Monday, April 22, 2013

Car Talk

I love my car. It's a cheesy gold, four door, 1998 Nissan Altima. As a girl, the first two descriptions carry greater identification relavance than the last two. My Dad's car, really, which he bought in Texas two years ago this summer (what!?!) and gave to us to use at college. It has two little bumper stickers on it that I now regret pasting on, because my anonymity is completely evaporated whenever someone get's a glimpse of the rear. One says "Love at First Bite" and is from Jimmy John's, which used to be my favorite place to eat. A college kid's sandwhich cafe, which a turkey avacado club I went crazy about. Since Jimmy John's took the sprouts off the sandwhich (and their entire menu) I no longer go there. What's a 7$ sandwhich without sprouts?!! Well, I'm afraid to try to peel the sticker off, so I still advertise the place wherever I go. It's a shout out to who I used to be, when I was young and naiive and little and just fresh to the United States.

The second one is a METALIST sticker, in honor of my city's soccer team. I'm an avid supporter if not a very knowledgable one. I've been to one live game at the stadium downtown, got a scarf, got the thrill, and bought the bumper sticker. Now I'm a continent and entire life away, and I have no idea how the Metalists played this year but I am proud to be a Kharkovite. Trouble is the sticker is peeling on its own and looks like the remnants of a newspaper that drowned in a New Orleans flood. Oh, well. I'm scared to peel it off and - wouldn't that be disloyal, anyways?

The interior of the car - nothing special, except I'm very proud of how clean I like to keep it. No orphan straw wrappers, no loose pennies, no junk. Vaccuumed out and wiped down weekly. Since I've taken to commuting half a state away (figuratively) from school to work to campus, the back seat has accumulated some permament passengers: my gym back, extra pair of shoes and hoodie, Panera Bread files, a thermos. Along for the ride are a pair of boxing gloves that hang from the rearview mirror and a potpurri-stuffed turtle. Those are painful momentos of not-so-long-ago days but I can't take them down. They hang there and I try not to notice and we get along fine most of the time. The memory of Levi boxing at me with those gloves on the long drive to Texas in the autumn, and the bright summer day when he surprised me with the turtle, never really get too far away from my mind.

Well today I finally got around to what I've been putting off. After school, before work, in this random claustrophobic 20-minute window I have in my day, I detoured from the route home and ran through a car wash. At the high school where I teach every morning they make us park in a muddy field, and this particular morning, my car spun out in the muck and got covered in drippy goo. My sophistication was offended, and I made a beeline for the first self-service station I could spot on the highway. I have no idea how I came up with .75 cents for the deposit, but I spray blasted the car for two long, misty minutes until all the mud and yuck was gone and she was all sparkly clean again.

Since I was already drenched and feeling like a grease monkey, I pulled into autozone by the campus and stalked up to the front counter. "Window wiper fluid, please." The white-haired man behind the counter recognized me, of course. We smiled. More than once he found me wandering the aisles examining the strange titles on the bottles looking for something or another, and had to herd me in the right direction. Nowadays, I didn't bother trying to figure out if window fluid was kept near the oils or near the wipers (kind of a 50-50 to my mind, still. Where would you keep it, indeed?) He actually kept a few jugs behind the counter today and brought one up. "The normal blue stuff, right?" I wondered about the quality values betwen blue, purple, and green liquid-filled jugs on the shelves labeled CLEANERS. Normal blue sounded great to me. Maybe next time I'd have the guts to ask him about purple and green and probably end up storing his explanation in the "Notes" section of my Iphone. Right next to my Dad's explanation of summer vs. winter car oil, and Levi's explanation of men's dresshirt collar vs. sleeve sizes. Handy thing, the "Notes" section!

Last time I came in, for anitfreeze, I think, the same old man crinkled his eyes at me and asked me if I knew where it should go in the engine. Rather than risk it and waste 15$, I had sheepishly followed him out to the car and watched him do it for me. I felt like leaving a tip was obligatory, but he refused. Silly man. He probably thought me a silly girl, holding a bottle of antifreeze and examining the little lids under the hood.

"Know where that one goes?" he asked me today as he cashed me out, for 2.17$ (man, this time was cheap!)
"Yes," I said confidently, smiling back at him.
"Have a good one," he mumbled as he handed me my check and gave one last smile.
I walked out to my car and opened the door and set down the jug outside. I knew where the "pop gas lid" lever was, and the one that popped the trunk, too. The one for the hood was tucked somewhere in the dark shadows under the steering wheel, I remembered. I found a little lever and gave it a good yank. To my surprise I ended up with a whole peice of my car in my hand, and when I ducked down to investigate, I found I'd pulled off some kind of surface cover to a bunch of circuits and wires panel. Huh. Who knew that was under there??!!

I tried to snap the panel cover back in place but it was stubborn. I stuffed it under my seat so I wouldn't have to think about it. I groped around more carefully until I found another lever, this one a bit more sturdy. I yank and - pop! The hood unlocked.
Sweet success was beaming in my cheeks as I hopped out and fiddled around at the front of the car for the latch. It was easier to undo than I thought, and I heaved the hood up and found the little stick thiny that supports it. Hoods are heavy! I found the antifreeze container, because I could still see the neon liquid inside. Next to it I found another container with a lid that had a picture of a window. Bingo! A picture? This one must have been designed by a girl.

The poor car took the whole gallon of fluid except for like..... six ounces. I didn't want to throw the jug away. Who knew when six ounces of fluid could make a difference? I took it to my trunk and stashed it next to the four-way and the former jug of antifreeze. Since my hands were already dirty, and I have been using the AC already, I decide to top off the anitifreeze. Weird, glowing liquid splashed around and got on my little blue suede shoes. I used up all of it and threw the jug away. One discarded, one added, not bad. It felt very grown up to be able to slam down the hood (gently) and close my trunk, and wave to the white-haired man behind the front door as I drove away.

In the few minutes of roadway from the store to campus, I felt a deep satisfaction in my stomach. While it would be nice to ask a guy about taking care of my car, it was good to know I could do it myself. At least, two of the fluids. Maybe someday I'll learn how to change the oil! Now that would be a fun, dirty experience, but I'd have one more note to store in my "Notes" section of my Iphone.

No comments:

Post a Comment