Sunday, December 11, 2005

You Take a Paperclip and...

I flew to Chicago Friday to meet up with Strong Opinions, who was heading home from Cheeseheadland and Useless Boyfriend, so we could share the driving the rest of the way home (just 706 miles, but who's counting?)

In spite of my pleas for her to leave WI early on Friday, or maybe because of them, she didn't end up leaving until 6 pm. We had planned for us to stay at my in-laws' house Friday night and leave first thing Saturday morning.

She got into Chicago at 9 pm, and had a bite to eat with her Grands, and we set off for home at about 7:15 a.m. She had a slow leak in her back tire, so we had to put some air in it. Then she had left her cellphone at the Grands' house, so we had to go back and get it. I took the first leg of the drive, while she slept a bit more. Did I mention that she's not a morning person?

We actually had a good time once she woke up, conversing on all manner of things political, theological, romantic...that's the good thing about such long drives, particularly across the really flat straight parts of Indiana and Ohio. You can talk.

We stopped at a rest stop in Toledo for me to attend to my aging bladder. I came back outside and she looked scared. "You won't believe this," she said. "I'm turning the key in the ignition and nothing's happening, but all the lights are on in the dashboard."

What I know about cars is pretty much limited to pulling out the credit card and paying for the work to be done. On an off chance that he'd be in the shop, we called Richard, our fearless Saab mechanic (when you're in a household with three Saabs of varying vintages and a Volvo, you have a very close relationship with a trusted mechanic). Despite the fact that it was Saturday, he was actually in. He diagnosed the problem - a tiny piece of the key had broken off in the lock, so an electical circuit was no longer being established to turn on the car. The good news - yes, there was good news- was that the ignition was stuck in the ON position, so we could start the car.

"I'm gonna teach you how to hot-wire it," he said.

My doubts must have conveyed across the telephone connection, because he said, "It's simple. You just need to get a paperclip."

The continuing good news was that I happened to have a paperclip with me, in my maternal purse that carries everything you'd ever need for anything, including hot-wiring a Saab.

StrongOpinions opened up the hood of the car, removed the fuse box, and per Richard's directions, put the ends of the unwound clip into two points. Miraculous! The car roared to life. Poor StrongOpinions was somehow not expecting the very loud sound of the engine starting with her head under the hood, and just about leapt across the parking lot.

Several truckers had been watching with amusement, and then amazement, as she successfully hot-wired the car. I suspect not many 17 year old girls have this skill.

We continued on our way, nervously amazed that we - or rather, she - had accomplished this. We were afraid to try it again, so we just kept the car running all the way home, and when we stopped for food or bathroom breaks, one of us stayed in the car while the other one went in, and when we stopped for gas we broke the rules and fueled it with the engine on. We added more air to the tire a couple of times, and several hours later (13 hours in all) we had backed her beloved Saabie, Saabie into our garage.

Teachable moments come in the strangest ways. This time, the skill was taught by someone else, but one of her comments after it was over surprised me. "In the old days, you would have flipped out. You were pretty calm about it, Mom."

I allowed as how she was right - marriage to PH, and advancing age, have mellowed me in many ways. I hadn't really noticed. Old dogs can be taught new tricks, and the teachable moments aren't only for the young.

And now we both know how to hot-wire an ancient Saab.

1 comment:

Emily said...

What an excellent story to read on a Monday morning. Too funny.