The low thrum of a rusted muffler haunts my dreams…


Mornin’ all.

I’m sitting here wrapped in a blankie wishing I didn’t have work to do outside. Mother Nature is the bitch that keeps on bitching. It’s 28 degrees here.

You ever see that move “Groundhog Day?” Every night Bill effin’ Murray goes to bed on Groundhog Day hopeful that he’ll actually wake up on the 3rd, only to be depressed to find he’s stuck in a loop until he manages to stop being a dick and gets life right.

We had beautiful, wonderful, warm weather for a week and just when we put the sweaters and boots in the back of the closet, Mother Nature zinged us with more wintry temps. Instead of “Groundhog Day” we’ll call it “Eternal Winter”. I’m sure it’ll be a huge blockbuster in my neck of the woods. Folks really love to watch a depressingly accurate drama unfold on the big screen.

It’s snowing in northern NH this morning. SNOW.

I’m not even mad anymore. I’ve accepted that this is how Mother Nature is going to be. She’s like that younger sibling your mum told you was allowed to hang out at your slumber party who accidentally stops being a dork for a second and cracks your friends up, so she decides that repeating that same joke fifty seven billion times is THE key to securing coolness in your older friends’ eyes.

It was a good joke once, Mother Nature. Twice, even. You sure got us. But at this point, you’re just embarrassing yourself. Put winter away and leave it there before I tattle to Father Time.

I gotta be honest…temperatures aside, I’m not all that eager to get outside today anyway. I’m looking out my window, staring at an old enemy that must be dealt with.

“Bethie, no! You will not win against Mother Nature!”

What?! I’m gently urging her to get her act together, but I’m not an idiot. I’m not waging an actual war with Mother Nature. We’re uncomfortable acquaintances, not outright enemies.

No, the enemy I’m talking about is a truck.

“How are you enemies with a truck?”

As I’ve mentioned, my man and I are shade tree mechanics. A little more than, depending on the car. While he’s worked on too many different makes and models to count, the bulk of my experience is with Mercedes.

“Oooh, la dee dah. I didn’t know we were so posh.”

It’s not like that. These are antiques that…

ANTIQUE Mercedes. My, my.”

NO. Listen. I started getting into them because my man bought me one and then my father in law got me another and it was…

GIFTS? You get Mercedes as GIFTS!? Well, don’t I feel under-dressed. All this time, I’m sitting across royalty in my bathrobe! Please forgive my crass and disheveled state.”

*sigh* Are you done yet?

“Better extend my pinkie when I take a sip of my coffee. Wouldn’t want to offend m’lady, now.”

*blank stare*

“Honestly, what you must think of me.”

…you good? Got all the sarcasm out of your system now?


I’m going to let that one go.

Look, these are the facts. I DO work on Mercedes. I have gotten them as gifts. And they are, by and large, antiques.

But, these are not the shining examples of German engineering you see in museums, parades, and corporate parking garages. These are 1980’s diesel carcasses that have all needed a ton of work to resurrect.

My first one, a 1983 240D I liked the looks of and cost my guy $700. It belched oil every time it ran and developed a charging problem that no one could figure out. Because of this, it needed to be put on a trickle charger to rejuvenate the battery every time it was parked for more than an hour or so. It had more duct tape and coat hanger wire holding it together than original metal. The body panels were so rusty that they actually flapped going down the road. The beast had a 0-60 time of “nope” and AT BEST could scream a whole 52 mph in the downhill section of the 55 zone on the highway. Within a few months of owning it, we needed to cap off one of the brakes at the master cylinder because the caliper broke and a part of it fell off, and then somewhere we lost the bumper. I have no idea where. It was there when I left. It was not there when I got home. Someone in my town was gifted with a free Mercedes bumper.

It was *not* posh or fancy in the slightest. In fact, it was a rusted, frustrating pain in the ass.

And I loved it.

See, we were broke at that time. I mean, REALLY broke. Pay-for-diapers-with-pennies broke. We had to take what we could get and we had to figure out how to keep it running. I had done some things on cars before, because that wasn’t my first rodeo on a busted bronc, and breaking down with a passel of babies in the car is no fun at all. I had to be able to patch my hoopdies enough to get us home, and over time, I became more competent than the average woman my age. However, until our Mercedes, I was still firmly a newb.

I always liked mechanics; machinery in general. My dad was a geologist by degree but a machinist/engineer by trade. His dad was a mechanic for the navy, an engineer for a company that contracted to NASA, then a wood shop teacher. My other grandfather is a master electrician. I truly believe there is an engineering gene. I have always had a love of all things that whir and spin and brrrm and zoom, and that includes cars. Specifically, the inner workings. I don’t care much how they look. I’m fascinated with what makes them move.

Plus, if I’m going to be honest, I love doing societally-labeled “guy” things. No, I don’t want to BE a guy. I don’t identify as a male in any way. I just really like not having to wait around for a dude to stop scratching his balls long enough to change my oil.

“Well. You’ve certainly shattered the fancy pants picture I had earlier. I suppose I can put this pinkie down.”

That’s my point. There are levels of quality for any type of car, luxury vehicles included. I am not riding in the back seat while Jeeves ferries me around for errands. I am covered in diesel, oil, and carbon while I limp the beast to the store for another replacement part.

To keep our cars running as a team, we needed me to be able to work on them while the other half slept so he could go to work all night. As I said, I didn’t mind. I like getting my hands dirty, and he was patient enough to answer my bazillion questions. Together we learned the ins and outs of that particular car. My father in law found a killer deal on a much nicer one [sic: had a firmly attached bumper and would start most of the time] and bought it for me. Now with two under our belts, we learned that keeping 30 year old diesels running, even ones in excellent mechanical condition, took a certain expertise.

