I’m leaving for Seattle the day after spring break starts. For a week, I will be on tour with my improv group, eating cocktail olives for dinner, arguing about how to pronounce the word “ferry” (Dear Sean Fraga: feh-ry) and bathing in piles of money. And unlike on our last tour, which we spent at my house, I won’t be driving.
This is probably a good thing, because my car is falling apart. This car is ocean blue and also bright yellow where my brother once drove into a bright yellow parking garage pillar; like a tattered regiment flag, it proudly bears the scars of battle. Also like a tattered regiment flag, it is considered precious by valiant soldiers, my brother and myself (“So when are you bringing my car home?” he’ll gaily joke, before gaily throwing something at my head. Classic!)
I’ve fought for this car, but I wouldn’t do it again. I am aware that complaining about having a car on campus makes me sound like the most spoiled whiny brat this side of the Little Prince (draw yourself a fucking sheep, Frenchie). “Give me a break, Little Lord Fauntle-Rolls Royce,” I would tell myself and then I would congratulate myself on that stellar pun. But my car — such a great idea when I brought it here — has given me little but misery. Like a really big, metal, car-shaped albatross, it hangs around my neck, constantly visible, prompting people to ask me for rides, reminding me of my own mistakes in life and making wounded bird noises. “The check engine light has been on for months,” it seems to coo sadly, as albatrosses do.
Last reading period, I decided to go home to New York for a night. I would, I thought, eat home-cooked food and write an essay. Then I remembered that no one in my family cooks and that we have a television, so instead I ate Thai takeout and watched five episodes of “Dexter.” I even squeezed in a round of my brother’s favorite game, Trivia from the First Chapter of the 2008-2009 Blue Book, an exercise that tests not so much knowledge of Yale as ability to sense trick questions (“Who besides your residential college dean can grant you exemption from the date of a final exam? I’m sorry, the answer was NO ONE.”)
“Close your eyeeeees and think on this!” I howled soulfully as I drove back to New Haven, but when I opened my eyes again (I always do what Pete Townshend tells me, even if someone on the road might die because of it. That is rock and roll) I saw black smoke pouring out of the hood. I calmly pulled over to the side of the road. Then I calmly burst into mature adult tears and responsibly beat my tiny and powerless fists against the steering wheel.
I continued to handle the situation in a levelheaded manner. First I called Volvo on Call. Then, while waiting for them to come, I called my brother and hyperventilated at 10-second intervals, as follows:
Me: James, the car is broken!!!!!
My brother: What’s wrong with it?
Me: YOU DON’T UNDERSTAND (wail, accompanied by click).
The coup de grace: I managed to lock myself out of the car. There is not too much to say about this: I forgot the car locks automatically, I needed to check under the hood because I am an important mechanic lady who really knows her way around a car and I am an idiot.
The next time you are feeling less than alluring, don’t sit on the side of a highway, your face tear- and mascara-stained, your stubby little hands red and freezing and sore from trying to pry open a very locked door. It won’t help.
What will help, though, is when literally everyone you encounter on your path back to Yale finds you DAZZLINGLY ATTRACTIVE.
This began when the tow truck driver, a jolly fellow missing two teeth but fully equipped with a sense of hospitality, arrived. As we two sat in the cab of his truck, I stared out the window, my face stained with oil and tears. He, on the other hand, stared at me.
“You know, there’s a great bar near here in Bridgeport proper,” he offered.
“I’m nineteen,” I offered.
“They would probably let you just sit and not order a drink, if you don’t have a fake ID,” he offered.
“I live in New Haven,” I offered.
“It’s a real short drive,” he offered.
“I hope that was a joke, because you do realize you are currently towing my car, a car that 15 minutes ago you referred to as ‘about to explode,’” I offered.
I was then not-so-subtly asked out by two more middle-aged car-servicing men I encountered that day. One called me “charming” as his gleaming eyes reflected his soft-porn calendar, improbably set to March. The last told me he wanted to “fix my sad eyes” as he dropped me off at the Bridgeport train station and then mentioned that he was off work at five. This was the most romantic attention I had gotten all semester. (This semester hasn’t topped it yet.)
What did this day teach me? Two things:
1) I am a little tiny child. I am irresponsible, powerless against the forces of nature and Volvo and I cry a lot.
2) But to 40-something men in automobile-related professions, I am instead a charming and irresistible woman.
I was feeling pretty good about this second fact. Then my brother called and asked, “In what section of chapter 3 could I find an expansion upon the distribution requirements?” and I was reminded of my own inadequacies again. Oh well. I guess I’ll just have to cram.