Bye, Friend

Driving home from work yesterday, I passed a granny blue Hyundai Sonata on the back of a tow truck. I looked into the cab of the truck and saw the driver bouncing happily along, knowing he was making money off of that tow, and the passenger looking miserable.  I raised my fist in solidarity as a nod to the passenger and she looked over at me and sighed.

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My old friend, at home on the back of a tow truck

That raised fist would have been better accepted, I think, had I been in my own granny blue Hyundai Sonata, but I wasn’t. I was in my sporty new Toyota Rav4, boring silver in color like 90% of American SUVs.  It runs like a dream, though, and the money I would have spent over the next ten years fixing dumb stuff like the catalytic convertor, the starter (three times), the alternator (twice), the compressor, the blower motor, the bushings, the brakes (countless), etc. I spent in advance to purchase a more mechanically sound vehicle.  I love it.  I’d love it better if I could find it more easily in the Target parking lot amongst the sea of other small silver SUVs, but I do love it.

A week after Woney and I got back from Norway, where we spent all our money, the dashboard in my car lit up like Las Vegas. Every bell and whistle sounded and every light flashed and every buck a bronco could give you kicked off in the engine of my car.  It was humiliating.  I turned the ignition and rode that fair ride all the way to 5th Gear Automotive where Austin said, “Seriously, Jimmie, it is past time.”  Then he sighed and said, “Let me see what I can do.”

Turns out it was one of three things, all of them expensive, and Austin fixed one in the hopes it was the right one. It was, but only for a day, and then I drove my bucking fair ride back home and to work again.  There was no point in spending another $1000 to fix something that was just going to break again anyway and I was tired of meeting tow truck drivers.  Plus every penny I had managed to put into a savings account over the last five years was withdrawn to pay for another fix for that car.

Over the next few days I loaded up with Daisy in her nice, clean, mechanically sound vehicle and we test drove every single affordable SUV on the lot over at CarMax in Rivergate. William was my sales guy, and bless his heart, he was so patient. “Do you even know what you want,” he asked.  Nope, no I did not. I was supposed to wait another year before buying.  I had another year before I would be ready.

Here’s what I could tell William.

  • I wanted leg room
  • I wanted something that was mechanically sound
  • I wanted to be able to make out with my theoretical new boyfriend in the back seat
  • I did not want silver
  • It could not smell like dog or smoke

“That’s not a lot to go on,” he said.

Daisy said, “You don’t even have a boyfriend.”

“I know,” I said to both of them, “whatcha got?”

I drove a Mazda CX-3, a Honda CRV, a Honda HR-V, a Nissan Rogue, a Nissan Murano, and a Toyota Rav4. William kept pushing for a Ford but I wasn’t having it.  Some of them drove like bobsleds and some of them drove like marshmallows, and I realized that I cannot really afford a marshmallow drive which is a shame.  I liked those. I also drove SUVs that smelled like wet dog and smoke, SUVs that were painted silver, and SUVs that were too small to make out with anyone in any backseat.  To test that particular theory, I made William, who was no small chicken himself, get in the back seat with me and have a conversation.

He laughed the first time I asked him to do it. “I’m serious,” I said, and when he looked over at Daisy with his eyebrows raised, she simply nodded at him. He was getting no support from her. In he clambered and in I clambered and Daisy stood guard in the parking lot until I was satisfied we had ample room. Then Daisy clambered into the back seat while William and I took our regular spots and off we’d drive.

Madre came up for the last round of test driving wherein William presented me with a silver Rav4. “I don’t want silver,” I said, and William opened his mouth to let forth a torrent of expletives.  No, I’m kidding.  William had the patience of Job. Actually, I forgot to weave this in, but when driving any of the cars across the lot, William and I had to switch places so that he was the driver on their property.  He never put his seat belt on and the vehicle would ding all the way across the lot and out the gate.  It drove me nuts.  I’d say, “put on your seat belt” and he’d ask, “oh, is it dinging” and I’d roll my eyes and huff, “Yes!”

“Jimmie,” he’d say, “I’m a man. I can tune out any noise.  I can drive this thing from here to Arkansas with no seat belt and never once hear that ding.” I am not that patient.

Anyway, I said, “I don’t want silver” and William said, “We can keep looking.” He meant it.  He was in this with me.  I looked over at my granny blue Hyundai Sonata and remembered how it bucked and rattled and made a disgrace of me and a nuisance of itself, and then I signed the paperwork on my new silver Rav4 while Madre wandered around looking at all the cars I had driven over the last few days.

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My new friend, dirty and mechanically sound

The Sonata now belongs to Pooh who will be 16 soon enough and can use a car. I know you feel some horror upon reading that, but look.  Giving a 16-year-old a nice car is the worst thing you can do.  They get a sense of entitlement and snooty pride which having a car that breaks all the time will destroy.  Standing on the side of the road waiting for your daddy to come get you builds character and makes you appreciate things later in life like silver Rav4s that run great and have plenty of room and don’t smell like dog.  I am slightly shamed by the fact that the door handles have all fallen off the Sonata now.  Only one left on the passenger side back seat door, and it’s likely hanging on by a thread.  Coach is looking into buying new ones but he can only find chrome or black ones, so Pooh is going to be rolling in style.  Builds character.

