Satire Non-Fiction posted December 28, 2012


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The adventures of a single mom with unreliable vehicles

THE INFERNAL COMBUSTION ENGINE

by Marisa3

Having been a single mom, I am here to testify that we are a group of hearty individuals who have managed to survive the most inferior transportation on the planet. It seems that it is part and parcel of our lot in life to be "doomed", to be saddled with what can only be classified as tenements on wheels. We not only live in the projects, we drive them as well. That is when they are drivable, which is not often.

It is said that Americans carry on a continuous love affair with the automobile. Well, that is not exactly true for those of us who are left with a shaking mass of bolts, steam and oil leaks. (Deformed mutations, with unrecognizable exteriors, equipped with tires that resemble the slick and shiny posterior of a used car salesman). I refer to these supposed inanimate objects as rolling aberrations. They experience more downtime than any other piece of equipment, because, of course, they are what we rely on most. My referral to their supposed 'inanimate' state is with good reason. If they are just a mass of unthinking material, completely devoid of any power to reason, how is it that they pick the most critical and inopportune times to breakdown?

For example, when you are dashing out the door for work wearing light colored clothing and the automatic choke on your archaic monolith, masquerading as an automobile, decides not to open. This involves raising the hood, removing an air filter the size of a flying saucer and manually dislodging the choke while climbing on the side of the car and hanging over the engine. It might not prove to be much of a problem if you are driving a compact car, but if you happen to be driving something the size of the 'Queen Mary' it's a whole different ballgame. The distance from the fender of the car to the air filter may be exceeded only by that of the Grand Canyon, and leave you in a completely prone position, chest resting on an oily manifold. You end up arriving at the office late, looking like Mr. Goodwrench and smelling like a gas pump.

Probably the worst part about dealing with these tired old dinosaurs we drive is having to contend with the unscrupulous mechanics we come in contact with. Believe me, it's not the predatory blind date (with more hands than an octopus has tentacles), or the predictably lascivious boss you have to worry about. It's the sleazy mechanic who preys on the immediate situation, where there are little or no choices; he is the real villain.

After pushing, pulling and shoving this four-wheeled albatross into the nearest repair shop, you are then hit with an inflated bill for parts and labor. Some Neanderthal with questionable brainwave activity usually presents this to you and you most likely find yourself back walking by the end of the week.

Helpless in this dilemma, you call upon friends to guide you to someone they might know to, once again, perform the needed repairs and in the meantime you put the kids on a diet of cheerios and water to try and eke out the money. (Throwing them an occasional lime to prevent scurvy).

Try explaining to a growing boy, who is constantly hungry, that cereal and camper's pancakes (that is when they are made without benefit of eggs and milk) are an acceptable alternative to no food at all. The kid does not take this very well, even when you give him the starving kids in Sudan speech. His response is to generously offer his camper's pancakes and Cheerios to those kids in exchange for a steak.

Sparring with a quick witted child over lack of sustenance is just the whipped cream on the cake of your day. God, if only you actually had whipped cream and a cake!

Sometimes you are doomed to leave your terminally ill legacy with the mechanic until you can acquire the cash to redeem it. That means getting up before dawn to go to work. You must catch a bus and take a three hour ride that would normally take thirty-five minutes as the crow flies. More ideally, if the crow is seated comfortably behind the wheel of a smoothly operating vehicle.

The car I initially inherited in the divorce of the century was an abomination of the highest order. I had to be very careful where I parked it, making sure it was not in a high profile space, so it would not be subject to being towed. The exterior appearance definitely fit the 'abandoned' profile. Even the homeless would pass it by as not being a viable place to crash for the night.

The windows in the front did not roll all the way up or down. In a rainstorm in the winter, the kids got bundled up in blankets and put on the backseat, so as to avoid getting wet. I then blasted the heater (thank god for small favors it worked) on 'high' to try to keep them semi-defrosted on the trip home. I, on the other hand, nearly drowned from the water being blown in my face. Try driving while under direct siege of a monsoon. It is a most exhilarating experience ... not! More like being water boarded.

When I finally was able to shed this rolling junkyard for a slight upgrade, I asked the kids if they liked the car I was thinking of buying and they were just thrilled that the windows rolled up and were elated that it resembled other cars on the road. Note: upside to poverty, kids develop simple and greatly lowered expectations with regard to material items.

So as not to make this whole scenario seem bleak and hopeless, we should take a moment to reflect on the upside of this situation. That, of course, is the marvelous education we receive from all our precarious adventures into the care and feeding of a Detroit lemon. For instance, the newly found knowledge of what to do when your solenoid becomes caught in your flywheel, you simply raise the hood, take a pair of pliers and knock off the battery cables, then contact your nearest 'sleazy' mechanic for help..... Ugh!



Recognized


For some reason my reflective holiday mood has transported me back to a time when driving was a sheer adventure, because I never knew if I would actually be driving or walking. My son was of the opinion that we walked more than we drove and he may have been right in that assumption. Living on the economic fringe always presents one with many challenges to overcome. Inanimate objects, such as unruly vehicles, seem to know just the right time and place to breakdown, e.g. around Christmas time when you are working two jobs and need the blasted thing to run at least on a semi-regular basis. This is when sleep becomes a rare and valued commodity, as you go from day job to night job with your fingers crossed that the vehicle de jour is going to cooperate. I know this all sounds nuts, but even with the exasperation of it all, I still remember those years fondly. It ended up making the kids and me much more resilient and appreciative of better times when they came along.
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