My parents taught me to be kind, loving, honest, selfless and… auto maintenance. That’s why this particular story is so embarrassing to me.
For the Thanksgiving/Christmas season, my mom and dad are in town, about 45 minutes away from here. My dad is working as the main attraction and my mom is here to be with her lover and working in a supporting role on set.
For my mom, it’s hourly part time holiday work. For my dad, it’s a job share with another man who looks a lot like him. I think of them as high-end models. My dad works mornings and the other man works evenings. My mom flew out here with the intention of working the same hours as my dad.
But another one of my dad’s jolly doppelgangers, working an hour and a half north of here, got sick. So my dad’s job share partner took over all the hours at my dad’s mall and my dad is currently spending his days up near the Canadian border bringing joy to children and their confused parents. “Why is Christmas so early this year?”
That leaves my mom living in a hotel with no vehicle during the day and a day job to which she no longer has a ride.
Perfect solution. She could borrow one of our cars. Dan takes the bus to work every day and it just sits there. Soccer season is over. It was all perfect. So, on Sunday night, after much persuasion, I convinced her to take Dan’s car, my first car, a car that has over 100,000 miles on it but has served us well.
As she was about to leave, Dan said, “You should check the oil. It might be low.”
Apparently “low” means there is approximately zero oil in the engine and the smear that remains at the bottom is black as tar or midnight or super old oil. So, I got in my van and followed her to the gas station to put some oil in the car, oil she insisted on paying for.
On the way there, I noticed that the left brake light was burnt out. Awesome.
“Mom. It also looks like the left brake light is burnt out, although I don’t know how a person is supposed to know that kind of thing unless she is driving behind herself or gets pulled over.” I start talking really fast at this point. “I hope you don’t get pulled over, but I think it’s still safe to drive and do you think that you could go replace the bulb tomorrow and maybe get the oil changed? I’ll pay you back and I’m really sorry.”
She was super gracious about it. “You’re lending me your car. It’s the least I can do. Blah blah. Nice mom stuff. Blah blah.” And all I could think was, My dad is gonna know of this and he will not outwardly judge me, but a little part inside of him will sigh and he will think, “Nothing’s changed since high school when she would run my car into cement posts and forget to put gas in the tank because apparently cars can run on school spirit and teenage infatuation.”
Then we went to put the oil in, two quarts to get it reasonably full, and I noticed that the power steering fluid was low.
“So, ahem, tomorrow after work when you get the oil changed and the brake light fixed, can you also please make sure they check the power steering fluid? I think it will be fine for the rest of your drive tonight in the dark on unfamiliar highways. Hope you don’t get a ticket for this! KayThanksBye.”
AAAHHHHH! A kind gesture is so much more kind if it doesn’t come with a massive to-do list that says, “Remember when you taught me how to be responsible and care for my belongings? Oops. I accidentally… the whole car.”