I actually have to do real work today so am glomming an old e-mail that I couldn't bear to delete from my fabulous friend Mallys. Hope you enjoy her writing style as much as I do.
Gee, I hope nothing is seriously wrong with my car," I murmur to Susan at the gym this morning. On the way TO the gym, it felt like a wheel was a little wobbly or catching something, maybe much lower on pressure than the others or something.
As soon as I got to the gym, I measured air pressure in the front wheels--both fine.
As I'm leaving the gym, within moments in my car, I realized the car felt so odd that it was smarter to go directly to the mechanic's than to go to work. I map out my revised route and revised day in my head, completely nervous about the car.
I turn to the mechanic (down Calhoun in residential areas) instead of to work (along busy busy Claiborne).
I'm driving down Calhoun, and Mr. Police Officer flags me down. Crap. Jeff just got a ticket in a speed trap not a month ago on Jefferson Highway, and I've been watching my speed ever since, save for today (with the worry over the car, how to get from mechanic to work, how to notify work that I'll be late).
Now, not only will we have to budget in Bend Over and Take It New Orleans homeowner's insurance and skyrocketing post-Katrina prices on everything from toilet paper to fish, now I'm going to have to get a second job to afford increased car insurance premiums, which even PRE-storm were enough to make one consider Dansko clogs as one's primary form of transportation.
Mr. Police Officer: Do you know what the speed limit is?
Mallys: 25 MPH.
Mr. Police Officer: Do you know how fast you were going?
Mallys: Honestly, I don't. I'm nervous that something is wrong with my car or my tire, and I'm trying to get it to the mechanic's on Magazine as quickly as possible and then get to work. So no, I don't.
Mr. Police Officer, clearly writing me a ticket rather than taking pity: Do you have your insurance card?
Mallys, dig, dig dig: This is an old card. It's the same policy, it's been renewed under the same number, but I only have the old card.
Mr. Police Officer: Okay, I'm going to write you a ticket for that, but show up at court and they'll throw the insurance charge out.
Mallys, at the mention of "show up in court," digging more frantically, nay, insanely: No no no, wait wait wait, see see see, look look LOOOOOOOOKKKKKK, here's the new one. Here's the new one [thrusting it with such force that Mr. NOPD might have been afraid for his bodily safety].
Mr. Police Officer: Does your air conditioner work?
Mallys, whose air conditioner DOES work, but who isn't going to run it while Mr. Officer takes time to write her a ticket (add gas prices to the list above of homeowner's insurance, car insurance, and toilet paper prices), wonders if a non-functioning air conditioner is just as illegal as her MISSING TAIL LIGHT COVERS that someone stole in 2005 right after the storm and that Ford doesn't manufacture for an '89 Mustang any more: Yesssss, my air conditioner works???
Mr. Police Officer: Oh, 'cause you're sweating.
Mallys: Oh, yeah, I just came from the gym, and I'm rushing to get my car to the shop and all.
Mr. PO: I didn't think I was making you THAT nervous.
Mallys: Oh, y'all ALWAYS make me nervous. You ARE COPS, after all. But this is from the gym.
Mr. PO: You weren't wearing your seatbelt?
Mallys: No, I was. I always put on my seatbelt, even before I put the key in the ignition, but I took it off when you pulled me over. [Truth. Hell no, I won't drive MY car in THIS CITY without a seat belt. EVER.]
Mr. PO: How old are you?
Mallys, really and truly stumped, really thinking hard--my brain doesn't have room for THAT when I'm trying to get to the garage, get to work, etc.: Twentyyyyy, no no, wait, thirty-nine.
Mr. PO: Here's your ticket. I wrote you for 30 in a 25 MPH zone.
Mallys, thinking that it could be a lot LOT worse, not only because I probably was going faster than 30 MPH, and, what, with the sweating and the frantic insurance card digging/thrusting and the initial misstating of my age by AT LEAST 10 YEARS, and the missing tail light cover and the Illinois plates and driver's license despite a New Orleans address. Hell, he probably could've justified a field sobriety test, which I doubt I would've passed, owing to my complete and utter clumsiness: Thank you. Have a nice day, officer.
I drive two blocks. I'm second in line at a stop sign. #1 pulls off, now it's my turn.
But my car won't move. Won't move. Won't move in drive, not in overdrive, not in park, not in neutral. Won't budge.
I try two or three times to shift to different gears. Won't budge. People are honking.
I get out of my car and go to the attractive, well-coiffed, 50-something in the SUV behind me: Look, ma'am, I'm really sorry, but my car won't move. I don't know what it is, but it won't move. I'm going to try to push it. I'm really really sorry.
Well-coiffed woman gets out of SUV. Wearing adorable floral skirt, sassy t-shirt, chic sandals: "Well, then we're going to have to push it," she says, and walks to the back of my bumper. I can't budge it while trying to push it.
It's a one way street, cars parked on both sides, no room to go around me. People keep honking. Well-coiffed woman takes several steps back to face the traffic, puts her hands on her hips, and YELLLLLLSSS at all the people honking: Well, then, get out of your cars and HELP INSTEAD OF HONKING.
She shames three or four men into getting out of their cars.
Meanwhile, another woman getting into her parked car says, "I think I saw something leaking from behind your right passenger tire." She then goes back to the end of the row of cars and tells them to back up, find another route, etc.
The boys are now being boys: Take your brake off.
Mallys: It's not on.
Boys: Put it in neutral.
Mallys: It's **IN** neutral.
And let's face it, **I** could push that car, by myself (see above re: gym), if it were in neutral. The fact that I can't push it while it's now in neutral is the problem.
Boys: Pop the hood.
