Cars Are Sexist and I’m an Adult
I don’t recommend driving 350 miles in the rain to get your windshield wipers fixed, but that’s what I did. I was forced to make this treacherous journey because my car started making a mysterious rattle. I knew from listening to “Car Talk” that I would have to imitate this sound, but I couldn’t master it. Every man I talked to about the problem started making car sounds, but I couldn’t correct them with my own version. How do boys learn this sound-making talent? Instead I used metaphors. “It’s like a glass of ice rattling, or it’s like a quiet blender, blending a banana smoothie.” I used these metaphors while talking to my dad on the phone. He had always been in charge of car malfunctions. In fact he had pretty much been in charge of all malfunctions.
Living 350 miles away from him means that I have learned to live with broken things. Heater doesn’t work, get another blanket. Printer only prints when it wants to. Sure, no problem. The car problem, however, was something I couldn’t ignore. Without my car I would be stranded in North East LA, lose both my jobs, my sanity, and eventually live under a freeway overpass. Even facing this grim prospect, I couldn’t take the car to a mechanic by myself. I know nothing about cars.
I only realized a couple years ago that you have to feed the thing oil as well as gas. How would I know the mechanic was giving me a fair price? But facing a life on the streets, alone and with dirty underwear, I was willing to pay any price. I would even bake the mechanic cookies. I was vulnerable, so I asked everyone I knew for advice.
My coworkers suggested I take a male friend with me. My closest male LA friend is a flaming homosexual. When I turned to him, he said take a man, other than me. The feminist in me was angry. Why did straight men have a corner on all things automotive? As a child someone should have prepared me for this, perhaps with a mechanic Barbie. She has a dream car, but I don’t remember the hood opening.
I decided to prove a point and go to the mechanic alone. I would march in, ask for an estimate, and then call my dad to ask if I was being ripped off. Maybe he could even talk to the mechanic over the phone. Just as I was leaving to find a mechanic, my housemate offered to take a look at the car. He’s a man. It took him five minutes to locate the problem. The reservoir of windshield wiper fluid had corroded off the side of the car and was hitting the fan belt. He pulled the reservoir out, tied some wires to the side of the car, and the sound was gone.
I had studied my car for obvious problems multiple times, examining the diagram of the engine provided in the manual. Of course, I did always look at the engine when I got home from work, and it was dark. I decided this was the reason I hadn’t noticed this obvious problem. Now I could drive my car without worry, so long as it didn’t rain. The windshield wipers didn’t work. So, I thought I’d go home for Easter and have my dad take the car to our trusted mechanic. This seemed like a great plan until it started to rain. My dad, though, seemed optimistic. “Just pull over if it starts to rain. The worst thing that will happen is you’ll have to spend the night in a motel.”
“Sure,” I thought. I can do this. Adults spend nights in motels alone. I turned my phone off, to preserve battery power. I didn’t want to be stranded on a back road without a way to call for help. I was on top of things. I got over the Grapevine with only slight drizzles. I called my parents to celebrate, but they were both in a panic. It was pouring in Santa Cruz, and they wanted me to turn back. I wouldn’t do it. I was determined to make it to Santa Cruz; I wanted to prove my adulthood by driving recklessly and having my dad take the car to the mechanic the next day.