Saturday, January 27, 2007

Hold me.

According to one article I found recently, the subjects couples argue about most are, in order: money, sex, work, children and housework.

The thing Consort and I have argued about for the longest is a toilet-paper holder, and I think we might be the only people in America having this argument.

Please note: I am not saying we disagree as to whether it should unroll “over or under”. That would be a dispute other people would recognize. No, we’re arguing about the holder itself.

When I first moved into the house things were a bit chaotic. [Three words: Undiscovered Termite Damage.] [Wait. Three more words: Twenty Years’ Worth.] It says something about the hideous state of the infrastructure that it took a while to notice the strangeness of the toilet paper holder in the original bathroom. I was replacing paper for the umpteenth time before I finally realized it was missing the usual “Oh, this is a toilet paper holder” signifier -- the plastic axle/pipe thingamajig that runs horizontally to support the cardboard tube.

Instead, there was a half-circle niche carved into the wall with a narrow lip protruding out about half an inch. This formed a cradle into which the paper roll rested comfortably but loosely. Nothing held it in place. It just sat there, napping until summoned. Of course, this also meant even the slightest tug caused the roll to leap towards the bathroom door like an ejecting test pilot.

But when you’ve got a contractor drawling relentless bad news, [“…Yah see there are termites that eat from the top down. They’re pretty bad. There are this other kind, see, and they eat from bottom up. They’re really bad. You have both…”] you don’t have the luxury of puzzling over your toilet-paper holder. I rationed my distaste for the entire bathroom. Where to begin…?

The room had been redone somewhere in the seventies by someone whose creative inspiration was access to a lot of cheap, shiny black tile. Also, a shiny black sink, a shiny black toilet, and a large looming black soffit which gave one the sense of having Death from the Ingmar Bergman movies hovering over you while you flossed.

The water in Los Angeles is hard, which meant the instant anyone washed his hands, every inch of porcelain was covered in a misty grayish film and no matter how frantically you might scrub the bathroom, it stuck. The floor tile, which was original to the house, had been a lovely shade of pink until some previous owner decided to clean it with either lye or bleach. It was now the colors of a Big Stick. There was a sizeable crack in the Big Stick mosaic which some genius had carefully filled in with chewed-gum–looking putty. I described the room as “…a place you imagine has seen more than one stabbing”.

After a year or so, we were finally in the position to redo the bathroom. My goal was to create a bathroom which looked chronologically appropriate to the house. Basically, what I was hoping was to spend large amounts of money to create an effect which would never draw any attention to itself whatsoever, because that’s how I roll: discreetly.

I found a designer, Mark, who has renovated many bungalows from the same era and could give us some advice. He showed us places to find the right hexagonal floor tiles, the right faucet and handle, a good replacement medicine chest. Finally, having gazed upon the toilet and talked about where we could get something to substitute for the Black Hole, I remember the toilet-paper un-holder.

I pointed at it and said, “I don’t know if you’ve seen anything like this, but…” I flailed for a second. I finally said, “…was there a point to not having any way of keeping the paper in place?”

“Oh, I’ve seen these,” Mark said confidently. “This is a pretty common sort of toilet-paper holder from the time”.

He removed the toilet paper and pointed to the underside of the jutting lip. There, flush with the wall, was a narrow slot which ran the length of the lip about a quarter inch from the wall. He put the paper back in, fed it through the slot and…

“Voila!” he said matter-of-factly. “Now, are you replacing the shower fixtures as well, because I’ve got a catalogue…”

I could barely wait for Consort to get home that night. Taking his hand, I dragged him into the bathroom and pointed joyously to the paper hanging down.

“Look!” I said, barely containing my glee. “You just tear off the paper and it doesn’t fall out and it doesn’t go bouncing across the room and it’s the only thing they didn’t screw up in this Godforsaken room and isn’t it just the most clever thing!”

Consort thought for a second.

“A spindle going through the middle would work better. As long as we’re redoing the bathroom, let’s just put one in.”

I shielded it with my body and stared at Consort fiercely.

“It’s original to the house. We’re not ‘let's-tear-things-out’ people; we’re ‘hire a designer to re-create original bathroom’ people.”

“It’s not a Batchelder fireplace. It’s a toilet-paper holder. There’s a reason we’ve never seen it in another house; everyone else gave up on it. And let’s not over-romanticize the architecture of this house. Have you seen the kitchen? Face it; the toilet-paper holder was a stupid design.”

