Wednesday, July 22, 2015

If it ain't broke...~ by Leah St. James

I miss my car. It’s a 2007 Hyundai  Sonata, all black. I’ve never assigned it a name or gender, but in my heart it’s a “she,” despite the fact that when we brought it home, hubby wanted to paint a big “3” on the side as tribute to NASCAR’s Dale Earnhardt. I prevailed on that one, luckily. (Not that I don’t want to honor the man, I just don’t want his number, or any number, on the side of my car.)

Anyway, we’ve been through a lot together – trips to Pennsylvania to care for my ill father-in-law, trips to D.C. to visit Son #1 in college, couple trips to Florida to visit my sister, and many, many drives all over Virginia for book signings and author panels.

We’ve been apart for exactly 14 days today, ever since a woman, who has “no idea how,” plowed into the rear of my Sonata while my son was driving me to work that morning.

The good news – we all walked away from it. The bad news – lots of serious damage to both cars. Her car went under the back of mine and shoved us about eight feet forward. (When I got out to look for damage, I found her license plate embedded in the underside of my bumper. And check out those skid marks...showing where we were pushed!) 
Luckily the insurance company has decided my car is worth repairing, so our separation isn’t endless. I should have it back by the end of the month. (Is it blasphemous to say “Hallelujah” over a car?)

In the meantime, I’m blessed again that my insurance will cover the cost of a rental. It’s a late model Chrysler 200, and I’ve been driving it for two weeks now. I don’t want to sway anyone considering buying this car – because everyone has his/her own preferences – but I HATE this car.

For one thing, the instrument panel is all wrong. The first time I tried to put the car in drive, my hand automatically went to the spot where the joystick-type gear-shift thingy is on my car...where it would be on most cars that are driven by actual people. When my hand hit dead air space, it repositioned itself to the right of the steering column. (Those of you of a certain generation might remember shifting gears that way.) I pulled and pushed but no shifting.

Son #2:  “Mom, what are you doing? That’s for the windshield wipers!”
Me: “D’oh! I know that. But where the heck (substitute for actual H-word I used) is the gear shift?”

It took us a moment, but we finally found it, sitting in the center of the console between the two front seats. It’s a knob.  A KNOB! Round, about two and a half inches across. I HATE it. I’m terrified I’ll accidentally hit it or something while I’m driving. 

Right next to it is this lever about the size of a half dollar. I didn’t know what it was until I pulled it a few times and discovered I’d engaged the parking brake. Thankfully I was sitting at a red light, but for a minute I couldn’t UNdo it and imagined myself sitting there blocking traffic until a cop (or someone else with more brainpower than I have) could come along and figure it out. (I suppose everyone else would have figured out what the “P” in a circle was for...but not me!)

Then there’s the starter. It’s keyless, just a push button. After you unlock the car with your electronic “fob,” sit and buckle your seatbelt, you put your keys in your purse (or whatever), dial the car into gear, and drive off.  Cool, right? I thought so, until I discovered that the car lock won’t really engage while I’m standing there with my purse holding the electronic fob thing. Seriously. I press the lock, the car beeps. I pull on the handle to test once, twice, and on that second attempt the door opens, as if I’d never locked it.

It took me about five minutes of panic—realizing that anyone could walk up to that car, open the door and drive off, NO KEY NEEDED!—before hubby and I discovered that if I walked away (with my purse holding the electronic fob thing), the car would lock for real.

Of course I’m neurotic, so I’m never quite confident that the car is secure. I beep the lock. Then again. Sometimes a third time before I force myself to walk away and leave it to the mercies of whatever electronics gods put the thing together.

All I can think is why? Why make all these gadgetry changes? Am I just old and cranky...stressed out from having my car towed away and having to learn these news features, cold turkey? Sigh.

I miss my car, with my old-fashioned joystick gear-shifter, keyed lock, levered parking brake and door that locks for real no matter where I’m standing. When I get her back, I might even give her a name. 

Leah writes stories of mystery and romance, good and evil and the redeeming power of love. Visit her at


Diane Burton said...

Your post made me laugh. Not AT you, Leah, but I've been there. I hate that there isn't a universal design for a car console, esp. if you have more than 1 car by different manufacturers. I hope you get your car back soon. Glad you & your son weren't hurt in the accident. (I didn't laugh at that part!)

Leah St. James said...

Thanks, Diane. :-) I can laugh now, too.

Margo Hoornstra said...

Great post, Leah. Also glad you weren't hurt. We've all been there, gadget-wise, trying to figure these things out. More stressful when movement is involved. I can see myself hitting the wrong button on a vehicle and ejecting my seat or a passengers! My husband, who knows of these things, assures me the crumbling factors are designed for passenger safety. Luckily those functions worked.

Jannine Gallant said...

I feel your pain. Two years ago, this idiot (who was probably texting) turned right in front of me. Head on crash, but no one had more than scratches. I felt so sad watching the tow-truck haul my poor 4-Runner away. That was the end of that baby. Got a cool little sporty rental for a couple of weeks while we shopped for a new (used) car. What do you know--I got another 4-Runner. I think we all love the familiar! Glad you aren't in replacement mode, at least!

Rolynn Anderson said...

Glad you're okay, Leah, along with your son. Rough having different makes of cars, for sure. I'm always reaching for the garage opener or the ignition in the wrong place for the wrong car. You'd think these manufacturers could get together and agree on placement... and make it easier on us!

Alicia Dean said...

Yes, so glad you and your son are okay. I can understand your frustration, it's difficult to get used to knew processes and gadgets. Although, once you get used to it, it's probably kind of nice. ;)

Leah St. James said...

Margo, it was just so weird when we couldn't find the GEAR SHIFT of all things. I mean, isn't that kind of important?! This morning I somehow turned the headlights on with my knee. Sigh. :-) Yes, the car's rear end crumbled very nicely!

Leah St. James said...

Wow, Jannine, head-on must have been so scary. I'm glad you weren't injured in that. I agree, we do tend to go back to the familiar. My hubby's car died about a month ago and we had to buy one, and we bought a Sonata. :-)

Leah St. James said...

I know, RoLynn! What would possess the engineers to make the gear shift a dial?! And what's really disturbing is that when the car does shift, it kind of jerks, which feels like a very small version of being smacked in the rear. It makes me kind of jump every time.

Leah St. James said...

I'm starting to get used to the car, Alicia. One thing I do like -- it has a backup camera, really nice when your back window is a little steamy. The screen draws lines from your rear tires to show the car's trajectory/path as you back up. I still look, of course, but it's an added layer of assurance that I could get used to.