So I’ve never liked thinking about my car. It’s a necessity, but it’s also a huge metallic monument to my ignorance of all things mechanical. I hate relying so heavily on something that I cannot bring myself to understand, because it means that when something goes wrong with it, I have to rely on other people to tell me what it needs and how much it’s going to cost.
This is not a small character trait for me. I ran previous cars into the ground because I just couldn’t make myself care enough to get the oil changed. As in ever. I had a car that couldn’t shift out of third gear and I just dealt with it. I had a car where one of the windows didn’t go up–I duct taped blocks of wood to the window to hold it in place.
I. Hate. Thinking about my car.
So I noticed a few weeks ago (okay, like two months) that my car’s…I don’t know, the thing that makes air…wasn’t working. At all. No air conditioning, no heat, no defrost. No air comes out of the vents, no fan noises happen, nothing. Because I am working on being someone who takes care of problems when they arise, I brought it up with my boyfriend to see what he thought I should do. He told me that since the weather has been nice, it wasn’t urgent.
He meant it didn’t need to be taken care of that week. I heard “You can safely ignore that shit for ages!” Which is how I’m used to handling problems, and what I proceeded to do. Which brings us to tonight.
Tonight was the first actually cold night we’ve had here, and it was raining and just all around miserable. And I’m driving this airless car with the windows down to try to make my windshield even a little bit visible. Shivering behind the wheel, stooped down to peer through the one oblong part that’s a little clearer than the rest, wiping the inside off with papertowels at red lights and squinting to see the lines on the road through the rain and the fog.
And I start getting this bizarre feeling. I’m hunched over the steering wheel and the thought occurs to me that this is what old people must feel like. All of a sudden I’m wondering if I’m old–as in, if I’m actually an elderly woman suffering some kind of dementia who is just remembering being a young woman driving a piece of shit car. And then I think about dying, in that chest-freezing sudden kind of way where all of a sudden you realize that the lump of meat thinking these thoughts won’t be around forever. I try to remind myself that I’m driving but it’s hard to focus and I feel weird–like I took something even though I know I didn’t, and I start to think maybe I’m having a hallucinogenic flashback and
All of a sudden, I realize. This is panic. I’m panicking right now, and I didn’t even realize it. I had fallen backwards into such a storm of anxiety that I couldn’t even recognize it for what it was. Normally for me, panic is physical before it gets to this level; this time it was like a crazy reverse thing. I never had the chest pains, my breathing didn’t get rapid or labored–I just momentarily went crazy. What was amazing was that it was maybe 3-5 minutes at most before I realized it and called it what it is. For me, being able to name it takes 98% of the power away from it.
Basically, this was about 600 words to tell you that I need to bring my car into the shop.