The conversation didn’t get more refined from there. And in the seven years since, the only part which has changed is the speed at which we can have this conversation.

Consort enters bathroom, shuts door. From across the house, Quinn hears Consort sigh, very softly. Quinn yells, “It’s original to the house and we’re not replacing it!”

Consort gets his revenge, fear not. His claim has always been that tearing off the paper causes the roll to leap up and waltz around the room. Being as I seem to be able to tear off toilet paper without launching the roll airborne, I refuse to believe this. Consort proves how easily it comes out of the holder at least once a day by removing it from the holder and placing it on the bathroom cabinet out of arm’s reach from the toilet. He swears this is unconscious. What comes next is what politicians refer to as a “free and frank exchange of ideas”.

So, to all of you arguing about money, sex, work, children or housework but not getting the same satisfaction out of such combat, I say this: Somewhere out there is an old house which needs your love and care and somewhere within that house is an irritating grain of sand which will, over time, become a glowing pearl of everlasting spousal disagreement.

You’re welcome.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Private eyes, they're watching you.

(In honor of being caught today saying "Good gravy, fifteen dollars is a lot for a magazine!", I am offering a re-run where I discuss my inner censor. This originally ran in April of 2005)

A while back, Daughter announced: “Daddy says f**k, but you don’t say f**k, so I don’t say f**k”.My only inner response was, of course, “f**k”.Consort is a superb father but he never really got the idea that you shouldn’t paint murals with obscenities in front of your kid, not even when the person in front of you in the fast lane is doing fifteen miles an hour with his left-turn signal on. But, I thought optimistically, at least she thinks that swearing is a gender-based issue. As long as she identifies with being female, Daddy’s words are just scatological background music. I just can never swear in front of her.

How hard can that be?

Not a week later, I found out. I was grabbing something from a lower shelf and stood up without noticing the upper cabinet door had swung open, and it put a divot in my skull (Nowhere near the unholy bump). Thanks to Daughter and her observational skills being in the kitchen with me, my only response was:“Heavens, that’s uncomfortable. Oh my…goodness, that’s painful. I’ll…be…darned…I think I’m bleeding. Sweetheart, could you please hold up some fingers and let’s see if Mommy can figure out how many there are.”

The ringing in my ears stopped after a day or so, and the double vision wasn’t noticeable at all after a week.

Most important, during a completely unplanned painful experience, I kept it G-rated. I was smugly thinking how I was short-listed for the Alfred Nobel Mother of the Year Clean Vocabulary prize when I cleaned out the fridge a few days later. Staring in dismay at the green slimy soup in the vegetable crisper, I murmured “What the hell is that?”

Daughter, in the farthest reaches of the house heard that, and has been working it into her daily interactions every since:

“Mommy, what the hell is that?”

“It’s your lunchbox, sweetie, and please don’t use that phrase.”

“But I don’t know what the hell it is.”

“I think you enjoy saying that phrase, but I don’t want to hear it coming from you.”

“What the hell are you saying?”

What the hell am I saying? Is this about swearing? Not as much as it is about scrutiny. If someone told you that you were going to be under near-constant surveillance for ten years or so, wouldn’t it make you a touch…antsy? That’s what having a child in your house means; someone who is constantly monitoring your actions for discrepancies and weakness. I understood I needed to model good behavior. I just didn’t understand that if I modeled bad behavior once, it would neatly undo months of good behavior.

If you work very hard teaching your daughter not to scream at people when she gets frustrated, it sets your work back a touch if -- and I am not saying this happened -- while waiting for your gas tank to fill, you notice a woman at the next car smoking a cigarette while topping-off her tank so you leap out of your car shrieking “I don’t actually care whether you blow yourself up, but you’re not taking my kid with you!”Daughter remembers nothing of the thousands of courteous small interactions she has seen me have with people, but she would remember that incident if -- and I am not saying this happened -- I were so low-class as to do something like that.

Table manners are another animal entirely. It takes Daughter about a week of reminding to get the basic idea, followed by two months of her being the vigilant Manners Police. Witness last night’s dinner:

QUINN: How did your meeting go?

CONSORT: I was pleasantly surprised. He was…

DAUGHTER: Daddy, your elbow is on the table.

CONSORT: …He was…What?

QUINN: She learned this week that you’re not supposed to have your elbows on the table when you’re eating. But, sweetheart, Daddy isn’t eating yet.

