So, my car broke down at the pet store that’s about five miles from home in St. Matthews. It had been making funny noises, and I had a bad feeling. After I put a heavy bag of dog food and another heavy bag of kitty litter in the car, I couldn’t get Carlene to start. (Carlene is my 1995 Saturn. She has an ashtray and a cigarette lighter and a nonfunctioning audio cassette tray. That’s right–audio cassettes.) I tried to start her several times, checked the parking brake, checked that the car was in park, and so forth. It yielded no fruit. She wouldn’t start.
Darn it all! I went back inside and approached the nice young woman who’d checked out my items twice. (I bought dog food and then decided to get the kitty litter.)
“Hello,” I said. “I’m one of those rare idiots who doesn’t use a cellphone, and my car broke down. Is there any way I can call my dad?”
She immediately handed me her cellphone and then turned to ring up another customer. This is where it gets funny: I had no clue which buttons to press, and I was pretty scared I was about to be looking at her private content. HA HA HA. I was thinking, okay, Meg, seriously, quit pushing the screen. Just wait for her assistance before you violate her privacy. Somehow I wound up on a web browser, and then I gave up.
She gave the man his receipt and turned toward me. “So, yeah, I don’t know how to use it.” I couldn’t help but laugh. It just struck me as hilarious. Until that moment, I hadn’t realized how tricky cellphones are! They don’t have buttons like a landline. They just have… a screen, I think…?
She took it and asked for my dad’s number, so I reeled it off. She handed it to me, and I held it up to my ear. Oh, how lovely. His landline machine came on. “Hello, this is Old Man Kimball, the codgerliest elderly gentleman to have ever fought in the Civil War. If only I could recall which side I fought for! Not a day goes by that I don’t wonder. Please leave me a message, including your phone number, and I’ll call you back as soon as possible. If you want legal counsel, you’ve come to the right place.” Beep.
“Pick up the phone,” I intoned. “Pick up the phone, pick up the phone, pick up the phone.” The young woman started laughing with me at this hilarious turn of events. “Okay, don’t pick up the phone,” I said. “Just come and rescue me. My car broke down at Shelbyville Plaza. Help! Shelbyville Plaza. Okay. Bye.” I handed the phone back to her.
She offered to let me know if he called back, but I said it was unlikely, as he uses a landline and hasn’t yet mastered the magic that is caller ID. Strangely enough, I was wrong. Not five minutes later, she came rushing out to where I’d gone to wait in my car, yelling, “He called back! But he doesn’t understand what I’m saying.” (As it turned out, my landline phone was plugged in at home. Usually my dad chooses to use an older landline that doesn’t have a display screen.)
“Oh, no worries,” I assured her. “He’s deafer than I am.”
She handed me the phone, but he’d already hung up. Oh well. “Don’t worry,” I told her. “My money says he’ll be here in ten.” I handed the phone back.
“There must be a right way to talk to deaf people, huh?” she asked.
I nodded. “You have to speak clearly and enunciate.”
She giggled. I have a tendency to speak clearly and enunciate beyond normal levels, and I think I was doing it as I spoke without meaning to. Speak clear-lee and ee-nun-see-ate. That’s how I talk. All the time. I have recordings of my voice if anyone doesn’t believe me. (Whereas my dad lost his hearing due to an unfortunate lightning strike, I’ve been hard of hearing since birth. I overenunciate as a Golden Rule sort of thing, because I wish everyone would do it. Thus, I can’t break the habit.) I hope she didn’t think I was being patronizing. Hopefully not, since I’d already interacted with her several times, and I was probably enunciating then, too. Heck, I enunciate all the time, and I’m not ashamed of it. We need less enunciation shame in our society.
“Right,” she said. “Clearly and loudly.” (I think that’s what she said. I mostly pretended to hear her comments, but she was quite the mumbling motormouth.) (I choose to like her anyway.)
“It’s nice of you to care so much,” I said, glancing at her nametag. Emily. “I’m going to leave you a wonderful, stellar internet review.” I gave her a big thumbs-up.
“Ohh, it’s nothing! I understand when people are in a bind! Just let me know if things work out. Do you want me to call a mechanic?”
“Oh, no thanks. We have a good mechanic. I’ll just send him over here tomorrow.”
Emily went back inside, and I waited for around ten or fifteen minutes. It was hot in the car. I got out to watch the entrance for signs of my dad’s old clunker.
It showed up next to me from the back entrance, and I cheered. “Woo hoo!”
He exited his car. “What’s the matter? It won’t start?”
“Nope, but I know you won’t believe me, so here are the keys. Go right ahead and see for yourself.”
“Sure.” He took my keys and got in Carlene’s driver side. Two seconds later, my car was running.
This was my agitated response: “Oh, HELL, no.”
Several seconds passed. My car was still running. “Okay, you’ve made your point,” I muttered. “Now turn her off already.”
“Nah, I’m going to keep her running and follow you home.”
“Okay, if you’re sure that’s wise.”
“Yeah. If anything goes wrong, I’ll be behind you.”
I shrugged. That sounded good. I saw Emily watching from inside the store, so I gave her a thumbs-up. Then I drove home. After coming inside, I spoke to my dad for a while.
Predictably, he complained about the way I came home. “Why’d you go home that way?”
“I always come home that way. Are we having issues with my route, geezer?”
“It’s two miles longer than necessary!”
“Um, okay. You said you wanted to follow me home, old person.”
“I’m just saying…”
“Uh-huh. Thanks for rescuing me. YAY!”
I came upstairs and left a fab Google review for the pet store and for Emily.
I could’ve walked home, but… gracious saints. It’s a long, long walk. I wouldn’t have gotten lost, but it would’ve taken forever.
So this is a tribute to my dad, the world’s greatest living Civil War veteran. (Between you and me, I’m pretty sure he fought for the Union.)