Here in my car...

Wednesday, January 3, 2007

Hello Friends, my name is Ilene and I am your new columnist. I hope you enjoy the below material.

Does anyone remember "Archie" comic books? If not, I don't know where you've been for the past seven decades, but I won't hold that against you. I grew up borderline obsessed with the slick little paperbacks and even met one of the illustrators for "Archie." I also met Marie from "Sesame Street," but that is another story.

Anyway, back to our red-headed fictional friend and one of the loves of his life, Betty Cooper. I dreamt of being just like Betty. Well, a brunette version and not because she was dating Archie, that would be creepy. I liked Betty because she knew everything about automobiles. She could fix absolutely any car crisis and I thought that was ultra cool.

Well that dream faded quickly when I began driving and eventually acquired my own vehicle. Despite my efforts to be sedan-savvy, I really didn't have a clue. I tried to change my own oil once. Once.

The first time I ran out of gas wasn't until college. Of course I was in a dark parking lot with no one around. Remembering the words of wisdom from my father, "If you ever run out of gas, don't call me. That is the dumbest thing you can do," I called my buddy who was able to bail me out.

The second time the fuel tank was empty was terribly unfortunate. I was in an establishment that was not my own after a long Friday night. You know the "walk of shame" to your dorm room? This was the "walk of shame" to the bloody gas station.

Oh yes, there has been a third, and a fourth time. Now, I can sense you cringing and mumbling about what a dingbat I am, but in my defense, my car can go two and a half days on the light. I just can't use the air conditioner or heater and have to avoid steep hills. And there is a considerable amount of coasting involved when possible. So sometimes I simply lose track of the days. Don't worry, I now keep a gas can and funnel in my trunk. No, there isn't gas in the can, thank you.

On to tires! Ladies, (and guys), you must know how to change a tire. Whether or not you ever do, or want to, is beside the point. It is 2007. Figure out the jack and whatever that other thing is called that takes the nuts off. I am quite familiar with the process of changing a tire. My first flat was at a pool party in high school. My friend and I changed the blasted tire with about 10 onlookers, half of them male. OK, I lied. We attempted but couldn't get the car off the ground. Much as I hate to admit, the boys had to step in.

The greatest flat tire story occurred sometime last year. I was cruising back to Cape Girardeau from a visit to Central Missouri State U when I noticed my car pulling extremely hard to the right. My car is always off balance but this was pretty severe. Soon enough, there was a bump bump bump, so I ease onto the shoulder.

Wouldn't you know I was on I-70? An interstate I find to be one of the worst, most annoying roads in Missouri. Remaining calm, I promptly dug out the cell to call AAA, a service that is always a good idea to have. A good idea that is, unless you have no cell signal. So I began hiking up 70. I had a few bars a few yards from the car. It wasn't until the phone began ringing that I realized I honestly had no clue where I was. Why AAA hasn't developed some sort of miraculous GPS system that tells them exactly where you are is beyond me.

After 30 minutes and three different idiots on the line, I was getting quite irritable as I proceeded to march a good mile to the nearest exit. Imagine the 18-wheelers zooming by and the numerous rotting possums and the other variety of squished little critters I had to step over.

Finally my destination had been pin pointed and my saviors were on the way. On the hike back to my vehicle a gentleman pulled over to see if I needed help. I looked at him and said, "I have a knife in my pocket." He said "good for you" and drove me down the shoulder to my car. Ladies: DO NOT GET IN THE CAR WITH A STRANGER WHEN YOU ARE STRANDED ON THE HIGHWAY. This is something we are taught emerging from the womb and I chose to ignore it. Do as I write, not as I do.

As I'm chilling on the side of the road with my strawberry Twizzlers, a patrolman pulls up behind me. How nice! I think. The officer gets out of the car, says, "Ya OK? Got someone comin'?" I say "yes" and he drives away. Thank you Mr. Officer. I mean, he probably had to go catch a criminal or something but that should have taken the back burner to poor me on the side of the road. He could have at least shot the crap for a bit. Sheesh.

Well I'm not sure how we went from Archie to Twizzlers but in an attempt to conclude this string of sporadic sentences I will tell you what I have learned:

1. Try not to forget when your gaslight comes on.

2. If you do, buy a gas can for your trunk.

3. Try not to hit potholes or curbs, it throws your tires out of whack

4. Don't run over glass, nails, or rebar … it will put a hole in your tires

5. Don't expect the tractor-trailer trucks to slow down when you are roaming the side of the interstate.

6. Try to pay attention to where you are when driving long distances.

7. Always have available snacks just in case you do lose yourself.

Thanks for reading.

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