Quickies Redux

Just a few quick hits...

Finally moved all our stuff out of the storage unit* and am in the process of getting everything either put away or thrown away. In the meanwhile, the apartment looks like Hurricane Katrina and her little sister Bebe swept through. But at least Ness has all her toys back, and the moths left Mama's clothes alone.

Missed an important task force here in town the other day (due to the fun-and-games of the previous paragraph.) A homelessness task force met not too terribly far from the apartment the other night. I wish I'd known about it so I could report on it, but I'm sure Cara Michele has been all over it. There'll be another soon in High Point. I'm currently negotiating with the Trusty Steed to see if we can make that one.

Apparently, even Paradise has its dark side; just take a look.

*Had to do it quickly (seems we have to do that a lot lately...) I didn't have the money for another month, and the manager, after first telling me I had a week, suddenly turned around and told me a day into the move that I only had two days. Gee, think I could've used that information sooner?



Get Thee Behind Me, Murphy

Had a bit of a scare morning before last. I was on my way to work in my Trusty Steed, and waiting for the stoplight at the entrance to our apartment complex to change. When it did, the two cars ahead cleared on, and I pressed the gas pedal to do the same. The Steed made the customary "vroom" sound, but curiously enough, made no forward progress. In fact, we rolled backward a few feet.

Hmm. Okay, make sure the car's in gear. Check. Make sure I wasn't riding on the parking brake. Check. Make sure I was indeed awake and not dreaming. No tornadoes, swimming cats, or Dolly Parton wearing red fishnet stockings* around, so, check.

Tried the gas pedal again. Customary "vroom" sound. Rolled backward a few feet.

Now, fighting a growing panic, I went through it again. Gear. Brakes. Dolly. "Vroom." Backward. My mind raced through a host of possibilities, but I knew it would boil down to one inescapable conclusion; the worst possible thing that could happen to one's car: transmission failure.

A car pulled up first behind me, then next to me. The couple within offered to help (risking their own car in the process, as they were in the oncoming lane), but I waved them on. My first thought was to get out of traffic, and I didn't want these nice folks to become traffic statistics trying to help me. Making sure there were no more cars coming up behind, I let the Steed roll backward into a driveway, then opened the door, and applied my Mighty Thews** to the task of pointing the thing back down the way I came. before I did, I glanced up the street where I had stalled out and saw a huge reddish slick about a gallon in diameter spreading on the pavement.

Oh, boy. Not good; not good at all.

Luckily, that part of the road sloped down then back up, so I was able to coast to a stop about halfway back to the apartment, a few minutes' walk away. Then I turned full-time to the task of finding out what was wrong. Having checked all the conditions I could without going under the hood, I finally climbed out and did so, not knowing what I'd see (I'm pretty good at diagnosing the Steed's problems, but I don't know nothin' about no transmissions.) To my shock, a hose next to the radiator had worked loose, and was gushing transmission fluid!

Quickly killing the engine, I took a closer look at the hose coupling. There seemed to be no damage; the hose and its clamp had simply worked loose. Whew! If that's all it was, maybe there was hope yet. I quickly called in to work and told them not to expect me for several hours, if at all, then headed for the house to get a screwdriver (why I had none in the trunk, I don't know, but I needed to change into clothes I didn't mind getting dirty, too.

A few quick screw-turns later, I had the hose securely clamped back on, but there was a nagging feeling that this may be the tip of the iceberg. What if there were transmission damage? Shaking the sound of ringing cash registers out of my head, I headed down to the nearest convenience store to use the last of my money on a bottle of transmission fluid.

Along the way, the Beast decided it was an opportune time for a psychic attack: Hah! You waited and fought for over a year-and-a-half to get that car back, and now look. Walking again, not two weeks later! And you know you'll never get up enough money for transmission repairs or another car! Y'know, most poor people are only car repair away from eviction or bankruptcy. And you don't even have money for the repair! Why don't you just give up and head for the bus stop now?

This time, however, things were a little different. Instead of withering under the psychic assault and throwing myself a pity party, I started looking at the fortunates of the situation. One, it had happened near the house. Two, it hadn't happened on a more distant or heavily-traveled road. Three, it was something I could see, and therefore reach and deal with. Four, I'm still in good enough shape to walk, and even run if I have to, and I've memorized the bus routes and schedules. Five, so what? I like my little car, but if I have to give it up, I'll somehow get another.

That last stopped the Beast cold. I had done something to him I'd never done before: Gotten Philosophical. And you know what? It felt good. It actually felt good to simply say "Y'know what? So what?" and not feel any shame or anxiety.

With the space that little mental manuever bought me, I started planning. I laid out several scenarios, including the worst-case one: how to pay for transmission repairs or replacement if necessary. By the time I got the transmission fluid and got back, I had Plans A, B and C ready to go. While the Beast was still stunned at this turn of events, I boxed him up in his corner and gave him a few psychic smacks upside the head for daring to come out.

I know, most American adults can do this instinctively, but I've always been a little slow on the uptake. Understand, even as recently as a year ago, had something of this magnitude happened, I would have spent the better part of a week railing at unjust Fate and cursing an uncaring Universe for my bad luck. But this time, I basically just shrugged my shoulders.

With the bottle of fluid, another half bottle I had in the trunk, and the help of the driver who'd stopped to help me previously (he'd dropped his wife off at work and returned), I got the Steed back to the house. Another day, a trip to the Plasma Center and two more quarts of fluid later, the Steed could make short experimental trips, with just minor gear slippage. Today, I dumped in one final quart of fluid -- the max the Steed can contain -- and made it to work and back.

It still might have some minor transmission damage, but at least I can make short trips to work, the store and the repair shop, if necessary until I can get things squared away. But the most important thing was I've finally learned to roll with the punch while coming up with a Plan B. It's a great feeling.

*Yes, all of these things have appeared in my dreams at various times. Yes, they probably all have some deep id-driven meaning. Yes, I need a good shrink...

**Okay, I'm exaggerating a bit. But that's why I perfer a mid-size sedan to the minivans I used to own. They're a lot easier to push if need be.

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