Saturday, June 11 2022

On Hondas Fit

The day was beautiful. Saturday’s weather encouraged people to go for walks and whole families wandered around the nearby farmers’ market, deciding, with bags filled with flowers and vegetables, to stop by the library for a while. We were understaffed so I didn’t even go to lunch: I was just running from one division to the next. In a hurry, I ate some homemade cottage cheese with radishes. When my shift was over, I said goodbye to Jeff, left the building promptly at 4:30 pm and headed home. 

Though Waze wanted me to turn onto Bedford and then take the BQE, I decided to outsmart him (“him” – because my Waze speaks with a male voice with a British accent) and drove straight down the Eastern Parkway and Jackie Robinson Parkway. I was very close to home when suddenly there was a terrible traffic jam on the Cross County Parkway, so I turned here and there and finally landed on I-87. Ah, I thought, I’ll go past Home Depot and will then get to drive past the Mount Hope Cemetery on Jackson Ave. I like to drive there, especially in spring when azaleas and rhododendrons are blooming. Chagall buried his wife Bella, a deer-eyed Jewish beauty here, an eternal bride from his paintings, when in 1944 she suddenly died of some viral disease.

Turning onto Jackson Ave, I felt something unusual. The steering wheel gave me a strange resistance. Moments later all the control lights on the dashboard came on (or went off, on or off? – English is a peculiar language) – battery, steering wheel, sliding wheels, air bags lights, idiot lights… The gasoline level dropped to zero, even though I had half a tank, and when I wanted to open the windows – the automatic opening did not work. The car was mute, pressing the horn had no effect. I carefully descended the hill and crossed the bridge over the Saw Mill Parkway. My husband said over the phone to quickly drive to the gas station and leave the car there. I was going down Washington Ave. Our favorite mechanic has his shop there on the corner. I was about to turn into his parking lot when the steering wheel failed completely to obey me. I slowed down, but some jerk was already honking behind me, so I drove a few dozen meters away in the hope that I would be able to turn back. Right in front of our favorite coffee shop called Antoinette, the car huffed several times and stopped. I turned the key in the ignition – nothing. I called my husband. Busy painting the walls of our bedroom, he didn’t want to stop.

“Call triple A” he said, “they’ll tow you away.”

I called. The waiting time was 14 minutes. It was 6:37 pm when the dispatcher accepted my report. 

“Oh, I’m so sorry,” she chattered. “Are you standing still on the road or on the side of the road? I will try to send someone as soon as possible” she promised.

I sat quietly in the car, turned on the hazard lights, and remembered that I had 19 minutes of Charlotte Link’s bloody crime drama “The Watcher” to go. I listened intently to the ending, though of course I had known for a long time that Gillian would manage to get out of the locked hut, John would arrive exactly at the crucial moment to save her, Samson would finally regain his will to live, and Tara, who has already had four victims on her account, will receive proper psychological help. And yet I was a little nervous. This is the power of literature.

Time passed. I finished listening and started looking for a new book to listen to when Ewka called. In a bathing suit and with a drink in her hand, she asked: 

 “Are you sitting in the car?” she was visibly surprised. When I finished my story, she raised her glass wishing me the towing truck to arrive quickly. I tried not to be jealous…

Meanwhile, some people showed up. One of them turned towards the car which I was blocking. 

“Will you be able to leave?” I asked. “I’m standing here waiting for AAA, my car is dead.”

 The driver’s companion, a bulky man, approached me. 

“What happened? Battery? Do you have cables? We’ll do something right now” he told me to open the hood. “Hmm … that battery looks rusty,” he decided.

The woman accompanying them entered the house and soon appeared with a portable car jump starter, and a young girl handed me a can of beer. 

“You must be hot,” she said. They all spoke fluent English, but I heard something very difficult to pick up, but familiar. 

“What’s your accent?” I asked, almost sure what the answer would be. Indeed, I was right. The rest of the conversation was conducted in OUR native language…

The attempt to revive the battery was unsuccessful. The four of them wished me luck, then said goodbye to me and got into their cars. I was left with a cold can of beer that I couldn’t open in the car.

It was getting dark, and the traffic was not so light anymore.

“Do you want me to come over there?” asked Michael.

I protested. “I want you to finish painting.” 

“Then call the police, it could be dangerous to be there since you don’t have lights,” he advised. 

“What’s your emergency,” a female voice asked.

“I’m standing here on the road in a dead car, I’m a little afraid that someone will not notice me because it’s getting dark and I don’t have any lights,” I explained.

Ten minutes later the police showed up.

“No, we can’t give you the reflective triangle, we can tow you. To Ardsley.” 

“But I don’t need to be towed to Ardsley, my mechanic is 200 yards from here, right here on the corner! ” I exclaimed.

“We have to ask the boss,” said a blonde guy in a police uniform.

 I thought longingly about the can of beer, which was getting warmer in my bag every minute.

15 minutes later a glistening towing truck with flashing lights pulled over. Together with the police car’s lights, the whole street looked like a disco. Meanwhile, I was trying to reach AAA. A sweet automatic voice told me what to press and then to wait 20 minutes. I was already swearing loudly, but in Polish. The police officer looked at me in surprise and said that he had heard similar words from his grandmother. But I was not laughing.

A young and handsome truck driver loaded my poor Honda and tied it to the platform. My cute red car looked very lonely on top of the shiny deck …

I walked to the corner of the street. In a moment, the towing truck unloaded my car. I paid – pennies, right? – $ 187.

“Don’t worry,” said the handsome driver, “AAA will reimburse you.”

I picked up my heavy backpack and headed home. I had a mile and a half to walk in the dark in my new Viscata espadrilles, but finally decided to call Uber. A message appeared on the phone screen that a gray Honda Fit would come. Hondas Fit were clearly my destiny on that Saturday night…

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