To begin my second installment of IHWLC, I’m going to introduce Mah-gret:
And that’s Mah-gret, not Margaret FYI. This obviously isn’t her, but it’s basically the same car: a 2000 Mazda 626. She was the car my parents gifted to me after Spaz gave up the ghost, and I was thankful. It was reliable! The cops in Murfreesboro stopped calling me That Girl Who Runs Stop Signs! She lasted me through the rest of college, and even a year or so after that. I was fully planning on buying Mah-gret from my parents once I became a Real Adult.
Renewing Mah-gret’s tags was a responsibility that I mostly gladly did. I mean, no one likes going to the emissions testing place and then to the county clerk’s office, but Nashville actually had some of the lowest renewal fees that I’ve ever seen and it was usually quick and painless. So in 2008, – June, I think – I drove down to get the emissions taken care of, and although it was early in the month and, like, a Tuesday, there was a pretty long line. Irritating, sure, but I just sighed and pulled behind a large van that I was pretty sure was going to fail the test, if the sheer amount of smog coming from his tail pipe was any indication.
I noticed that the radio was flickering in and out, and the clock kept turning off and on. I honestly just thought it was the heat and turned down the air conditioning a tad. It takes about thirty or so minutes, but I’m finally next in line, wondering if I should start a bet with the dude in the Malibu next to me over how quickly the van fails. When it pulls out of the garage area without incident, I shrug and think, “Well, I just saved myself $50.”
The emissions guy directed me into the bay and suddenly, Mah-gret stopped. Everything stopped: the engine, radio, brakes. I was lucid enough to pull the emergency brake and then looked out the window helplessly.
“So does this mean that I fail?”
He laughed sadly and admitted, “Yes, miss. You do.”
I popped the hood, and the guy’s eyes widened. My entire battery was covered in this white stuff that hadn’t been there the last time I got my oil changed, about a month prior. Now, I know enough about cars to know that this was not a good thing. I help the guy wipe off my battery, and he jumped Mah-gret, letting me know I had a certain number of days to come back to retest and wishing me luck getting to a repair shop. The only place I knew to take it was the dealer, and that was a good twenty minutes away. I called my mom on the way to let her know what was up, and she wasn’t too thrilled with the news, understandably.
The only way to get to Nelson Mazda from where I was included getting on I-24. For those of you who aren’t familiar with Nashville, I-24 is the worst interstate ever. It’s always congested, wrecks are permanent fixtures, and I hate it. Nashville traffic is awful, anyway, but I-24 is just … ugh. So anyway, I managed to arrive unharmed, although in my head, I had avoided nearly 35 death traps since beginning my trek. The mechanic I talked to seemed certain nothing was wrong with my car, and he dusted the remaining white stuff (potassium carbonate, in case anyone was wondering) off the batter and did a couple of test drives while I sat in the waiting room like someone hoping to hear if their grandmother made it out of surgery.
“Runs fine. The powder was probably just causing problems, but you should be good from now on.”
Thank god, right?
Fast forward two days.
For those of you keeping track, it was now Thursday in this story. I had just eaten lunch with my mother and was headed back to the emission testing place to get everything taken care of until next year. It was nearly 15 degrees hotter than it was back on Tuesday, and I was wearing a jersey knit maxi dress and strappy sandals. Remember this: it is important. I was no more than two minutes away from my mom’s work when Mah-gret started acting like it did before: radio fading in and out, the clock going to all zeroes, etc.
“Shit. Shit shit shit SHIT.”
And because I am just the luckiest in the world, Mah-gret stopped DEAD in the middle of an intersection. In Nashville’s Hillsboro Village. Just as the light was turning yellow.
Hillsboro Village is congested with hipsters, Vandy students, businessmen, and medical professionals who worked at Vanderbilt Hospital and the VA. And for some reason, no one ever thought to widen the roads with the increase of people in the area, and depending on the time of day, the main road (Hillsboro Rd, actually) narrows to only two lanes because people park on the street. I am in the middle of a major intersection on Hillsboro Rd.
There was nothing I could do except put the car in neutral, get out, and try to push my vehicle out of the way. By myself. In a dress and barely-there sandals. Up a hill. With assholes honking at me because I was in their way, on purpose obviously.
I can’t remember how many middle fingers and frantic “fuck yous” I yelled, but I’m fairly sure I got myself a spot in the records books. Literally no one stopped to help me. Finally, I reached the top of the hill, jumped in the front seat, and guided (with my feet because power steering had failed – yay!) Mah-gret into a parking space behind a place that sells stationery and other paper goods. Still no word if any decent human beings were in existence at that time, though.
As soon as I pulled the emergency brake, I started yelling at the car and crying, got out and kicked the rear tire so hard that I broke my toe, and had a nervous breakdown. I was covered in sweat and the sun was just mocking me with its 95 degree heat. After a few minutes, I calmed down enough to pop the hood and try fruitlessly to figure out what was going on. I’m not stupid when it comes to cars; I can change my tire and oil and understand basic maintenance. This, however, was well beyond my knowledge, but when you’re traumatized and burning up, you just do things you see on TV shows and movies. It is at this point that some random guy comes up and asks, “Do you need any help?”
I must have looked like a demon. This poor man stood there, with an iced latte in his hand, agape at a red, sweaty woman with tears streaming down her face, without any clue that he was about to feel my full wrath.
“Well, not now. Did you manage to miss the fact that I just had to push this car up a hill by myself? With everyone yelling at me? Where were you five minutes ago? Getting that iced latte? Must feel nice and cool in this heat? The same heat that I just pushed this goddamn car up a hill in? Do I look like I need your help now????”
As you can imagine, this story didn’t end in me saying later, “And that’s how I met my husband.” He just slinked away, and I really do feel bad about going off on him. At the time, I didn’t. I was just pure rage.
After my second crying spell, I called my mom to explain the situation, and she told me to just call a tow truck, who arrived a few minutes later. The gentleman was nice enough, blowing the A/C right at me the whole time, and towed my car back to the dealership. He talked about how he was so proud of his daughter for graduating from 8th grade and asked me about MTSU, my alma mater. My mom was only a few minutes behind us, and after she parked, we both went into the office together. Both of us were visibly pissed, but I’m pretty sure my mother was trying to keep from killing the first employee that dared approach her. But, as per my mother’s usual behavior, she nicely and calmly explained the situation, stating, “She was just here two days ago and was told that her car was fine. Then it stopped in the middle of a busy intersection. That is not okay.”
My mother in her Mad Mom Mode can be kind of terrifying. She has this Southern sweetness about her that only barely glazes over the anger in her voice, so she kind of sounds slightly insane, like she could be in a Rob Zombie movie. The assistant manager apologized profusely to her, never once looking at me, the actual harmed party in all of this. She, however, had all the money and power, so I can’t necessarily blame him.
Then came the funny part.
“Oh, the tow man needs $80.00,” said one of the dealership’s employees to my mother.
Mom just glared at him. “Then pay him.”
“Well, ma’am, you did call for his services.”
In the words of Vivian in Pretty Woman, “Big mistake. Huge.”
“I’m going to need to speak with the general manager please.”
I was not privy to the conversation that my mother had with the store’s manager, and I’m kinda glad I didn’t. The employee who’d made the mistake of suggesting that we pay for the tow had all but disappeared, and I was still sitting in front of the assistant manager, who looked petrified. It only took a few minutes, but the dealership paid the tow fee, and my mom mumbled to me as we left, “We are never buying anything here again.”
Moral of the story: Do not piss off my mother.
Art Credit: Best Car Mag