Okay, I'm no mechanic. Far from it. I don't even like checking my tire pressure. But I know that this is not a hood-popping issue.
Fine, I pop the hood. They look around underneath, waiting for some magical What's Wrong With This Car teleprompter under my hood to give them the diagnosis. Boy #3 pulls out my oil dipstick: So this is your automatic transmission fluid. . . .
Mallys: No, that's my oil.
The boys are stymied. But they say, "Come on, let's push it again."
It takes FOUR big boys, big big boys in two cases, and multiple multiple tries to push my car 15 feet.
Hmmm, I wonder if something's seriously wrong. . . .
Nice girl (whom I later learn is named Katie and is beginning her doctoral program in my building) says, "Would you like to borrow my cell phone?"
Mallys, the last human being in the Western hemisphere to NOT own a cell phone and still not any closer to WANTING one, accepts gratefully.
I call my boys at Rollins auto repair for a towing number.
Meanwhile, the line of cars has passed, including a police car, and I really hope it was the cop who gave me a ticket so that he could have one tiny moment of guilt (granted, he could've been much meaner to me).
I call Boss to let her know that I'm standing in the street, dripping sweat, trying to get my hoopdie to the garage and may or may not make it to Canal Street today.
I call the tow truck. Come get me at Calhoun and Willow. They'll be there in 30 minutes.
I thank Kind Katie for the use of her phone, tell her I may see her in the building, and she goes on her way.
I wait, flashers on (I'm right next to a fire hydrant, almost into the intersection, so am not even TEMPTED to leave my car, lest I be given the opportunity to make ANOTHER donation to the City of New Orleans).
And believe it or not, MANY nice people stopped to ask me if I was okay, did I need anything, was help on the way. Including one typical undergrad, who I wouldn't have expected to interrupt her cell phone call--as she did--to inquire about my well being.
I'm sitting, waiting, fanning myself, having homicidal thoughts about the particularly aggressive gnat that won't leave me alone. Sweat is dripping dripping dripping. About 45 minutes later, Thor--a boy I know from the gym--pulls up. He gets out of his truck. We chat. He offers the use of his phone. I call the towing company.
Mallys: blah blah Calhoun and Willow.
Tow truck: Oh, you said CARROLLTON and Willow. The guy's been driving all around CARROLLTON and Willow looking for you. We even called Rollins to see if they'd seen you.
Mallys, in no position to get snippy: Gee, gosh, no **Calhoun**. Maybe I wasn't talking clearly, and the background noise and all.
I may not know how old I am, or how to find my current insurance card, or how to replace stolen tail light covers for a 19-year-old car, but if I were at CARROLLTON and Willow, I'd have walked the 6 blocks to my house and to my gin in my freezer where I would've had an early morning cocktail before tackling the recurrent question, "What's wrong with my car THIS time?"
Fine. Tow truck driver gets there in about 10 minutes. Drives me and the poor little '89 Mustang to Magazine street. I talk to my mechanics and instruct them that if it's a relatively cheap fix, they can change my oil, too. And if it's an expensive fix, it may be time to send the '89 Mustang off with Kitty Cat and Georgie Cat and JohnJohn Cat to play with the Girl in the Pink Pinafore in the Great Beyond.
I lug gym bag, tote bag, lunch bag, and purse 5 or 6 blocks in this sweltering, drowning heat (AFTER having stood in the sweltering heat for at least an hour).
Coffee shop #1: no phone [and still, inexplicably, I have no desire for a cell phone]
Bank across the street: let me use their phone, but cab dispatch line is busy and other customers are waiting to attend to their administrative banking needs. I write down the United Cab number and head to Coffee Shop #2, where the nice counter girl lets me use the phone. I get through, order a cab.
I wait, and wait, and wait. Cab arrives.
I kid you freaking not: Cab driver is Mr. freaking Magoo. He can't see. He can't HEAR [I keep yelling at him "2440 Canal Street," to which he responds, "Okay, 400 Canal Street."]. His FINGERNAILS are wayyyyy overgrown. HE WON'T TURN THE AIR CONDITIONER ON. And yes, he is wearing black socks with sandals.
As he's driving, he keeps his foot on the accelerator for 4 seconds, then takes it off, for no identifiable reason--it's not an intersection, there's no traffic in front of us, just keeps hitting the gas, taking his foot off the gas, hitting the gas, taking his foot off the gas, braking for no reason, gas, no gas, gas, brake. This was THE only point in the whole ordeal that I thought I would either cry, or felonious assault someone else. He says as we're turning onto Canal Street, "Okay, 400 Canal Street."
Mallys: No, 2440 Canal Street.
Mr. Magoo: Huh?
Mallys, louder and enunciating: Twenty-four forty Canal Street.
Mr. Magoo: Right. Four hundred Canal Street.
Mallys, contorting her lips into painful exaggerations of the words and screaming at the top of her lungs: FOURTEEN FORTY. FOURTEEN FORTY. TWO BLOCKS FROM **HERE**. FOURTEEN FORTY.
Mr. Magoo: Oh, well let me know where it is. I don't want to pass your building.
Mallys: It's right past the light.
Mr. Magoo: Huh?
Mallys, loudly, enunciating, screaming: RIGHT PAST THE LIGHT.
Mr. Magoo: Oh, I should've turned RIGHT?
Mallys, yanking the car handle frantically: Let me out here. RIGHT HERE. RIGHT HERE IS FINNNNNE.
Why the hell NOT walk another block in the heat, after my morning?
This little escapade began at 8:05.
I was not entering my blessedly frigid office building until 11:10.
And here I sit.
Hmmmm. I hope there's nothing seriously wrong with my car. . . .
Mallys in Dunderland [aka, Sweaty McScofflaw]