I’m not being conceited when I say that now on our 6th, and having taken two completely apart, engine and all, we’re getting into that expertise level where this particular series of Mercedes is concerned.

Now, while all this self-education was happening on the Mercedes, we got a rep around town as being people who work on cars. Hard not to. Our house is right on the main road, and in nice weather, we are almost always under the hood or car itself at least once a week. People drive by and see us working, and many through the years have stopped in to see if we could “just take a quick look…”

“Well that’s presumptuous!”

I know, right? At least that’s what I initially thought, too. At first it was unnerving to have a complete stranger just stop and start talking about either our cars or theirs. Over the years, though, I’ve grown to accept it. We’ve met some real characters, good AND bad. Oh, the stories I could tell.

Ah, but that’s for another Muse on another day. Today, we’re talking about the truck.

The Truck, we’ll call it, though perhaps capitalizing it gives it too much power.

One of the people who wanted our help works with my guy. Younger dude, 23, 24…seemed nice, worked hard, taking care of a girlfriend and her two kids. He was in a desperate car situation and picked up The Truck for what he thought was a song from a little old lady.

Don’t let little old ladies fool you. They can be crafty bitches. He paid a good grand above what he should have for the truck, and spent everything he had to get it. Brought it to us when changing the brake pads didn’t fix the little stopping issue it developed just a week after he bought it, and my man and I took one look and saw a project.

…the project being the KID, that is. Poor thing seemed to be having just the worst string of luck and we are too quick to adopt strays. Had we known at the time that his bad luck was mostly of his own making…

I didn’t know, though. My crystal ball was at the cleaners that day. We had no idea the drama that would unfold. No, that day, we saw him, a young guy who was trying to do right by a family and got screwed by Demon Grandma and we felt bad. We took a look at the brakes, gave him a list of things to buy, found him the cheapest parts, and made arrangements for him to come by the next day my guy had off and we’d get those brakes working!

The very next morning, we got a call at about 6 a.m. from the kid. He was taking his girlfriend to work when the truck’s wheel fell off. “Whaa???” we said, because…wha??? Met him at his place after the tow truck returned it. The wheel had, indeed, popped off. He had a buddy help him put new brake pads on, and they didn’t tighten the lugs after they put the truck back on the ground.

To quote a modern genius, “Doh!”

The truck fell, scraped the differential and hub. The axle was visibly bent, and the truck would not idle. On top of that, once we got underneath, we could see that the frame was significantly rusted and the bed had massive holes. After my man and I conferred, we determined that it would not be worth it for the kid to keep throwing money at The Truck.

Look, you can keep a clunker running. But there comes a point where the value of the clunker is so little compared to the dollars you have to put in that it is in the best interest of all involved just to pull the plug. Sometimes the most humane thing you can do for a trusty vehicle who’s given its all is to send it to the ol’ scrap yard in the sky. The Truck had met its time.

The kid was devastated. And stuck. He had no car, no money to get another until his tax return came in. We knew that situation. We’d been in it ourselves more than once. We knew the panic he was feeling.

In every story, there is a crossroads, a single moment where you can pinpoint just where you went wrong. Here’s where we done goofed.

We loaned him one of our cars.

“Oh, Bethie. I’m no car guy, and even I know that’s stupid.”

Yep. Yep, yeppity, yep, and boy did we pay. Long story short, after we had to rescue OUR car that he broke and just left 14 miles away at a gas station for days, the guy and his self made problems are no longer our concern. If you borrow something, you return it. You don’t abandon it at a gas station and let it be someone else’s problem. I’m not even mad that it broke. Shit happens. But you don’t leave it. You call a tow truck and get it back. Basic decency.


ANYway. Got a knock on the door the other night. The handyman who does work here popped in to see if we could help him out with a truck he just picked up for a song.

“Oh no.”

Oh, yeah.

I says, “Sure,” says I. “I won’t be here in the morning, but you can drop it off.” We made plans on where he should park it and where to leave the keys. I went shopping and ran errands the next morning, and when I got back, there was a truck in the drive.

“Excellent,” I said with glee, eager to make a few bucks. I hunted around for the keys that the handyman clearly forgot to put in the right place, and as I did, I got this nagging feeling that the truck I was in seemed very familiar. I found the keys, closed the door, and saw the XLT badge.

It was a special make of Ford Rangers, and not common. What are the odds in such a small town? Still, though, the kid was supposed to sell the truck for scrap. That was the plan. It was beyond hope, after all. It couldn’t be…

I stepped back and looked, a growing feeling of dread building. It had a different bed, but I’ll be damned if it wasn’t The Truck. I searched the glove compartment for the paperwork and confirmed it.

The Truck has once again reared its ugly head.

I think I’m being haunted, folks. I’m being guilted into resurrecting it. I should tell the handyman to let it go, to run from the obvious Christine before it’s too late.

And yet, the selfish side of me, the part that’s all for self-preservation and dead set against sleepless nights of terror says that if I don’t fix this truck, it will just keep coming back. It will stalk me. It will hunt me down and find me and sit in my drive like it’s doing now, staring at me with it’s wide, headlight eyes and smug, chromed-grille sneer.

So here I am, right back to where we started at the beginning of this Muse. I’m still cold, still a pawn in Mother Nature’s tired “Groundhog Day” reboot, looking at a sneering truck that won’t seem to leave me alone. Guess I have to pull a Bill Murray and fix what’s broken before I can move on.

Now isn’t that unexpectedly poignant?

Thus concludes a Muse with a moral for Saturday, April 25, 2015. I’m off to get ready to tackle The Truck. Two will enter the ring, one will hopefully drive out for good…