“It can make the difference between having a smooth running engine or ending up stuck on the side of the road somewhere and having to hitchhike!” he’d always say.
So, with my dad’s advice still haunting me, I decided I’d better schedule an oil change as soon as possible – which turned out to be two weeks ago, four months later.
In my defense, I had been trying since January to get the oil changed. But every time I made an appointment, there would be either a blizzard or an ice storm and I’d have to cancel. I even scheduled the appointments after carefully watching the weather reports, to make certain I wouldn’t run into any problems.
I soon learned that Mother Nature has a cruel sense of humor.
The meteorologist would say, “Cold and sunny all week,” so I’d figure I was safe. But the day after I called my mechanic and scheduled an appointment, the weather report would change to, “The blizzard that was 100 miles out to sea is now circling back and heading straight for New Hampshire! The snow will start falling at 2:00 on Tuesday afternoon, the exact time of Sally Breslin’s oil- change appointment!”
So if you thought New Hampshire had too much snow this past winter, I sincerely apologize, because it clearly was all my fault.
Anyway, two weeks ago I decided to play it safe and not make any more appointments, just in case there was a tornado or hurricane lurking somewhere, just waiting to attack. Instead, I drove to an auto-repair shop I’d never been to before and asked the mechanic if he might be able to do an oil change.
“Gee,” he said, “if you’d have gotten here 15 minutes earlier, I could have done it, but I have a customer coming in any minute now, so I won’t be able to get to it until tomorrow afternoon.”
I silently cursed my dog, Willow. It was because of her that I hadn’t arrived earlier. She had scratched at the door to go out just as I was about to leave. I let her out into the yard and then stood waiting in the doorway, hoping she would quickly do her duty and come right back inside. Instead, she walked outside, flopped down on a patch of grass and promptly fell asleep. I did everything but put on a dress made of raw meat to lure her back inside, but she completely ignored me. Finally, 20 minutes and half a box of dog cookies later (I made a trail of them into the house), she returned.
So, against my better judgment, I made an appointment for the next afternoon. Then I sat and waited for a blizzard to blow in. It’s not as if this state has never seen snow in April before, so I knew it was a distinct possibility.
When I woke up the next morning and didn’t hear any snow plows, I was pretty sure I finally was going to make it to my oil-change appointment.
And I did make it, right on time. Relief flooded through me as I took a seat in the waiting area while the mechanic set to work.
Unfortunately my relief was short-lived.
It seemed like only seconds before he came into the waiting area and said, “Sally, come here. I have to show you something.”
Years of experience had taught me that when a mechanic utters a sentence that begins that way, it’s never a good thing.
He led me to my car, which was up on the lift, and started wiggling some kind of rod that looked as if a good sneeze would cause it to fall off.
“Your tie rod is broken,” he said. “If you hit a bad frost heave or pot hole, you could lose your steering.”
My eyes widened and panic flooded through me as I imagined what it would be like to suddenly have a car with no steering. Visions of my car hanging by two wheels over the side of the bridge at Bear Brook State Park rendered me temporarily unable to speak – a real rarity for me.
“Unfortunately, I don’t have time to do the job today,” the mechanic said. “Can you bring the car back tomorrow?”
“You actually want me to drive that deathtrap home?” I asked him.
“It should be OK as long as you take it easy,” he said.
“You haven’t seen the road to my house! It has so many frost heaves, it looks like the roller coaster track at Canobie Lake!”
“OK, then,” he said. “If it makes you feel better, you can leave the car here and I’ll have my son drive you home.”
He didn’t have to ask me twice. So his son drove me the seven miles to my house and dropped me off. I’d barely set foot in the house when I noticed the son’s car coming back up the driveway.
“Forget something?” I asked him.
“Yeah, you! My dad just called me. Your car is ready.”
I just stared at him.
“He changed the oil, put in two new tie rods and then did an alignment. It’s all set.”
I couldn’t believe my ears. I figured the mechanic must have been a former member of Mario Andretti’s pit crew. Either that, or he was like Samantha on “Bewitched.” All he had to do was twitch his nose and “poof!” the car was fixed.
So I now have a car that has clean oil and new tie rods that hopefully will prevent me from ending up treading water in Bear Brook.
But if you see it snowing in the middle of August, you’ll know it’s time for me to have the oil changed again.