Of Cars, Cleaning, and Incompetence

I hate to be one of those women, but I just don’t “know” cars.

I like them all right. I feel confined and claustrophobic if I don’t have one, and I find them to be excellent at carrying me from one place to another, farther away place. I’ve always had a very slight interest in the inner workings of a car, but such an all-consuming aversion to most other aspects- racing, models, collecting, aesthetics, etc.- that I’ve been put off of learning more.

So when things go wrong in my corpse of a car, I get a little panicky. It’s a 1999 Saturn SW2 (which is nearly all I know about it), and when I bought it it was literally held together with duct tape.


I added the silver piece today.

I bought it, of course, because it was cheap. Very cheap. Not very very cheap, but still quite cheap. A reasonable price for a 17 year old car with pretty low mileage that still runs all right.

Since then, I’ve had to bring it in for maintenance a few times, but over all it hasn’t cost me much and it still gets me to board game meetups, which is the really important bit. And yet, sometimes it will make a sound- like a clank or a brrrrr– that makes me instantly assume the mindset of, “MY CAR IS DYING, WHAT DO I DO?!”

It’s not the car’s fault, I’ve just consistently proven that I don’t know what I’m doing in them.

Take the last time I brought my car to the mechanic, for example. It had been a little noisier than usual, and not accelerating quite as easily as before, but I figured that was probably only to do with the fact that it was old and hated me. I brought it in to have the oil changed and the tires checked, and when they were through the cheerful mechanic pulled me aside, handed me the bill, and said, “Oh, by the way, did you know your muffler is gone?”

Just gone. At some point, somewhere, I had misplaced my muffler, and then not noticed for a considerable amount of time.

And for another example of my incompetence: Just yesterday, as I parked in a Starbucks for a hot milkshake in a cup, I tried to turn my car off and found that the key was stuck in the ignition. This has happened before, but not to such a severe extent. When my usual tricks didn’t work, I began my panicked Googling. I tried turning the wheel, I tried pushing and pulling, I tried reaching under the dash to fiddle about with the wires, but my car was having none of it.

Switching to another “How to get your key out of the ignition for dummies” page, I was presented with the words, “First, make sure your car is in ‘park.'”

Hah, I thought. What kind of idiot wouldn’t put their car in park before turning it off?

What kind indeed.


So today I cleaned out my car, and I’m still not sure I’m doing it correctly. I’m not sure how you would clean a car incorrectly, but if there’s a way, I’m sure I’m doing it wrong. Ma petite rouge (yes, that’s what I call my car) desperately needed to be cleaned, as the last time I had done so was approximately never. If I had gone this long without cleaning it back on the farm, I would have been ankle deep in hay, but fortunately the suburbs are a neater place.

I cleaned out the car mostly because I’m bringing it in again have the oil changed and the tires checked once more, and the mechanics don’t need to deal with a small landfill in their midst. Cleaning out a car always has a fun element to it, though; you often find things you haven’t seen in quite a while. These included:

  • A full set of Renaissance Faire garb from four faires ago
  • A tent stake and a pair of shorts from my last camping trip
  • My parasol
  • A deck of playing cards
  • Two ticket stubs from two different operas I was dragged to by my more cultured friend
  • Approximately 300 bobby pins
  • The card game “Gloom” that I had been missing for some time
  • The “New York Renaissance Faire 2016” mug I had forgotten I had purchased
  • The spider I have had living in my car for two months that I only ever spotted when I was doing 60 on a highway, causing me to swerve dangerously and pray that it didn’t choose to spring suddenly at my eyeball

(The spider was released to the outdoors.)

With all that done, my car was wiped down, the windshield was cleaned, and the floor was vacuumed. In the end, ma petite rouge was technically cleaner, but I can only compare it to wiping a rusted bucket down with disinfectant.


Now I just need to tackle the sewing desk, which has the misfortune of being the closest available surface to my door.


2 thoughts on “Of Cars, Cleaning, and Incompetence

  1. I feel like I’m reading my own blog from 7 years ago and it is a little odd. My first car was just like this – a ’99 Mistubishi Mirage, with which I also managed to lose my muffler, get my key permanently stuck in the ignition, and ever time it squeaked I would lose my mind. Permanent occupants of the car until it was totalled 3 years ago include: a typewriter, a red velvet cloak from a Halloween costume, notes from French class circa 2009, and a DVD of Timeline I thought was gone forever. At least you cleaned yours! Mine contained goodies from 2008-2013! 🙂

    Your blog makes me chuckle, and I’ll definitely be following along with your adventures. Thanks for visiting mine so I stumbled on yours!


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