Friday, April 16, 2004

Braking Away

I return to you from bizarre car difficulties.

I drove home at lunch a few days ago, parked in my garage, and pulled up the handbrake. S-N-N-K-K-K! It sounded like something broke! I pulled my hand away from the handle and gingerly pressed in the release button on the brake. Nothing! It wouldn't move.

For half an hour I did battle with my handbrake. I wiggled. I jiggled. I even at one point got a rubber mallet and hit the button like a redheaded stepchild. No dice.

Finally, I sucked in my courage and called AAA. A tow truck guy showed up, and I had to explain that my brake was stuck on. He gave me a look that said "We tow truck drivers live for these moments. We yearn to come to your home and do something incredibly simple, perhaps involving a twilliger rod, and make you feel foolish and lame."

He hopped in the car and wiggled. And jiggled. He cursed and talked to me about the bewilderment he felt at waking up one day and realizing he was a "tow guy". He complimented my bouganvilleas. But he could not get the brake off.

"Don't worry," he said "I'll call my mentor".*

While we waited for his mentor, he explained to me that it was not really possible to tow my car to the dealership (where they would relieve me of several paychecks) because the car was parked head-in in the garage, and to tow it out would wreck the transmission. We, of course, could not roll it out of the garage because the brakes were stuck on. He explained a complex procedure involving a flatbed tow truck and applying soap to the rear wheels. I felt it was best not to question him.

His "mentor" showed up. This was the supremo tow guy, who had taught tow guy #1 all he knew. The second guy exploded with derisive laughter and made unkind insinuations about tow guy #1 and his lack of physical prowess. I, as a thirty-two year old man who had called AAA to fix my handbrake, was also referred to as "weak". This new guy, who looked kind of like one of the old circus sideshow strongmen of yore, bald with a handlebar moustache, climbed into the car and began jiggling. He demanded use of my visegrips, which I gladly supplied. **

He gave it a go for another forty minutes, the sweat pouring off him and into my upholstery. He detached things. He bent and deformed things...

But then! The brake was released!
I drove to the car dealership, my handbrake limply hanging. my center panel sadly askew, forever rent asunder.

When I got there, of course, the smarmy service representative lifted his eyebrows in a "I am clearly dealing with an idiot" sort of way when I told him about the problem.

Anyway, long story long, it cost me many, many clams, my car was in the shop for two days and I had to rent the worst car in the world: a bright red Chevy Cavalier, which I believe still holds the title of Official Car of Humility.

At least it said Enterprise on the license plate frame.

* I immediately thought of the old Shazam live action kids' show which for some reason I think of when I hear the word "mentor". Didn't that guy have a "mentor" who used to drive around in an RV or something? He was kind of like the superhero support vehicle, I guess. Maybe he carried spare gold boots in case Shazam lost a heel. Or was it called Captain Marvel? I have got to brush up on this stuff.

** I felt almost manly there for a minute, having visegrips in my toolbox. I didn't mention, of course, that I am terrfiied of the visegrips, and imagine them accidentally vise-gripping on parts of my body, maiming me hideously and leaving me to stagger the darkened streets with visegrips dangling from various body parts, frightening children and maybe becoming the topic of an In Search Of one day.


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