Why, oh why, didn’t I take Auto-shop instead of Home-Ec in high school? If I had, then I might have sounded a little less goofy than I did today.

Yesterday my car started making a hideous noise on the way home from the grocery store. It was the kind of noise that would thrill a teen-aged boy driver to his very marrow. The kind of noise you can hear coming from three blocks away. The kind of noise that causes the front room windows to rattle. Get the picture?

So, first this morning I called the repair shop to see how soon I could get in. I had a brief conversation with the very patient Tracy about my problem. The condensed version goes something like this:

Me: My car is making a terrible noise.
Tracy: Can you describe the noise?
Me: I don’t know, it’s a loud noise.
Tracy: Is it coming from under the hood?
Me: Maybe, I don’t know, it’s a very loud noise.
Tracy: Anything else?
Me: Um, no. But it’s really, really loud.
Tracy: Okay, bring it in at 3 o’clock.

There was a little more, but in a nutshell, that was it. I mean, I can bake a cake from scratch, make a fabulous german potato salad, and I once flat-felled a seam without a special sewing machine attachment, but to save my life I could not tell you what goes on under the hood of a car. I know how to check the oil and windshield washer fluid, which round silvery thing is the radiator cap (and “don’t open it when the car is overheated, for goodness sake!”), and which big black square thing is the battery, but any more than that and I’d be a goner.

I can remember the days when you pulled into a gas station, also known as a Service Station (emphasis on Service!) and the car ran over the little rubber hose, making a bell ding-ding inside the building. A uniformed attendant would quickly come out and check all those things for you after filling up your gas tank. He’d not only tell you but show you when you were low on oil and offer to fill it up for you. He’d check the radiator and put in more water if needed. It was all part of the “service”. Tires looking low? Let me check those for you ma’am. Power steering fluid? Check! Brake fluid? Check! Front and rear windows need washing? Check! Check! Just sit, relax, and listen to your favorite AM station on the car radio.

Nowadays, cars have beepers and bells and whistles and idiot lights to alert me when something is not quite right. No more attendants attending me.

Pity, that.

Oh, and my car? The exhaust pipe…right between the driver and front passenger seats. An hour later she was almost as good as nearly new and I was on my way.


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