DAUGHTER: He’s having a drink.

CONSORT: But I’m not eating yet.

DAUGHTER: (Dissolving into tears)

QUINN: What’s the matter?

DAUGHTER: (Sobbing) He interrupted me! I want him to have a time out!

Between flogging her parents with dinner table manners and waiting breathlessly to see if her parents break some rule of conduct in day-to-day activities, Daughter has turned etiquette into an extreme sport. I guess I should be grateful she finds us so fascinating. I am horribly self-absorbed and completely mad for her father, but I wouldn’t watch either one of us with the focus she does. Mind you, she’s looking for flaws, but we do have her attention.I didn’t get into the Mothering business because I looked in the mirror one day and thought, “you know, perfection like this has to be replicated”. Let me be honest here. I understand that I am a work in progress. I also understand that making mistakes and having the awareness to correct them in front of my daughter is among the best things I can do for her.

But f**k, I’d like to go one whole day being Gallant instead of Goofus.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

A foolish consistency.

Daughter got to school on time, but just barely; the bell was ringing as we hit the front gate. We sprinted across the playground, hurdling still-bouncing soccer balls and forgotten lunchboxes. Daughter was placed at the end of the line of children entering her classroom and I spun on my heel to dart off to my next errand when I suddenly saw the science teacher talking to a parent. This reminded me of seeds.

Because wouldn’t two people talking remind you of seeds?

A week before, I had gotten a packet of seeds as a gift with purchase. I had no interest in sowing these particular seeds, because I use native plants, but I didn’t want to throw them out either. For a week, those seeds had sat in my car until I found someone upon whom I could foist them. The science teacher does lots of planting around the school. I dashed past them into the parking lot, coming back a few minutes later, panting and proffering a small paper packet.

“Here,” I gasped, holding out the seed container like a fencing foil, “seeds for the…garden. Borage…seeds. Blue…flowers.”

The teacher and the mother looked at me, clearly waiting to see if I ever started to make sense. I racked my brain for something which would indicate I was finished talking.

“Grown with tomatoes…improve…flavor.”

The teacher tentatively took the seeds and looked at them expectantly. Not surprising, as I had raced across the playground as if the seeds were about to break into song or create cold fusion. The other mother laughed and patted my heaving shoulder.

“Oh, Quinn,” she chortled, “you’re just so consistently…you.”

Let the record show, I like this woman. She’s straightforward and funny and doesn’t seem to have that demonic knack some women have of keeping a list of your misdemeanors which then get itemized for mutual friends. Having said that, what the heck am I supposed to make of this statement? This cannot be a compliment, as the personality traits I was exhibiting right then were:

a) Oddly intense,

b) Incoherent, and

c) Sweaty.

It didn’t exactly feel like an insult either, as she said it with some delight. It was almost as if my consistency provided her with a recognizable marker in a rapidly changing world. Skyscrapers are always tall. Caves are always underground. Quinn is always oddly intense, incoherent and sweaty.

That afternoon, I was talking to another woman I have known for several years and during a completely unrelated topic I suddenly blurted out the entire story. My friend, hearing the woman’s comment, laughed gleefully and said “She has no idea. Wait until she’s known you as long as I have!”

So apparently everyone knows.

When you get a comment like that, and you’re oddly intense (not to mention incoherent and sweaty), you obsess on it just a touch. For days, whenever I would do something, I would think “…Am I being consistent? Is this activity something which separates me from the rest of the population? If I am doing something which everyone else does, does that make me consistently Quinn or just consistently a carbon-based life form? Does anyone else think the word ‘consistent’ sounds really funny if you keep thinking about it?”

After a week, I have come up with an example of behavior which might be unique to me. Obviously, if I am to take others at their word and assume I am being consistently me all the time, there are probably hundreds of these moments every week, but here’s one which has a nice unsavory quality about it.

Tea and God.

This last Sunday I woke up running late. I hate running late; even if we all end up getting where we meant to go on time I’m foul-tempered for hours, thinking about how we could have been late.

Nearly every morning, I wake up at 7:30am without an alarm clock. This isn’t bragging but genetics; I wake up at 7:30am no matter what time I go to sleep. When I was young and stupid, I would sometimes wake up ninety minutes after I had gone to sleep, the bottle of beer on the bedside table not even fully decarbonated. But this Saturday night, Consort had a cough and the dog had to vomit frequently, so I slept no more than twenty minutes at a stretch. I awoke at 8:30, which is exactly fifteen minutes before the absolute latest we can leave for church. Consort, already fully dressed, was waking me up to say that he would take the kid to church, I could sleep in.

