Wednesday, 18 March 2009

Scraping Off the Rust

I'm still alive and I think I remember how to blog something besides memes. Maybe. I'm a little rusty. Like my brakes were...

Spring seems to be arriving with torturous slowness this year. Last year I was stunned by the sudden arrival of flowers and light at the end of the dark, damp English winter. Still waiting here in New England.

I'm housesitting for some relatives. Their fish watches me eat, mouthing along in sympathy. What do fish think about, floating in their little glass cages? One of the cats stalks up silently and stares at me until I sense his presence by the force of his gaze. This was particularly disturbing when I was in the bathtub, and then there were cat eyes sort of peering over the edge at me.

I went to a new mechanic this week and got the rust scraped off my rear brakes. Thank you, winter. Navigating the world of cars & mechanics & all that is a bit of a big deal to me. I started driving young (like barely legal) and was responsible for my own car in high school (a hand-me-down). Then I spent a bunch of years living in the city sans vehicle. We've had this car since 2004.

Car expertise is one of those things I've always felt stressed about. I was sort of thrown in at the deep end as a teenager... my dad and I weren't talking all that much, my stepdad doesn't know much of anything about cars (he's a great guy, but seriously, he didn't even realize that it is in fact possible to overinflate tires...), my mom considered it my problem to sort it out. Which I kind of did but not very well. When we got the car we have now I did the basics, read the owner's manual for instance, and even asked both my dad and my uncle (who's a mechanic, though one who lives very far away) to show me the basics of easy DIY maintenance. They both said sure and then avoided the topic like the plague thereafter.

Obviously competence with cars is a major marker of masculine expertise in our culture. I felt for a long time like I was being specifically, systematically excluded from figuring cars out, and like with a lot of things, I gave up for a long stretch there in my mid-twenties. But now that the car itself is getting to be of a certain age, and I'm no longer willing to cede the masculine expertise I want to have, I'm starting to take a new approach. Like losing the crappy dealership service department that never really fixed anything properly anyway. If the weather ever warms up, I'm going to wax the car, taking advantage of having a driveway this week, and I'm going to do it with pride. Who knows, one of these days I might even change my own air filter. Time to scrape off another layer of shame & limitation.


greg said...

Um, after you do all that, can you drive yourself to NY and help me pick out a new car? lol.

Seriously, mine is a 2003 and coming up on 106,000 miles. It's time.

LL Cool Joe said...

"Obviously competence with cars is a major marker of masculine expertise in our culture."

I dunno about that, all the guys I've known (yeah straight ones) have been useless with cars. One of my good friends was a pilot in the RAF and now for British Airways, and on more than one occassion he's filled up his car with Unleaded petrol instead of Diesel, or the other way around and completely knackered the engine and had to be towed home. Just hope he doesn't have to re-fuel the plane he's about to fly.

I think it's more of a masculine thing to clean and polish the car until it's a babe magnet. Or is that just me? :D hates word verification said...

There's nothin' hotter than a butch under the hood. ;)

Jess started doing stuff on her own too... Tune-ups and stuff... I think she really enjoyed it.

(heh, my word verification word is "pardin") ;)

MLC said...

I really don't think much about the whole car expertise + addiction to power tools = butch.

As I am a queer girl.

BUT I am sure there is a femme or two that would find hiring someone to fix the car really hot.

A local mechanic is your best friend YES lose the dealer. One kept my V6 (now that's a big engine) Grand Cherokee running for years.

I will do the meme Leo, soon, I promise. I will not be writing about 8 things I know about car maintenance. said...

There is a lot to say about this post, but I will say only this.

"Their fish watches me eat, mouthing along in sympathy."


ladybrettashley said...

oh, this post just brought all of my auto anxiety forth. i'm quite competent with tools and construction and such, so it has always been a point of embarrassment to me that i know next to nothing about cars. and now i have a friend *giving* me a car, and can't even figure out how to do the paperwork (much less drive a standard). so, props to you! - this stuff is terrifying to me.