The day was ordinary, the weather calm. I brought my gas-guzzling SUV in for a 30,000- mile service—an expensive proposition made more expensive by ongoing, dubious malfunctions like worn brake pads and bald tires. I was disgusted (note: this is a particular kind of disgust that descends upon me only in a car dealership), but I didn’t argue. What could I say when the mechanic pointed out, “You wouldn’t want your kids riding around in a car with bad brakes, would you?”
But I was more bothered by the message that showed up on the dashboard each time I started the car for the past month. BULB FAILURE it broadcast in large neon green letters. The culprit was my left turn signal. Its leisurely, even beat had turned fast, arrhythmic. My car was sick. And I was sick of its chronic illness. But apparently not sick enough to make a special trip before the service appointment to get the blinker fixed (in truth I was too lazy—a particular kind of laziness that descends upon me when have to go to the car dealership).
The errant left turn signal was the first thing that I mentioned when I checked my car in. “Please fix my left turn blinker. I can’t stand looking at the error message.” I was very clear about this, and so repetitive that I must have come across as abrasive (note: that particular kind of abrasiveness descends upon me only in a car dealership). I even demonstrated the problem with my left eye. Blinkblink. Winkwink.
My husband Ken brought me back to the dealership that evening and waited for me to follow him home in my finely tuned car. But when I started the car the big green letters accosted me all over again. BULB FAILURE. The left turn signal. Blinkblink. Winkwink. It was faster than I remembered. I jumped out and banged on Ken’s car window. “What’s wrong?” he asked.
“The blinker, the blinker,” I screamed. “You have to come with me right now to the service department.” I was panting.
Ken refused to get out of his car. “Jude, it’s after six, everyone’s gone home.” And then he said the unthinkable. He told me to calm down.
At 6:30 pm the service area was a ghost town. But there was a woman sitting in the service manager’s office.
“Service,” I screamed, pointing to the word on the brass plate affixed to the door. “My left blinker. I want someone to fix it now, right now.” I had developed a tic that matched the malfunctioning left blinker.
“I’m not the service manager,” the woman said. “I’m the bookkeeper.”
The bookkeeper shut the door and locked herself in the office. I ran back into the showroom and asked a salesman to fix my blinker. The young couple that he was with—she was pregnant—looked terrified. “Don’t buy a car here,” I hissed. Ken looked on with a mixture of horror and disgust.
My husband ushered me back to the parking lot where suddenly I was eerily calm, diabetically sweet. I put my arms around his neck and said, “I don’t know how to get back to Oak Square. Can I follow you?” I channeled a breathless Marilyn Monroe when I asked him the question.
The first bump happened just before Ken turned out from the car dealer’s lot. I drove up to his car and ever so gently collided with it. Ken did nothing. Did not even look in his mirror. Bumps two and three followed in quick succession at the next stoplight. When it turned green he took off in the opposite direction from Oak Square, but he had made it home before I did. “I’m only here for the children,” he said in a monotone.
The next day I had the blinker fixed and apologized to the bookkeeper that was not the service manager. She said not to worry in that nervous way when someone wants to get away from a crazy person.
“I’d have backed right into you,” a friend declared after I told her about my excursion to the dark side of sanity. I couldn’t have agreed more.
Judy Bolton-Fasman blogs at www.thejudychronicles.com