Yesterday my car caught fire. I was making my daily journey to Lowe’s, this time to purchase a live animal trap for Socrates when I noticed an odor from my childhood. The smell of burning nylon has been haunting B.T. (my truck) for the past four months. When I was a kid, my Mom used mountains of yellow nylon string during preparations for photo expeditions. She would cut a segment of string and melt the ends with a match to prevent it from unraveling. I can’t recall why she needed the string, but when I turned seven, I was quite proud when string melting became my special chore. I liked it so much that I often continued to cut and melt mounds of string long after filling Mom’s quota. In fact, that string is probably still somewhere in my folk’s garage–they keep everything!

Anyway, I got a nose-full of string-smell and thought “Huh. That smell again. Maybe Socrates will become a permanent visitor. Rats aren’t so bad after all.” As I turned off the ignition, I glimpsed a wisp of gray smoke exiting the dash. I thought, “Huh. I might have to drive the car to my folks (they live near Lowe’s) instead of going home (five miles away).” I promptly replaced all thoughts of my truck with thoughts of our house guest Socrates and the bountiful home improvement goodness of Lowe’s.

I found a live capture trap and wandered through the garden area.  While selecting the perfect piece of lumber for E’s special project, I jammed a tiny forest of splinters into my elbow. My cursing attracted the sympathy of an old man in a vivid red cowboy shirt. He helped me transfer wood to my ugly blue cart and followed me to the register. We were in line together for a few minutes before his middle-aged daughter arrived and rudely hauled him away.  It wasn’t clear to me if he had dementia or if she did.

I felt sorry for the man as I walked to the car, imagining that a moment of connected joy was snatched from him as well as me. I started BT, waited for a few moments and determined I could drive him home safely.  As I exited the parking aisle, the smoke returned, this time in thick oily clouds. Panicked, I simultaneously rolled down the windows, honked, opened the door and pulled into the nearest parking spot. I turned off BT and dramatically leaped out of the car. I had visions of the whole machine exploding into a spectacular fireball, leaving me to explain myself later on channel nine news.

Fortunately, the smoke diminished, and I called home for rescue. Twenty minutes later E arrived, concerned less about BT and more about missing the presentation speech for the U.S. Open Men’s Final. I found out that I bought the wrong size of lumber and nearly made him late for his much anticipated Post-US Open Tennis Match with his Favorite Tennis Partner. 

Today, BT was towed to the shop. Now I realize that a host of strange phenomena–ghost wipers, psychotic turn signals, odd air conditioning moments and mysterious the radio station invasions may have been related to an electronic problem. I feel like the neighbor living next to a recently discovered sex-fiend/serial-murderer/cannibal, who tells Fox News, “He was such a pleasant, quiet fellow.” I wonder what other obvious cues life is giving me, that I blithely ignore.

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