Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Maritza's Wild Ride Part II

I couldn't remember exactly how to get to the museum parking lot, and the kids began to smell smoke from the engine at Lake Park Avenue just before we turned on to Stony Island. The gauge didn't show anything--the needle was smack in the middle between C and H. I can't smell because of my allergies, but the engine light came on just as we were coming to the museum. Anyway, what was I going to do, stop????

The official museum parking lot is at the bottom of a hill. Oh, great, I thought--this will be fun getting out. I had barely started down when I saw the LED lights: Parking $8.00

I spent all but two bucks on gas when we left home. "Hey, I don't have money for this!" I started trying to turn the car around. Ready fire aim--then I asked, "do you guys have eight dollars between you?"

"We have money," Aurora said, quite calmly. Tires squealing, I lurched the van around again. The turning ratio just cleared the curb and we went down in the garage.

"Eight dollars," said the attendant.

"Could I park this thing and come back to you?" I said over my shoulder, rolling away, with one foot on the brake and the other on the gas pedal.

Once the car was parked, Joey put his hand on the hood. "Ow! It's hot," he said, shaking his hand to cool it. Aurora pulled out the family cell phone and called her dad to warn him that the engine was overheating and we might need a ride back. Aurora then paid the attendant while I took a few deep breaths.

We had a lovely time at the show, and the engine had about two hours to cool off. Another good thing was that, unlike me, most people knew where the free parking was and avoided the garage. We were among the first back there after the show and bolted out ahead of the crowd to avoid getting caught on the hill.

"Aurora, could you turn on the heater and crank it up as high as possible?" She fumbled with the controls while I got us up the hill and back onto Stony Island. Since we were going home in the dark, I found out a few more of the car's idiosyncrasies--its lack of interior lighting, for example, making it impossible to read the speedometer, any of the gauges, or read the gears on the shift. One of Dad's old cars was like that too--oh no, it was just that the speedometer was broken, that's right. Anyway, I knew I'd had some good practice driving blind thanks to my old man. And he was definitely enjoying the ride with us last night, I'm sure.

The other good practice of yore that came in handy last night was to run the car heater to let the heat out of the engine. I learned that one the summer after I graduated college, on a ride through Phoenix at 108 degrees. That trick kept the engine light off most of the way home last night, too. By this time, I was really getting that shifting down and feeling my way into just enough pressure to keep the engine idling not whining at stoplights.

We really lucked out at the end--the parking spot was still there! It was big enough to drive into, and though the van's tail was sticking out a little relative to its head, I figured Dawn's dad could deal with that if he didn't like it.

I came in to give back the keys. Dawn's mom asked how it went. "Ella era nerviosa," Aurora told her.

"Si, era nerviosa!" Yep, I was nervous. "Pero no mate tus ninos." I didn't kill her children, and by 9:17 I was home drinking what I felt was a very deserved beer.

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