Thursday, February 2, 2012

Lord, Won’t You Buy Me a Four-Wheel Drive?

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About three weeks before the first big snowfall, a wholly terrifying CLUNKCLUNKCLUNK began thunderously beating from my front axle. I pulled into the nearest parking lot (coincidentally, my favorite coffee shop) and called Mr. Wright, sobbing hysterically. He agreed to meet me, but wouldn’t arrive for about two hours.

I enjoyed a soy mocha while chatting with my barista pal, who was actually happy my car was kaput, because she hadn’t seen me in months due to some silly determination on my part not to spend a quarter of the family grocery budget on caffeinated beverages with enough calories to solve the world hunger problem.

Three mochas and ten bathroom breaks later, Mr. Wright arrived to rescue me. Or, at least, give me a ride. If he could fix or diagnose the car, I’d take it as a bonus. Plus, I was out of cash, and as spun out as a washer full of pantyhose. Mr. Wright started the car, threw it into reverse, backed up to the rhythm of CLUNKCLUNKCLUNK, and pulled back into the parking space.

“It’s making a lot of noise,” he said.

“Really? I didn’t hear a thing. Actually, how did you know I was here? Did you hear my synapses buzzing, from the caffeine?” I countered. “Of course it’s making a lot of noise! That’s why I called you.”

My husband gave an indignant sniff, then bent down and looked under the rig. I always sort of laugh when he does that. The thing is, he has no idea what he’s looking for—like when I walk into the laundry room and push a couple buttons or turn a dial on the washer or dryer. I don’t really know what I’m doing, but figure if I tinker around until the thing starts, the clothes might get clean. Or dry.

Mr. Wright walked around the car, peered under the other side, rubbed his chin and said, “Well, you got me.”

“Yeah, I know. And sometimes, I wish I’d accepted Mr. Goodwrench’s proposal. Then I’d have him, right now.”

He got back in the car, started it, and asked, “Why are you driving around in four-wheel drive?” I heard a soft click, and Mr. Wright backed the car up—with absolutely no sound but the tire rubber on pavement.

“That’s amazing!” I cried, and showered my husband with the appropriate number of “it’s so sexy when you fix things” remarks. The problem, he explained, must have been something wonky in the hub, making noise when the four-wheel drive was engaged.

When the Snowpacolypse hit, the only operational function on my big, heavy rig was rear-wheel drive, due to a crazy-high estimate from the mechanic and a crazy-low balance in the checking account. Why can’t those of us who need snow tires and chains every year file our taxes a few months early, to get those returns in time for winter vehicle maintenance? I’m going to write a letter to my Congressman.

There were a few scary slips, one embarrassing failure to get up my own driveway, and one miracle. Oh, yes—there was a miracle.

Mr. Wright had to drive me to Target to get a pair of snow boots for Curlytop because they were on a fabulous sale, and I was too chicken to drive. As we exited the parking lot, we saw a small car high-centered on the berm between lanes on the avenue. “I have a tow strap,” said Mr. Wright. “Let’s pull them out.”

“Are you crazy? Our four-wheel drive doesn’t work! We’ll get ourselves stuck, trying to pull them out, and you’ll cause an accident and we’ll die, making it impossible for me to punish you for weeks over insisting on such a stupid idea. No way!”

After the tow strap was hooked to both vehicles, Mr. Wright flipped the dial to four-wheel drive and started to pull. The CLUNKCLUNKCLUNK returned. The small car stayed high-centered, and the front of our rig was sliding on the ice, threatening to enter the next lane of traffic. Mr. Wright pressed down the accelerator, and the small car dismounted the berm.

The car’s driver and passengers gave hearty thanks to Mr. Wright, and we drove away. In four-wheel drive. Without a single clunk. The force of tugging the small car off the berm forced the hub to lock in.

Guess how many “it’s so sexy when you fix things” that cost me.
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