Erik and Laura-Marie Magazine

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Monday, May 08, 2006

bad day, good day #9

I had a job interview at 9:45 on the rez. So I took a shower, put on a dress, had breakfast, printed a fresh resume, and then at 9:20 went out to my truck. I put in the key, turned it.... My truck tried to start but couldn’t start. I tried about 20 times. The sound got slower and slower every time I turned the key. A raven was in one of the trees in our front yard making a cry that sounded like laughter.

I called my mom on her cell phone, but she was at a meeting. “Do you know your dad’s number?” she asked quietly.

I called my dad on his cell phone. He said it sounded like the battery was dead, which I already thought. We decided the best idea was to try to switch out the batteries between my truck and the non-functional Oldsmobile that just sits there by the side of the house.

So I looked for the right size crescent wrench and didn’t have one. I needed 5/16, but my wrenches only go down to 7/16. I had to use a cheap adjustable piece of crap wrench that would never stay the right size. I adjusted it over and over.

At 9:45 I called the place on the rez where I had my interview. “Is there any way I could come in this afternoon?” I asked, explaining how my truck’s battery was dead (I probably sounded tearful). Someone called back and said I could come in at 3.

I got the battery out of the truck, but I couldn’t get the battery out of the Oldsmobile because the right nut was stuck. They have the battery right up against the plastic container that holds the windshield wiper fluid, and a person can barely get their hand in there.

I gave up for a while, changed my clothes because I didn’t want to get grease on my dress, and decided to borrow a tool from the neighbors across the street, the nice Vargases who have a mean little dog. Mrs Vargas helped me. Walking back to my house, I scraped my leg on a stick, and blood bubbled out. It was a warm day, almost 60 degrees out, so I wore sandals, and I got snow in my sandals too.

So I finally succeeded in switching out the batteries thanks to the Vargas’ 5/16 crescent wrench, but when I tried to turn on the truck, nothing happened—not a sound. I said curse words, put the truck’s original battery back in, and returned the wrench to the neighbors across the street.

“Is there anything else we can do to help you?” asked the nice Mr Vargas, who was home on his lunch break—by now it was noon. He speaks with a strong accent yet has strange light eyes. I explained how I’d tried switching out the batteries, but the Oldsmobile battery was deader than a doornail. “Do you want a jump?” he asked. I said, “Yeah, that would be great. But my truck’s kind of in a weird place.” “We can always push it to the street,” he said.

Our driveway doesn’t seem very steep, but when I took the truck out of park, it almost ran me over as it quickly rolled back into the street. Mr Vargas came over with his truck and hooked up the jumper cables. We tried jumping my truck about 10 times. “Seems like it’s just not getting any gas,” he said. He came into the truck and stepped on the gas hard about five times. That time, the jump worked, and I felt the happiness rise in me as the sound of the engine rose to a good-sounding thrum.

But all was not well. “You got a water leak,” Mr Vargas informed me. I looked at the huge puddle forming on the ground. “I can’t tell where it’s coming from,” he said, “But it might just be a hose.” I stuck my fingers in the puddle’s liquid. “Looks like oil,” I said. He shook his head. “Just oily water?” I asked. I sniffed my fingers then wiped them off on the ground.

We discussed what I should do. I said, “Maybe I should throw on my clothes and drive to town right away before it dies.” He wouldn’t advise me. “Do you think I can get to town with this leak?” I asked. He still wouldn’t advise me. I thanked him for his help and called my dad again.

My dad and I decided the best thing to do would be to fill up the overflow container with water, bring a bunch of water with me, keep an eye on the temperature gauge, and drive straight to the mechanic, then walk from the mechanic to my job interview. (This was after considering and rejecting many other options—Erik coming home early from work to give me a ride, calling a taxi—Bishop has no taxis—and that sort of thing.) “You got to get it to the mechanic anyhow,” Dad said.

I ate a quick bowl of cereal for lunch and put my dress back on. The truck was still running (I didn’t want to turn it off for fear that the battery hadn’t charged enough). I hopped in, put on my seat belt, and put the truck into reverse. It immediately died.

I tried over and over to start the truck again, but this time, it didn’t even try to start. It was dead silent. I said curse words and went into the house to call my dad again. He was with a customer, so I got the voicemail on his cell phone and left a message describing what had happened and saying that I had basically given up and didn’t plan on making it to the job interview.

Dad called back and told me that probably there was a bad connection and that I should make sure the battery was in there tight. I told him I already thought of that and tried to wiggle it, but it wouldn’t even wiggle. He thought it wasn’t making good contact. “Do you have a wire brush?” he asked. He told me to remove the battery again and take a wire brush or sandpaper and rub the connectors because they probably were corroded with acid, which was making the connection bad.

So I tried to take out the battery again. I had left my key in the ignition. When I turned the nut, I heard the buzz that means “put on your seatbelt” and felt happy because that meant I just needed to tighten it better and I could go to town after all.

The drive to town was uneventful. I kept looking at the temperature gauge, but the engine never got hot. I pulled into the mechanic shop positioned closest to my job interview and told the mechanic, “I think I have a water leak.” He looked under the hood and said, “It’s just your overflow leaking. See that right there? It’s cracked. If you want to fix it, go down to Kragen and tell them you need a new overflow container. We would put it in for, uh, 15 bucks. But if you have a boyfriend or husband, he could probably do it.”

I knew it wasn’t just the overflow container—I knew that was just leaking because I had put extra water in it to get to town. “Let me tell you the story of my day,” I said, and I explained a condensed version of everything I’ve told you.

“You have a fuel leak,” said a young kid on a bicycle who had been listening. “I can smell it,” he added. The mechanic agreed. “I didn’t see that before,” he said about a small patch of fuel my truck had dripped on the ground.

The owner John gave me a ride to the rez, but it was only 2, so I went to my old work, the Indian Education Center. They didn’t seem surprised to see me even though I hadn’t been there in about six months. Keith talked to me for an hour. He told me all the gossip and how the kids are doing.

A girl came in and said that a cow was loose that morning, and the school bus had to stop for the cow. She said a man was chasing the cow, and she saw it jump over the fence. “I never seen a cow jump before!” she said. I asked her how high the fence was.

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