Source: Google: Dodge 1933
Lucy usually announces when she’s about to blow, typically by starting and stopping when I’m driving. She will do this sometimes for weeks before giving me a loud and clear message that she’s done with me. Lucy, by the way, is my 1991 Volvo 740. Don’t ask me why I named her Lucy. I just know that she’s brought me a mighty long way. I bought her for $1200 at least a decade ago from a chop shop in Hialeah, Florida. Even back then that was a mercy sale. And I was desperate. I needed a ride, and I needed it badly. When I got her, she was filthy but in good shape in general. Yeah, she was old, but I was still happy to have her. Over the years, people have tried to get me to get rid of her because they feel I deserve a more comfortable car and a better public image. I don’t necessarily disagree with them. It’s just that they weren’t in my shoes trying to raise a child and maintain a manageable budget. So their pleas have fallen on deaf ears. Every time she’s in the shop, they complain. Every time she’s in the shop, which is miraculously not that often, I celebrate that what she costs me annually for no other reason than the replacement of old parts is nothing compared to what a car payment and insurance for a later model would. So, I silently chuckle at their monthly transportation expense and let them have their way when they bad mouth Lucy because she’s served me so well. Which brings me to the other day.
As I said before, Lucy warns me when a storm is brewing, but I hate going to the mechanic just as much as I do the hairdresser, so I just kept moving until Lucy gave up in the middle of Biscayne Boulevard, a main artery in the metropolis of Miami. Surprisingly, I was not nervous at all because Lucy and I have been through many trials and survived them all. And because I maintained my cool, I believe Lucy cooperated with me so I could cruise her from where she was shutting down in the street to the nearby parking lot of a Target store. A critical mass of Miami drivers could care less about a damsel in distress and can get a bit aggressive when stalled cars are in the way. I got Lucy parked horizontally across several spaces, I assume because business is not booming, put my foot on the brake, and turned the ignition off and then on again just to confirm what I already knew: Lucy was gone.
Believe it or not, it was 4:00 in the afternoon in tropical Miami, but the breeze was sweet, so when I hopped out of the car, I was determined to not let Lucy ruin my day. I stood next to the driver’s door for a while, surveying the distance from the car to the post office, where I was heading when the Lucy broke down. I had to make it to that post office, though I did not relish the walk, no matter how sweet the breeze. The bills had to be mailed. That’s another old-fashioned thing I do–mail bills. I created a plan in my mind: I would walk the distance to the post office, double back to Target, where there was a Starbucks inside, where I would then sit and renew my expired American Automobile Association (AAA) membership so I could affordably have the car towed. I would then either ride with the driver, catch a bus because home was so close, or catch an Uber, which my dear teenager had hipped me to. What I was determined not to do was let Lucy upset me.
I began to make my way to the post office, all the while trying to determine the shortest distance between two points. But before I got moving, I noticed the Target guy who always rounds up the shopping carts. I gave him the boogeyman look just in case he planned to report my disabled vehicle before I got back. My magic specifically conjured him to mind his own business. Once I determined that my potion worked, I started towards my destination. I walked first through the parking lot itself before I bumped into some shrubbery, which proved to be an obstacle. At first, I was elated when I thought I saw an opening that would help me avoid having to walk around the hedges, but as I got closer, I noticed that between the hedges and the post office was a little plush green meadow. I felt more comfortable sticking to the pavement because of possible sinkholes, which I abhor. Besides, I was programmed not to walk on grass and feel guilty if I do so anywhere other than an official park. So, I took the long way around, stopping and going along the way to take little rests. I worried a little about being hit by some angry driver, so I hopped on and off of the curb and tried to remember to walk in the direction of oncoming traffic, something I don’t have to consider when driving. It’s funny how we all get caught up in our own lifestyles and forget some of the basics of life.
I arrived at the post office and decided that it was easiest for me to drop the letters in the drive-thru box instead of actually going inside the post office itself. I also hate post offices. I made it to the boxes with little or no sweat to show for it, dropped the bills, and caught my breath a little before heading back to Target. I stopped every once in a while and looked at the huge construction site that was nearby–yet another high-rise in Miami. Just what we need. I finally made it to the sweet air conditioning of Target and settled down at a table in the little cafe, but for some reason I was not interested in coffee. Instead, I immediately called AAA.
“Hello, I need a tow, but my membership has expired.” I was a little embarrassed because I knew when I let the membership expire that Lucy would need it, but I had been annoyed when I’d tried to renew late. I was told that AAA would not retro and that I would have to pay the full membership, though I would not get a full 12 months. I found their policy exploitative. Thoroughly disgusted, I hung up and ignored their attempts to win me back. Now, I was at their mercy. It was the middle of October, but I surrendered to the idea that I might have to pay $100 for a membership that would end in December. “Is this membership going to end in December?”
The customer service representative asked me to hold on while she checked. She came back and proudly told me that because it had been over 120 days, I think, since my membership had expired, I would get a new enrollment effective date of October 12 that would expire November 2017. She boasted about how I was getting a little more than 12 months. I was not amused. I was happy for my wallet, but I didn’t think the company was doing me a favor because I thought justice was being served and rightfully so.
