Wednesday, August 24, 2011

ONE WAY---------------->

Tom Petty--"Turn This Car Around" (mp3)

We have a car that only goes one way--forward. We have had the car for over 6 years, and in all that time, it has only gone efficiently forward. Most families would have fixed a one-way car. We are not that family. I'm not sure what that says about us.

Okay, the car does go a little bit in reverse, if we park at an angle where the nose of the car is higher than its rear. There's also a chance that if we park on a flat surface that the car might go kind of in reverse.

If we're caught at a downward angle, however, you will hear whichever one of us is driving gunning that engine, trying to get enough power or something to get that damn car to go backwards. Or you will see me in front of the car, feet perched on the parking barrier, trying to gather enough strength to push the car backwards. Actually, you probably won't see me, since we usually try to wait until there is no one around before we try to push the car out of a space. We have never gotten stuck. Close, though.

What it says about us is that we have adapted. Or that we can't get around to fixing anything.

The same way that we are adapting to the car that has only one remaining door handle on the inside. When that one goes, we will have to adapt that car out of our lives. You've got to have a way out of a car if the power fails.

The same way that we adapted to the stove that only had one working burner and we still put on dinner parties with the same frequency. The same way we stuck with a dishwasher whose upper rack only cleaned dishes that we had pretty much already cleaned. It's something about us.

When your car does not go in reverse, you have to plan your life differently. There are parking lots and spaces in parking lots that you cannot park in. Cars traveling down the row behind you will wonder why you passed up a perfectly good spot in favor of one up the next row that's farther away and looks to be slightly uphill. You get very, very good at gauging the uphillness of a potential parking space.

Turning around is not a given. Not if you're driving uphill and want to go in the other direction. Sure you could probably find a driveway with an uphill angle to turn around in, but how are you going to back up that hill? Getting out of a convenience store is not a given. Neither is your work parking lot.

And people are going to look at you funny. One time, my wife did get stuck in her office parking lot. It was on a Saturday, when the lot was being used by attendees of a dance event at the auditorium across the street. When I got there, to push her out, there was a ballet family, or a couple of families, parked next to us. They were clustered around the back of their van, doing what I don't know. But as each second passed, I got more and more irritated at their presence. When you have to gun the engine, you don't want a bunch of people near who might get hurt or scared if the transmission actually catches. Plus, embarassment. You don't feel your best when you're pushing your car out of a parking space. And you such don't want help. So, we waited them out. That was our strategy. We waited until they were gone. I'm sure they wondered what we were doing as much as we wondered about them.

But is it a bad thing to have to strategize? Is it a bad thing to have your entire family weigh in on the feasibility of a parking space? Is it a bad thing to feel enough confidence in your own strength to be able to say, "Go ahead and park there. I'll get you out if I have to?" Or to have to learn subtle tricks with the steering wheel or the angle of the tires or the rocking motion of shifting between forward and reverse to gather enough momentum to get out of a space? Is it such a bad thing to know that the only way that you can park in your driveway is to back in? Only if you approach it from uphill, of course.

Sure, there are simpler ways to do things. We could just fix the transmission and be done with it. We could probably afford it at most times during a given month. Or trade the car in, parking it at an upward angle, of course, and hoping that the adjustor who takes it for a test drive only goes in reverse that one time.

Frankly, it's gone on too long for that. It's a family "secret," a family joke, a family badge of honor every time we conquer a situation with that car. It's just the smallest way that we tell ourselves that, most of the time, we can conquer circumstances, which doesn't feel bad at all. I guess that's what it says. Or else we're stubborn idiots.

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