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I asked Pooh and Tigger the other day this question – if you could pick any car in the world for your first one, what would you choose? Tigger had some elaborate something or other that I cannot recall, but Pooh said, “the Sonata, the same one you gave me.”

I was aghast. “Why?”

“I don’t know,” she said, “but I really like it.”

That kid has character.

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I Didn’t See This Coming

I had dinner with Martie, Coach, Pooh and Tigger last night.  Its summer break for them and since my hometown has zero good shopping opportunities (excepting Home Depot, of course), they came up my way for some good eats and some good spending.

Right in the middle of a story I was telling at dinner, I looked over at Pooh and noticed that she’s suddenly become a young lady.  Her roundy little face is not really roundy anymore and her chin is suddenly all pointy and sweet and her cheekbones are making an appearance and she looked so grown up that I couldn’t stand it.  I started crying halfway through a sentence.

Coach was astonished, although probably not as astonished as an outsider would have been.  I mean, he’s been a part of Martie’s life since forever and Martie and I are what you call emotional at times.  I think he was particularly torn because while he was sitting next to me as I cried into my napkin, Martie was across the table from him and suddenly crying into her napkin, too.  I could see his dilemma – he wanted to race around the table to her, pat me on the arm, look proudly at Pooh but since we were all in a circle, he could only dart his eyes around in a panic.  Tigger just sat there like, “wha . . .?”

Back when Pooh was a toddler and Tigger wasn’t even a two-celled being, Martie and Coach bought Pooh a swing set.  She loved to swing but she hated bugs so getting her to go outside was super successful until a fly buzzed past, then she was hell bent on heading for the sofa on her squeezy little toddler legs.   We all thought it was adorable because everything toddlers do is adorable, but I also thought it could be changed so I tried that.

Pooh and I were happily swinging one day when a buzzy creature whizzed past.  Pooh got off the swing, covered her eyes and wailed, waiting for me to take her inside.  Instead, I spotted a butterfly on some of the marigold plants in their rock-walled planter and developed a plan.

“Come with me, Pooh,” I said, taking her by the hand.  “Let’s go look at the pretty butterfly.  Not all bugs are scary.”  She, ever trusting, took my hand and willingly followed.

At the planter, I bent down to brush the dirt off the rock wall and then curved Pooh into the crook of my arm as I sat down.  As I held my hand out to the butterfly, I felt a small stick on my behind.  I ignored it because the butterfly was flitting toward my fingers and I was excited to show Pooh the beauty of it.

I felt another stick on my behind, like maybe I was pressing into a sticker bush.  I scooted forward.  Then I felt another and another and another.

“What the . . . ?” I thought.  “Do marigolds have thorns?”  I looked behind me to see what I was sticking my butt into and saw the most horrifying sight.  Fire ants.  Fire ants!  Oh, geez.

Apparently that dirt I brushed off the rock wall was their home.  I just whisked it right off into oblivion which, as you know, will piss a fire ant off like nobody’s business.  Whoops.  In retaliation for my destruction they attacked my behind numerous, numerous times.

I stood up abruptly, knocking Pooh over, and did the only thing I could think to do.  I stripped off my pants.  Which, in case you are unfamiliar with how clothing works, will leave you virtually naked.  Realizing that neighbors were likely now peeking out of their windows due to the loud squawking next door, and realizing that being naked in my sister’s backyard with her squeezy little toddler was in no way sane, I stuffed myself back into my fire ant-riddled pants and ran for the house.  I did remember to get Pooh and as I ran, I tucked her under my arm like a football, screeching the whole way.

As we ran, Pooh very calmly touched my behind with her finger.  “Ant,” she said.  She giggled.  “Ant,” and then she’d poke me again.  “Ant, ant, ant,” all the way to the house.  I set her down on the laundry room floor, stripped myself again and threw everything into the washing machine while Pooh said over and over in her toddler language, “Ant.” Har, har, Pooh.  Very funny. Got over your bug phobia, didn’t you?

I’ve told that story a thousand times.  Used to Pooh would ask for it, and then would tell it to Tigger in her own language which often made no sense. The two of them would cackle in the backseat of my car, highly amused at my injured behind and my naked self.

Now if I told that story, Tigger would giggle to be polite and Pooh would give me a half smile and then text her friends something that has nothing to do with me.  They both still hug me tightly when we get together and we still have big fun talking about boys and clothes and nail polish, but one day soon they are going to flit off with their friends right after giving me that tight squeeze and talk about boys and clothes and nail polish with them, not me.

I’m so, so excited for them and their young little lives, truly, but man . . . . that really hurts.