. The two most valuable items I own besides my education. What, is someone from LIFE going to call now and say my degree is a sham? God forbid. Anyway, I’m pitifully crying and wander into the bathroom, flip the light switch – the light goes on briefly, flickers, and dies. That’s when I started laughing. What’s next? My pants split at the seam? My arm falls out of its socket?
Anyway my stepdad Jeff came out to check out my car, and of course it drives completely normally for him. I wanted to slap Ruby in the face. What an ornery little car! Jeff thought I was crazy, making up symptoms. What’s that disorder where parents make up illnesses for their child in order to get attention? Yeah, I think he figured I was doing that. He said the car was perfectly safe to drive, even (at my prodding) on the 210 freeway where I always go through a hilly canyon that has no cell phone reception. O-kay…
Cut to Tuesday after work. Ruby has been driving fine until lunchtime, when she started lurching around again like an old lady complaining of aching bones. Or like the emergency brake was on. But it wasn’t, believe me, I checked a million times. So I drive it to Jeff’s work and this time she can’t keep her act together and performs just as miserably for him. He quickly figures out that the right brake is stuck. (Dollar signs flash…brake problems are never cheap, are they?) I noticed the right hubcap is gone and asked Jeff if I had one on Sunday. When he confirmed that I did, and I confirmed that I had not hit any curbs in the past couple days, Jeff figured that driving with the stuck brake generated enough heat to melt my hubcap off. Fun! So Jeff advises that I “limp the car home” and let it cool down so he can look at it later.
Cut to me “limping the car home.” I’m at a busy intersection when huge columns of smoke start blowing out from under my car. Yikes. I call Jeff to see if I should keep limping or pull over. As I’m waiting at the light and waiting for Jeff to pick up, in my rearview mirror I see a man jump out of his car and jog over to my passenger side door. He leans down and says, “Your tire is on fire!” I figured he’s just thinking, where there’s smoke, there’s fire, so I just said, “I know!” I mean, what can I do but wait for the light to turn green so I can pull into the nearby parking lot?
So I get smoking little Ruby over to a parking lot and pull into the only space which was unfortunately next to a bunch of other cars. A girl was sitting in her car with the door open and talking to someone standing outside her car. At my approach, both jump up and start screaming, “Your tire is on fire!” The girl tumbles into her car, and guns it across the parking lot into another spot. Then everyone who was standing in the parking lot runs into the dry cleaner’s, saying something about the car blowing up. I said, “It’s just smoking!” trying to be reassuring, but the girl (from a safe distance) says, “Ma’am, that’s not smoke…your tire is on fire.” I go around to the right side of the car and sure enough, the wheel well is full of little leaping flames. …shit. After calling the fire department, I thought about all the times I had heard that cars rarely blow up…it’s not like the movies. So I felt foolish dashing to my car to collect my belongings, but at the same time, what if? So I tried to nonchalantly but quickly retrieve things from my car – oops, that’s my journal, don’t want to lose that! Oh, a DVD from the library…don’t want to pay that fine – until I felt okay with standing across the parking lot and waiting for that embarrassing sound of the fire engine’s sirens.
Don’t worry, guys, I’m fine. Ruby’s having an operation today…all new brakes. There’s never a good time for that. What is that I was learning lately about “Acceptance-with-joy”…?