Nothing is certain anymore. Nothing. Chaos is king and magic is loose in the world.
That was the conclusion Robert A. Heinlein drew at the end of his two novellas, “Waldo” and “Magic, Incorporated.” And the conclusion I drew at the end of the day. Yesterday.
It was just one of those days. Not catastrophic, but not good. I had a doctor appointment. The back doctor. They guy who gives pain-killer needles and we were on the road. I was a bit nervous. More than a bit. They were going to take an x-ray of my back. Inevitably, when someone looks at my spine, they get all weird.
I tell people it’s bad but I suspect no one believes it could be that bad. Everyone thinks whatever is wrong with their back is the worst. But you see, mine really is the worst. It’s the kind of bad that makes experienced spine doctors’ jaws drop. There are so many things wrong with it, it inspires the comment “I’m amazed you can still walk.” This from people who should know better. But they look at the pictures and just can’t help themselves. It pops out of their mouths.
I was afraid the doctor would look at the x-ray and refuse to do anything. Because it’s such a godawful mess. I suppose that’s better than going ahead and doing further damage, though it’s difficult to see how much worse it could be. Forget I said that. It can always be worse.
We were on time. We’d arisen before dawn. Had coffee, did our e-mail. Just like the old days, except instead of coffee and a newspaper, we had coffee and a pair of laptops.
Garry went out, gassed up the car. We were on our way. A few miles down the road, the car began to chug and balk. An unfamiliar idiot light went on and it starting dinging. It wasn’t any of the familiar idiot lights. This one is orange and looks like a battery or an engine schematic. Not the “Check Engine” light. I know that one. The car had been running fine. For seven years, it ran fine. We gave it regular maintenance. It started, drove, stopped. Until yesterday.
We pulled over and did a couple of 360s. Looking for something hanging, like the exhaust? A flat tire? Despite no visual evidence, there was something seriously amiss. We turned around and went home, grateful the breakdown was on Route 146 and not the Mass Pike. It took a while to get home. Amazing how long it takes at 30 mph when you are used to driving more than twice that speed.
After we landed, Garry grabbed the shopping list and hopped into the other car — the 2002 Sunfire. We don’t drive it much anymore. Almost never in the winter because it doesn’t have snow tires. And it has been making a funny noise we can’t pin down. He took it to the grocery story, came back appropriately loaded down, and told me the inspection sticker expired in December. The holidays. The Sunfire’s inspection had slipped past unnoticed.
When Owen got home, I explained the Cruiser was sick … and the inspection on the Sunfire expired. Garry asked if driving without a current inspection sticker was okay and Owen said, “No, not really,” so Garry asked if the yellow car would pass inspection. Owen replied “No, the driver’s side windshield wiper isn’t working and it won’t pass until it gets fixed.”
The yellow 2002 Sunfire is everyone’s backup car. When Owen’s car won’t run, he drives the Sunfire. When Sandy’s car is in the shop, she drives the Sunfire. Ditto Kaity. But if something goes wrong with it, it is our problem. At the risk of sounding whiny, whatever goes wrong — house or car — it is always our problem.
I pointed out to Owen we were without transportation in a town which has no public transportation, not even a taxi service. Leaving us stuck with no way to get anywhere was unacceptable.
So … as the sun set in the west, the Sunfire was street legal, though the Cruiser — the car with the new snow tires — is not going anywhere. It appears (according to Owen), to be a computer problem. Probably the bastard child of the random electrical glitch we’ve had for years, the electrical ghost that makes windows lock open or shut and doors refuse to lock — or worse, unlock. The ghost in our machine.
And so the day ended, none too early for my taste. Today has not brought new revelations. The Cruiser remains broken. The Sunfire is running, but it’s old. Chaos is definitely king. Right now, we could use some of that loose magic.