Thursday, September 2, 2010

I bet my mother never had days like this...

charger chord rearing it's ugly head from under the hood.

       I knew that extension cord hanging out of my mother's car hood made me look like a dork. I had no idea, however, how dangerous it could be. Years ago my mother went out to her driveway on a cold day and attempted to start her car. She didn't drive that often, and when she did she only traveled a few miles away from home. Her little gold car didn't really see much action back in those days. My mother doesn't know a lot about cars; Dad was the car geek in our family. So when my mother's car wouldn't start on that cold morning she let her neighbor talk her into attaching a charger to her battery. This charger trickles electricity into the battery so that even when the car goes for days without being driven it will still start when the owner finally decides to take a spin. Which is all fine and good. Except that this particular charger comes with a large yellow extension chord so that it can be plugged into a wall outlet. This chord hangs out from under the hood and it is huge. Huge. My mother would head out to the grocery store or the library and then upon returning home she would park the car in the drive way, open the garage, take out a long bright orange extension chord and plug the car in. More than once I pulled that car out of the driveway without remembering to unplug that chord, listening to Mom yell at me as the plug pulled away and the chord flew up in the air, wildly smacking the closed garage door.

My mother doesn't drive anymore and we have transferred her car to our driveway. She has stopped asking me if I am plugging it in. When she first moved to Grove City she asked me repeatedly if I was plugging in the car. And I repeatedly told her yes. And I never did. And the car has started every time.

Even though I never plug the car in we have never taken the charger off the battery. The chord still hangs limply from under the hood. usually I forget that it is even there, until I am driving at top speed down the road and the end of the chord rears up towards the windshield. It is terrifying. It reminds me of a thick yellow snake with a black head, the outlet holes peering at me like hollow eyes.

I wasn't driving at those top speeds today, just tooling around town. My friendly little chord snake stayed out of sight, hanging down over the grill. I wasn't thinking about the chord when I parked the car in that last spot right before the yellow caution tape walled off a section of the parking lot that was under construction. I wasn't thinking about the chord when I walked back to my car while holding my hair out of my eyes because it was so windy. I wasn't thinking about the chord when I put the car in reverse and stepped on the gas, backing out of the parking spot. I wasn't even thinking of that chord when the tall orange cone that was tied to the yellow caution tape came flying at my windshield. I ducked, inside the car, like we all do when we think we are going to be hit. I grabbed the steering wheel and ducked, as though that movement alone would stop the series of events I had just put in place. I slammed on the brakes and watched, in horror, as every single orange cone flew up in the air and then fell straight to earth, tied together by the caution tape. Nine cones in all, running the entire length of the parking lot. My chord had started whipping around in the wind and gotten caught in the caution tape running right in front of the parked car. When I backed up I pulled this tape back with me. Somehow no cones hit my car, and they all missed the car parked on either side of mine as well. When it was all over, when the last cone fell, they all just lay there on their sides on the newly blacktopped lot, yellow caution tape tangled around their bases.

I obviously had a dilemma on my hands here. Do I drive away, or try to tell someone what I did. I looked around. There wasn't anyone else in the parking lot that I could see, just empty, parked cars. Who would I tell? But if I just drove away would my actions be caught on the strip mall's video camera? Did this place even have cameras? After a very quick soul search I put the car in gear and drove away, leaving in my wake a mess of construction cones and caution tape. I had no idea that snake -like chord hanging out of my mother's car would lead to such destruction!

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