Sunday, September 19, 2010

Can’t hear the noise for all the decibels

"How long has it been making THAT noise?" my husband asked in alarm.

"Huh?" I hesitated. "What noise?"

"THAT noise," he repeated, flicking off the radio so I could hear the rev of the engine as it cleared its mechanical throat of some kind of gear or gasket. "Pretty soon it will sound like a tank. It's probably the manifold."

"Oh … that. I don't know when it began exactly. Probably the same time I turned up the radio to try and drowned it out. Really. Not long."

It wasn't a lie but it was hiding an inconvenient truth: I didn't want to think about the potential need for a new car. I had been keeping this one rolling along for more years than any other car in the neighborhood, and it had become a source of pride. Drowning out each new noise with circa '90s rock rebellion was so much more satisfying than worrying about repairs.

I didn't mention the dance - a sort of shaking shimmy - the car convulses with at unpredictable times. That can't be good. But it's not happening at the moment. Out of sight … out of my mind.

He shakes his head. He knows the drill. Someday soon … hopefully on a warm, non-precipitous day, preferably once the kids are in school or at the sitter's … he'll be summoned to meet me wherever the old girl has decided to conk out. I'm hoping the rendezvous will be nearby a coffee shop with toothsome treats. He's hoping he won't be along a highway at rush hour.

Either way, it's more than likely my cell phone will be out of juice or sitting in its charger at home.

I keep chugging along as the car steps up its noisy commute. Clunkety, clunk, clunk. Lately it feels as if I'm pushing the car uphill with the sheer force of will and my foot pressed firmly to the floorboard. Still, I feel the heat of the scorn from the cars behind me … unable to drive faster than 30 miles per hour … and unable to pass on the upward curve.

I'm sure they are surprised, when they get a chance to pass, that the woman behind the wheel doesn't have blue hair or bifocals … yet.

Procrastination, at least when it comes to visiting the mechanic, is all the ratio of risk and reward. If you are risking your life savings for two months of smooth sailing in a land yacht there's more reason to take your chances on a long-distance tow.

Strange how things change.

I used to be so conscientious about the car. But so many other things have usurped its importance. It's been quite a while since tune ups and scheduled maintenance had actually been scheduled.

It used to be a running joke that "nothing" was ever wrong with a car until the man of the house experienced the symptoms while he was driving it.

You could tell him all about how the brakes that locked up or replicate the squeal that escaped from under the hood until you were blue in the face. These strange and disturbing occurrences were the mechanical equivalent of the proverbial tree falling in the forest with no one around to hear it.

But now the joke is on me.

Trees could be falling all around me and I'd just turn up the radio.

Write to Siobhan Connally at or read more online at, click on “Blogs.”

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