I leapt from bed using words I don’t think any of the major religions countenance, and then hollered, “Just give me a minute!”

By managing to shower and blow-dry my hair simultaneously, and putting on nylons while brushing my teeth, I was ready in nine minutes. Of course, I was the meanest, twitchiest person in a five-mile radius, but I was heading to church. And why was I heading to church, after Consort so kindly offered me an out?

Because Sunday morning service relaxes me and puts me in a good mood.

We arrived at church. I shuffled Daughter in just as the processional was lining up to go in and found us seats in the middle pew, on the aisle, towards the front of the church. This was a rare stroke of luck, as usually by the time we had arrived we would have had the special pew with the view of the column. I got Daughter seated, handed her entertainment material as the music swelled. We all stood up, and only then did I look down at my hand.

I was carrying a cup of tea.

A nearly full cup of tea, because the thing I had done while getting dressed was boil water, which meant the tea had been too hot to drink in the car. I had gotten so used to holding it that I was no longer aware of it, which is why it was now attending church with me. And while you would think the adrenalin blast of my morning would have been enough, that caffeine would have been de trop, you would have been mistaken. I needed my tea, and why?

Because my morning tea relaxes me and puts me in a good mood.

So, in the place where I was to find inner peace, I now had to find a place to put the cup of inner peace for the next hour. Oddly enough, the pews didn’t have cup-holders, which I think shows a certain lack of vision on the part of the diocese. Frantically, I considered my options. I could put the cup under the pew in front of us, but if I put it closer to us, it would be knocked over when we went to kneel, and if I put it further under the pew, the people in front of me would knock it over. If I put it under our pew, either Daughter or I would knock it over, and it would spill a million gallons of hot liquid across the aisle, burning the feet of the righteous and the non-righteous alike. If I put in on the pew next to me, I might as well pour it directly on my family and get it over with.

I compromised by putting it no fewer than fifteen places during the service. I understand the sermon was lovely, but I was too busy trying to wedge the cup into the hymnal rack to hear it.

To top it off, Daughter and I had to leave after the sermon, because of an appointment; we’d come back and pick up Consort later. The church was quiet as I collected the kid and her various small objects and we walked towards the back of the church, people glancing up for a second to see who was walking out. I tried my level best to indicate with my body language “…Very happy to be here! Very happy and feeling inner peace! Fully prepared to take Communion, if only Daughter didn’t have an appointment!”

We got outside and I gasped in horror. I had left the cup inside. Under the pew, where Consort wouldn’t see it and wouldn’t think to look for it because, really now, what kind of nut job brings a cup to tea to church? I had to go back for it.

I placed Daughter in the vestibule and walked back into church. The rector was speaking and the packed church was listening to him until the door squeaked open, at which point many heads turned to see who could possibly be coming in forty minutes into the service. I restrained myself from waving. I walked to our pew, which was now six or seven miles from the back door, folded myself in half and retrieved the cup from the corner where I had left it, all the while avoiding Consort’s look of polite horror. I covered as much of the coffee cup with my hand as I could and leaned over slightly to hide it further. This did nothing towards hiding the cup, but did leave anyone seeing me go with the impression that the cup I had inexplicably brought into church was attacking my abdomen.

All the way back to the car, I plotted. For the next few weeks, after services, I would talk to anyone I could find and somehow drop into conversation how I had accidentally taken tea with me into church. How I had actually been raised in a building with indoor plumbing and did know better. How I didn’t think I was the least-known Olsen twin, traveling the length and breadth of Los Angeles with a coffee cup welded to my hand.

Let us now leave this pathetic figure and count character traits. Oddly intense? Oh, I would say I was odd, intense, and oddly intense by that point. Incoherent? Practicing explanations you’re going to make to strangers about why you inadvertently brought green tea into the house of God doesn’t lead to great arcs of lucidity. Sweaty? Well, I was moist, but it was mostly room-temperature tea, splashed down the front of my shirt.

Maybe what the woman meant to say was “You’re so consistently…a cautionary tale”.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Question and answers.

First of all, thanks for your suggestions. How tragic is it that I had forgotten some of my own blogs?

Second of all, I am including a few links here, because someone wrote me and said "Yes, but how do I get to these earlier ones without going through every one of the 300 you have written?"

