Monday, April 10, 2017

April 10, 2017 - April's A Thousand UnEdited Words A Day

April 10, 2017
I loved that car, loved the sound of the powerful engine revving. Loved how it handled. Loved the fact that I could now get from Bartlett, where I lived just outside Memphis in about 15 minutes, instead of the nearly 45 minutes it usually took. I loved the feeling of the windows down, the stereo cranked and, cliché I know, but the feel of my hair dancing in the wind. I loved it. But I didn’t take very good care of it. I learned what it could do. I learned that I could hop up on wide medians and pass a traffic jam. I learned that if you zoomed down a gravel road, then pulled up the emergency break, that the car would spin in 360’s. DON’T try this. If you read the book, you’ll find out why.  At least, I think I’m going to include that story.
Anyway, My father gave me a car, but no guidance as to how to take care of it, to say nothing about responsibility. I hadn’t been given much guidance about much of anything. After my parents divorced nobody seemed to be taking care of anybody anymore, even themselves. Things like breakfast, lunch and dinner became things I scavenged from whatever my father had remembered to put in the cupboards. I often lived off big bags of Doritoes. Before the divorce I had been taken once a month to the orthodontist to get my braces tightened. After the divorce, nobody even bothered to make appointments. At the age of 13, I was somehow supposed to be an adult, even though no one had ever bothered to teach me how to be one.
Fast forward to 17, and I hadn’t added much wisdom to my tool box. Well, I wouldn’t say, none. I’d learned to scan people for danger, how to extricate myself from dangerous situations. I’d learned I didn’t want to be around people who did hard drugs, through various experiences I won’t go into here. So I’d learned how to survive more or less “on the streets,” but…Well, to make a long story short, I’m not sure how I survived having a car that would effortlessly hit 140 mph plus. I say plus because sometimes I would be driving so fast the indicator just bounced on the 140 because that was as far as it would read.
I bet you’re expecting to read about how I totaled that car and watched it burn to the ground while I lay barely conscious with multiple broken bones and lacerations. How else would a car like that meet its end. Well…not like you’d think. For a few months I had worked as a bank teller for First National Bank in Memphis, Tennessee. It was my first job like this. The only jobs I’d had before, the only jobs available for a teenager tended to be extremely low paying and usually in the restaurant industry. I’d been a hostess at several restaurants, sold funeral plots over the telephone from inside of an actual funeral home (a good story, but not one that will make the book), and working at a Showbiz Pizza Place (like Chuckee Cheese). This was a real grown up job and I met real grown-ups doing it. One day this guy came in making a deposit for the Jiffy Lube down the street. We swapped some jokes and when the transaction was complete, he invited me to bring my car over there and said he’d change the oil for free.
I thought he was just being nice. I thought we’d just made friends and he was just helping me out. After work that afternoon, I took my car over. While I was waiting he came over to chat and while we were talking he asked if he could take me out on a date. I wasn’t interested in him in that way and decided to be honest about it. I told him I was only interested in being friends. He walked away a little miffed then came back and brought me my keys and said it was all done. I thanked him and said, “See you later.” Fifteen minutes later I was sitting in rush hour traffic when the engine died. It was blazing hot that day and the car had been running hot ever since I left the Jiffy Lube. I didn’t know enough about cars to find that alarming. When the engine died I thought it just needed to cool down and it would be fine. I had traffick back up for miles, hood of the car flipped up, heat from the engine and from the 110 degree 100 % humidity practically melting me. I was just dying in the heat. Finally, a man from the car behind me helped me push the car to the shoulder and then he gave me a ride home. Another friend of mine brought me back that night and we pulled the car to his place so he could help figure out what was wrong with it. We tried to crank the engine. The starter made all it’s whirring noises but the engine didn’t make one bit of effort to crank. No belching, no whining. My friend, Eric, got a socket wrench with and a breaker bar and came back to the car. We’d already been trying a few other things and nothing had panned out. He looked up at me with a serious expression and a serious smile and said, “Let’s hope this turns it.”
It began to dawn on me that I could have a real problem on my hands and not one that my mechanical wizard of a friend could help me easily correct. I didn’t have any money. No savings. And nobody I could call to help me. What if we couldn’t get the car fixed tonight? How would I get to work? I’d lose this job, the one job I’d had that seemed like it could point to a future.
 He set the socket on the large nut on the crankshaft, then slipped the breaker bar over the end of the socket wrench and tried to turn it clockwise. It wouldn’t budge. He tried again, pushing with his shoulder, jaws clenched, face tight and turning red. Nothing. He shook his head. Then he pulled on a ring beside the engine block and out came this long, slender, metal reed-like ribbon. I knew just enough to know that he was checking my oil. “I just had it changed earlier today.” I said, solemnly. He jerked his face around to look at me. “What?” he asked.
“I just had it changed. A guy came to the bank today and offered to change it for free so I went over there. It should be perfect.” I explained
He stuck the dipstick back in, pulled it out and once more scrutinized its tip before shaking his head and frowning, “Donna, there’s not a drop in it. Your engine’s seized.”
“What does that mean?” I asked becoming alarmed.
“It means you need a new engine.” He said, solemnly.
“How much is that,” I asked quietly.

“About two or three grand, installed.” Guess who didn’t have that?

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