Crackling Rosie & The Great Canadian Oil Strange

This may come as an absolute shock to some, but I have no idea what makes a car go Vrooom.  (That’s a word isn’t it?) You would not want me in the NASCAR pit with you, I would just keep getting in everyone’s way, offering freshly squeezed lemonade from an over-sized glass pitcher and asking incessant questions like a toddler: “what’s that? why is he doing that? can I play with that? when can we go?”

When I bought my little red Kia Rio, five years ago, I named her ‘Cracking Rosie’ after the Neil Diamond classic, which played on the radio the day I brought her home.


Cracklin’ Rosie, git on board/We’re gonna ride ’till there ain’t no more ta go…You got the way to make me happy/ You and me, we go in style /Cracklin’ Rose, you’re a store bought woman/ But you make me sing like a guitar hummin'”

It’s pretty much the happiest song ever, and I’m sure that Neil Diamond wrote that song either about his new red Kio Rio…or a dodgy prostitute with a heart of gold.

Right after I bought her, I drove to Alberta to visit my best friend; on the way back, the check engine light came on.  Bugger.  I’ve been faced with car troubles a few times– like when my first car, the silver Volvo I purchased for $500, stopped going backwards– and I didn’t have the first clue what to check.  I took it to a gas station, had someone else look at it, and was able to make it home safely and the problem was resolved under warranty.  And when we returned to Canada, my parents, who had been driving Rosie, handed her over, and she was still in stellar condition.  All was well with Rosie until one night, when the dash lights and back running lights inexplicably died.  The car ran smoothly otherwise, but until it could be fixed the car couldn’t be used at night, and so Cracking Rosie and I were constantly chasing twilight.  I took it to the local mechanic four different times before they passed.  Like actually said: “Thanks, but no thanks”.  We had to take the car out of town to a Kia dealership to repair the vehicle.  When I called Ian, the Kia mechanic, I had a post-it note covered in car ‘buzz-words’ so I would sound knowledgeable.  But then he asked questions about the integrity of the cars engine-ness–ones that went well beyond my meager notes,  all I could say was “Ian…the car is red…it has a steering wheel and a stereo, I don’t know what more I can tell you”.  He howled, and then slowed it down for me, explaining the intricacies in the same way Annie Sullivan had to explain water to Helen Keller.

miracleworkerannebancroftpattydukewaterpumpOn our recent overnight getaway–somewhere around Salmon Arm, the check engine light came on.  Ben’s brow immediately furrowed, as he searched for a spot to pull over.  I resent the light for a number of reasons, that it allowed worry to leak into my husband’s relaxing holiday, and that unless he needs me to hold something,  I have absolutely no ability to assist in this situation.  In the gas station parking lot, Ben pops the hood and assesses fluids, wires and whatnot.  He’s enough of a car guy to look into the engine and deduce where the damage may be. I just stare into the mystery machine, like it was an ancient manuscript written in an obsolete language.

papyrus1A big thanks to for this artists rendition of what I think my engine really looks like.

On the way home, Ben started to talk ‘worst case scenario’, what if Rosie died? What if we needed to replace her?  How much in repairs were we willing to pay?  And I am brushing off his fears–“She’s fine, we’ll get home”; I’m just not prepared to wrap my head around selling it for something “better”. The car occasionally gives us grief; but it’s cute, economical and I figure Ben can eventually get his truck, and I can lovingly drive Rosie into the ground.

Yesterday Ben suggested that I take Cracking Rosie for an oil change.  This kind of thing gives me anxiety.  I’ve only taken it once before, and there was no one else in the shop, and I dropped it off to run an errand.  And moreover…I’m just too pretty for a garage, you know?  Not so pretty that anyone would want me to lean lustily on a car and take pictures, but I’m a delicate flower, and clearly don’t belong there.

And in that spirit, I basically did everything wrong at The Great Canadian Oil Change. I didn’t know that you just pull in behind any mid-serviced vehicle, so I walked in to inquire about an oil change, and then waited in the parking lot until someone came out and told me to move my car: “I didn’t know you didn’t know what to do”, the mechanic said.  I bring the car round;  when it is my turn to pull in, I feel nervous and self conscious.  Everyone scatters, and I’m not entirely sure how to proceed.  Do I get out of the car? Am I doing this wrong?  Where is everybody?  So I grab the Fleetwood Mac biography I borrowed from my friend Trish, and flip through it as I wait.  I hear yelling and realize it’s being directed at me: “Pop the hood. Pop the hood! POP THE HOOD!!”.  I glance up and see two mechanics staring at me through the windscreen as if I were the stupidest woman alive.  And to prove their theory correct, I panic and immediately open the trunk.  Laughter erupts and echos throughout the shop; there is actual slapping of knees and wiping away of tears, and this satisfied sigh that followed in this ‘it feels so good to laugh that hard’ kind of way.  I smile weakly, my cheeks flushing and my hands shaking as I reach for the correct lever.

The mechanic that I am primarily dealing with is brand new–and so this simple oil change is becoming like two virgins on their wedding night–lots of starts and stops, awkward questions and expressions like “I’ve never done this before” and “I’m sorry, I’m new at this” being endlessly tossed around. He tells me that the engine looks fine, but that the fuel filter needs changing.  I smile knowingly, and then immediately call my husband.  “He says we need a new fuel filter.  Is that a thing? Fuel filter?”  I’m not car-savvy but I’m also not a fool; I know that I am just the type that mechanics could make a small fortune on: “Yup, you are going to need an Excalibur and your Spartacus is going to need a tuning”.  And I would believe them, because I clearly don’t know the difference between the trunk and the engine.  These guys could have easily taken me for a ride without even hitting the road; and I couldn’t bear being that type of girl.

Gil Elvgren car

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s