I will try to give a short summary of each blog, for ease:

My rant against inappropriately-dressed small girls.

The love I feel for the well-timed cathartic song.


The unwilling indoor cat.

And, you might ask, why was I asking such a question? Along with not talking on the cell phone while driving, my other New Year's resolution was to take some of the old blogs and turn them into podcasts. I have no intention of not writing, I just need to read a few out loud; it's a character defect. You've given me some great ideas, and now is the part where I print out a few and loudly declaim them in the car while waiting in the pick-up line at school. When I have something to report about when they will go up, I will report same.

And I think we all understand that Quinn doing podcasts will lead to Quinn doing something stupid in public.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Your hit parade.

I have a favor to ask of regular readers, and anyone else who feels like participating. If you had to come up with the three best QC Reports, what would they be? I had to do this about a year ago, but a few more have accumulated since then.

I'm really not begging for compliments, I swear. In fact, this is all making me rather nervous. Just asking for your input means I am going to do something which will end up in the "Weird news of the week" page on Yahoo. Maybe something like "Woman impales herself on chopstick, now breathes through eye" or "Former child actress locks herself in car; after fire truck arrives, realizes she had keys in her hand all along".

Something like that.

Anyway, what say you?

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Although nothing seems right in cars

When last we left my car, it was having only slightly worse a day than I was having. While aggravating, this wasn’t a complete surprise because had this car been human it could have baby-sat Henry Ford. The last two years have been a steady drip of expensive repairs and replacements. With each repair, with each replacement, as I was writing the check to Chris the gifted mechanic/gerontologist, I would think “I’ve got to make this car last another four (six/fifteen) months to justify what I just sunk into it”. At one point, I estimated I had to keep the car until I was declared too old to drive. And yet the car continued to decline and take my quality of life with it.

For a few months, the air-conditioning only worked if the outside air temperature was less than sixty degrees. This problem was not fixable without pulling out the entire heating and cooling system, so I decided sometime in August that sitting in rush-hour traffic in a car hot enough to melt cheese was a character-building excercise for Daughter and me.

When the summer finally broke (mid-November) I came to discover the heat had gone out as well. I stocked a bag of scarves and blankets for the morning trip to school and let Daughter hold my traveling cup of tea for warmth. The automatic windows which had perversely refused to go down all summer now randomly shot downwards and would insist they didn’t remember how to go back up. One day, three lowered themselves randomly while I was in the fast lane on the 10 Freeway. It was like riding a luge.

Flash back to three weeks ago. The car gets towed to Chris who called me later that day. The problem was the main computer. To put it in human terms, the body was fine, but the brain didn’t respond to light, stimuli or potato chips. With some effort, Chris could find me a transplant organ. He would locate a car of equal antiquity whose body was shot but who was still doing crossword puzzles and steal its brain for my car. The cost would be half of the blue-book value of my vehicle, not counting labor. The labor would be extensive. There was a loaded silence between Chris and me.

I am terribly blessed in many ways, not the least of which is that I have found a wonderful mechanic who I trust. Even though my car was paying for his weekend place, he was tacitly encouraging me to let it walk towards the light.

“No, don’t order the part. I’m pulling the plug. Have someone pick it up for scrap.”

I felt like arranging for a wake and some deli plates. But in this modern age, there really is not time to mourn properly; I had to find a new life-partner. It doesn’t reflect well upon my depth of character that I had a new prospect within an hour.

Consort has a friend named Edward. Consort has known him since college. He also happens to be one of Daughter’s godfathers. Edward had bought himself a new car this year and had yet to sell his previous vehicle, which happened to be a newer version and, dare I say it, prettier version of my former sedan. Edward lives minutes from his work, so the mileage was almost ludicrously low. Edward is a single guy so his car had actually been cared for -- there wasn’t a single Pirate’s Booty Veggie Puff besmirching the seats. Edward is a careful and responsible adult so he had done all the maintenance just when it was supposed to be done and had the paperwork to show for it. The price was beyond right. In summary, I will never again get such a good deal on a used car. The sun hadn’t set before Consort, Daughter and I were driving in my new wheels.

Edward called at least three times to make sure everything was working fine. I was happy to tell him everything was perfect.