“Now you’re going to have to do an automatic renewal,” she said. I could tell she was nervous when she said it. Probably scared she wasn’t going to make the sale.
“Is that some kind of punishment for me, or is that for everyone?”
“That’s for everyone.”
It better be, I thought, knowing I had no way of confirming whether or not I was being singled out. Either way, it didn’t matter because I was desperate. They had me where they wanted me. “I assume I can contact you if for whatever reason I don’t want to or can’t renew.”
“Yes. We let you know when the membership is about to expire.”
I already knew I had no intentions of letting the membership expire ever again because Lucy wasn’t getting any younger. “Ok,” I said, as if I had a choice.
We completed the transaction, and she asked was there anything else she could do for me. I told her she could make sure the tow truck was there sooner than the hour and a half she had just quoted me. That was ridiculous! She chuckled and said she’d do her best.
No sooner than we’d hung up, the phone rang. It was the tow truck dispatcher confirming my location. I was impressed. I exited the store and began my journey to the far end of the parking lot where I could see Lucy’s sunroof in the distance, evidence that she was doing just fine without me. I saw the Target guy, too, still rounding up carts. I guess my magic worked because he seemed to have done a fine job of minding his business. By the time I got to Lucy, my phone was ringing again, and a tow truck was pulling up. I wasn’t going to answer the phone because the driver and I had made eye contact, and I couldn’t figure out for the life of me why he was calling me. Nevertheless, I picked up the call, and it was not the driver at all but the dispatcher seeking confirmation of the driver’s arrival. I explained that he had arrived.
The driver was a big guy who was less than 30, and I surmised he was of Haitian descent. Miami’s the kind of town where you can used to sizing people up for their origins. I immediately moved in on him with my idle chatter. “At first I thought it was you on the phone, and I said to myself, why is this guy calling me when he can see me.” To my dismay I was becoming one of those thirsty people who bend strangers’ ears.
He smiled and moved towards the car.
“I don’t think it’s the battery because it’s turning over,” I said. I was showing off my extensive knowledge of two-truck jargon. “Before it stopped, there had been a whirring sound. I’m trying to hold on to this car a few more years. My kid is in his second year at Miami-Dade College. If I can just hold on.”
“I hear ya. Can I get the key?”
“Oh. There you go. I don’t know if this one works. It’s old.” I had a new one that cost me a whopping $75, and there was no way I was parting with that one. He put the key in the ignition, and it worked. I decided to shut my mouth and let him do his job. From the start, I liked the way he handled things and could tell he was going to be gentle with Lucy, though somehow I found myself standing between her and the tow truck.
“Mam, do you mind moving just in case the car slides?”
“You’re right. I don’t know what I was thinking.”
“Are you riding with me?”
“No you don’t have to bother with me. I’m tough. I’ll either catch the bus to the grocery store right down the street or call an Uber. I looked towards the boulevard and the three-lane traffic. “I hope I don’t get hit. I guess I can make sure I cross at a light.” I couldn’t remember the last time I had been a pedestrian on a major thoroughfare.
“There’s a light right there.” He pointed to the right. He was trying to look out for me. What a fine young man.
“I think there’s a closer one there.” I pointed to the left.
“Where is the store?”
“It’s Whole Foods, right down the street, but don’t worry.” I sincerely meant it, too. Lucy had not taken me very far from home nor the stores where I’d planned to run errands. Her departure would simply slow me down a bit.
“I would give you a ride, but I’m going in the opposite direction, and they monitor us.”
“I understand. If there’s one thing I understand, it is work life.”
It took him very little time to hitch Lucy. When he had her stable, he said, “I’ll give you a ride.”
“Oh no! You don’t have to–not at all.”
“No, the Spirit is telling me to do it.”
I was surprised that he would go out of his way because my life experience had taught me that good things don’t happen to me because I’m good. Sorry Grandma. Time after time, I had seen good things happen for not just the good, but also the bad and the ugly. Unfortunately, sometimes it seemed that rewards were equally distributed, so I’d learned to rely on myself and not expect kindness based on kindness. It made for a happier me. Armed with this knowledge, I wanted to protest his offer, but who was I to contradict the Spirit. Besides, he seemed like such a sweetheart. Greater than any of this, though, was the truth that each time I thought the world had gone to hell in a handbasket, someone came along and proved me wrong. “Ok, that’s so sweet of you.”
I struggled a bit but was able to climb the distance to the truck’s cab. We road about 10 blocks. For the duration, I ranted on and on about my concerns for education in the United States and about how he was to make sure his children, which I had already confirmed existed, were properly educated to read, write, and do arithmetic. He promised me he would handle it.
We finally arrived at my destination. I immediately got out of the truck but not before telling him, “Thank you. You made my day.”
“Thank you so much,” he said as he graciously bowed his head. The humility in his voice let me know that he was as touched by his service to me as I was by it.
“God bless,” I said, and I sincerely meant it.