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Life happens: The first three letters in care is car

Sept. 14, 2011 at 4:14 a.m.


By Aprill Brandon

I call her the Boop-mobile. She's small, has a sassy red chassis and one heck of a pair of ample headlights (although she has also gone by Please Baby Girl Please in my more desperate moments and Susan for that one week in 2006 when I felt she needed a more dignified name).

She's my 2004 Hyundai and for eight years, she has put up with me and my shenanigans. The countless coffee spills, the oopsie curbside hits, the grinding of gears that has made my clutch suicidal; all of it she bore with a grace that speaks volumes of her species.

So when I decided last Friday to take an impromptu 13-hour road trip from Boston to my Ohio hometown to surprise my best friend Misty for her bachelorette party, I was a bit surprised when she started acting up. As soon as we hit the open road, she began shaking once I hit 55 miles per hour. By the time I hit 65, she was downright convulsing. And there was this weird whee-duuum-eeeeee-grrrrrrrr-hi-wheeeeee sound emanating from somewhere.

So naturally, I did what any woman who thinks a dipstick is something you call someone who is acting stupid.

I ignored it and kept driving.

See, in general, the relationship a woman has with her car is very different from the one a man has with his. Most of the men I know look at their cars as almost extensions of themselves. As such, they tend to actually do things like replace the battery instead of jump starting it for a year and not ignore things like a whee-duuum-eeeeee-grrrrrrrr-hi-wheeeeee sound. Whereas I assume my car will just keep running forever without any intervention from me.

Luckily, I have a husband, who also happens to be a man, and it was he who suggested I get the car looked at before I began my trek home.

Now, I have always dreaded going to auto shops. It's akin to walking into a foreign country where you don't know the language or customs, let alone their currency exchange rate. A mechanic could tell me my dinglehopper needs a new kerfluffen ring and I have no choice but to believe him and fork over $400 because my car needs a kerfluffen ring that has to be special ordered.

But more importantly, I hate it because I'm also pretty sure the mechanics are silently judging me. They know the extent to which I've neglected my poor, defenseless car. They'll ask me things like "when's the last time you changed your oil?" and then give me an extremely judgmental look when I tell them I can't remember because the little sticker in the corner of the windshield fell off about a month before I graduated high school.

Needless to say, if there was a Car Protective Services, I'd never be allowed within 500 feet of any car lot and then be forced to stick a sign in my yard that says "Car Offender." And then bicycles would probably come out of the woodwork with charges of the abuse they also suffered at my hands.

And this particular visit was perhaps the most embarrassing of all. As it turns out, three of my four tires were so bald, they were technically illegal. The guy threw out a bunch of numbers at me, but to sum up, they were basically the Mr. Clean of tires. And let me tell you, the mechanic was not amused when I responded to this claim with "Wow, I didn't even know tires could be illegally bald." Nor did he seem happy when I said "So, I guess them there factory tires don't last forever, eh?"

But the punishment fit the crime. I ended up with a $250 bill and a stern talking to about the urgent need to take my car to a chiropractor or some junk as soon as possible for an alignment.

On the plus side, those four new tires made the Boop-mobile like new again, getting rid of the shaking and weird banshee-esque sounds. And having a car that didn't act like it was going to implode once it went over 50 mph gave me plenty of time to ponder other things on the way home, like why the state of Pennsylvania has a law that insists you turn on your headlights while driving through work zones, even if it's broad daylight. Or why every single road in Ohio is currently under construction. Or how after 13 hours of driving, even I will start doing a "Boston left," which is a quaint little tradition where you rapidly switch lanes or turn onto a road without any warning whatsoever, leaving those in your wake scrambling for their lives.

Aprill Brandon is a columnist for the Advocate. Her column runs every two weeks in the Your Life section. To comment on this story, go to www.VictoriaAdvocate.com.

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