This past week I had a meeting on the west side of Los Angeles and parked in an underground lot. After the appointment, I pulled out of the spot, started towards the exit ramp and felt the car give a sort of a “…Peh” and die. I tried turning it over, only to be rewarded by “…P…”, and then nothing at all. The radio and the clock worked so it wasn’t the battery, which would have been the easy fix. I found the instruction manual, discovered where the hazard lights were and switched them on.

I called Consort because I was planning to stop by his office to say hi to him and now clearly wasn’t going to make it. Also because I wanted to whine to someone who had to listen.

“Hi,” I said in a clipped tone. “The car isn’t moving and I’m about to call AAA and do you suppose I am ever going to pay off whatever karmic debt this is?”

For some reason, he decided to come over and stay with me until the tow truck arrived. Just as I hung up, a horn blasted from behind me. I looked over my shoulder through my back window at headlights. Large headlights. it was one of those supersize SUVs with a name like Ford Pangea or Dodge Alpha Centauri. The driver’s door opened and a small young woman got out. She was wearing UGG boots, summer clothing and an aggrieved expression. She pointed to my car.

“You’re in the lane. You have to move.”

I have this personality quirk: when I am in a really foul mood and I meet someone who annoys the hell out of me from the first moment of contact I get really happy, because now I have a vessel into which I can pour all of my vitriol. I spoke very slowly and in a tone which might lead someone to think it was my birthday and she was very retarded.

“Oh, sweetie,” I purred. “I would love to. But if you look down here,” I said, grinning and gesturing to the back of my car, “you will see my hazards are on. This means I’m telling you that my car can’t move. You’re going to have to move around me.”

She looked more aggrieved and clicked her tongue in irritation. I suspect this is one of two expressions she has-- the other one goes along with the phrase “I am so drunk!”

“My car can’t make it around your car,” she whined.

I smiled more broadly still and leaned in to her confidentially.

“That’s because you have too much (expletive deleted) car!”

She flounced off. I went back into my car and hummed along with the little song in my head.

Minutes later I looked back. My new friend was still sitting behind me, entertaining herself by flashing her fog-lights at me. However, there were now easily eight cars clogged up behind her, any one of which could easily have slid around me were it not for the automotive cholesterol clot behind me. I sighed and got out of the car again. I walked past her car and went to the next car. I then commenced to direct traffic.

Actually, directing traffic is kind of fun. I got to think strategically and I got to be bossy. It was kind of like that game you had as a child, where there is a square with fifteen numbered tiles in it and you have exactly one open space through which you can slide the tiles to get them back in in order.

Within a few minutes I had gotten Princess Big-Car around my car (there was, in fact, enough room). She zoomed past me, and I was happy to note the name of a really third-rate state college on her back window. Her car might be moving, but she couldn’t find Asia on a world map. A few of the people I had helped move were kind enough to stay for a few minutes and push the car over to the side of the lane which is where Consort found me when he arrived.

He had me pop the hood and he poked a few things. Nothing seemed amiss, which was troubling. The old car never showed any obvious symptoms when it was at its sickest. He had me turn over the car. It moaned.

When he spoke, it was in a neutral tone. “Isn’t that the same noise the old car made when the computer died?”

I paled.

“It could be.”

Consort attempted to calm my alarm by saying, “But what are the odds you’d have exactly the same problem with two cars in a row…?”

I shook my head vigorously. My entire life is a repudiation of odds-makers. The very weirdness of this would increase the likelihood of it being so.

Finally, we saw blinking headlights reflecting off the wall of the entrance ramp, indicating the tow-truck. I flung my arms around a bit, both to get his attention and to make sure there wasn’t anyone left in the parking lot who didn't think I was an ass. I explained the symptoms to the tow truck guy and suggested my concern about the health of the main computer. He had me turn the car over and checked something under the hood. He looked out from behind the hood.

“You put in gas recently?”

“Of course!” I said indignantly. And then thought, Had I?



It didn’t need gas, it was half-full! It had been half-full for at least a week…

Wait, is that possible?

I looked on the instrument panel at the gas gauge, which was at half-full. I looked at it again and discovered I wasn’t reading the gas gauge. My old car and my new car are the same make but somewhere in between the model years, they had switched the gas and water-temperature gauges.

I think you will be as excited as I was to know my car’s water-temperature was fine.

Consort was mortified in the way that only a man who used to repair his own cars and doesn’t recognize the sound of an empty gas-tank can be. In his defense, he might never have heard one before because, really, what kind of grown person runs out of gas?

I tell you, this is why I can’t have nice things.