Mr. ETB managed to rip off part of his muffler going over a railroad crossing. By Saturday, the car was still sitting in the lot at work (where he'd been, without sleep for the last 48 hours looking at a computer trying to make things work). I dressed as lightly as I could without being indecent (not that my middle aged saggy boobs don't look terrific falling out of a tank top-because they do, but it really wouldn't be proper to be waving those things all over town-not the nice part of town. I save that sort of thing for grocery shopping in Wahoo) as it was our first 90 degree F. day, and with Danny in the backseat, headed into Lincoln to get his car towed to a muffler shop. Yeah, I brought Mr. ETB lunch too.
Here's a helpful tip for anyone thinking about visiting Lincoln, Nebraska (I mean other than, "don't" which is always my first thought-and a good thought at that) South 14th street does not go all the way through. You end up in some sort of maze of public works offices, which if you understand where you are is probably easy enough to navigate. Yeah, I didn't know where I was. I did end up figuring it out easily enough-I have an incredible sense of direction. I have no idea why, but I consider it a gift. A gift that was helpful living all those years in Boston. Lincoln is confusing, but you won't end up in Rhode Island if you miss a turn.
Have I mentioned how hot it is, and I don't have air conditioning in my car, and there's a 45 mph wind tossing us all over the road? Yeah, that was fun. So we find his workplace, call AAA, and I clean out my car while waiting for the tow truck. It was kind of hot, but I'd just filled gallon jugs of water at the store, so I held the bottle of water, stuck in a straw (you don't keep extra straws in the glove box? What sort of a mother doesn't have extra straws in the glove box?) and let Danny drink from it.
"Mama? I don't think this is polite."
"Sure it is baby, you're in Lincoln. A straw is totally classy by Lincoln standards."
Finally, the tow truck arrives. I guess I knew this wasn't going to be my typical tow-truck experience because the guy jumped from the truck to shake my hand. Granted, my local tow-truck guy has a deformed hand ala Bob Dole, which may account for the not extending it, but really, I just think it was weird. Which brings me to an observation I've made about Lincoln, Nebraska:
Every interaction I have with someone from Lincoln, Nebraska is either reminiscent of the movie Gummo, or The Music Man (or on occasion the Simpsons take on The Music Man with the "Monorail" skit). Tow-truck guy was the later. I was really glad he didn't sing, but I was afraid he might. We recently had a door-to-door salesman come to the house selling some sort of health care service, and he gave off the same vibe, but with a bit of serial killer mixed in. I spoke to him through a locked door. He didn't sing either, but he really seemed like he might. He was freakishly tall and greeted me with:
"Hello Ma'am, my name is Joe Xyzmultisyllable, my name is as long as I am tall, but I have something you'll find very interesting..."
Have you ever had the experience where you're speaking to someone, or in this case listening and you think, "I might not get out of this alive." It feels much worse when you're trapped alone in your home rather than on a public street, but I did keep one hand on the telephone ready to dial 911. He finally left, apparently pulling the same exact routine at all the houses down the rural road (which is like, I dunno-five). I don't think he was a very good salesman. He might have a future in musicals, if he can sing.
Introductions out of the way, tow-truck guy crawled under the car to have a look. Mind you, I wanted to just take the damn thing up with duct tape, and roll it down the street to the muffler place, but Mr. ETB is kind of middle class when it comes to things like that. I use what I have. I needed a headband this morning, so I took and old knee-sock and tied the ends together. I now have a white headband. That's how I do things. I would have duct taped the muffler, were I alone.
"You know", he told me "I could just saw it off."
Again, we'd be talking about a tow of less than a mile, but on the hottest day of the year, Music Man decides to crawl under the car and remove the muffler-a task that took much longer than a tow down the street. I think he just wanted to get all macho, and impress me with his pliers and hacksaw. Never underestimate the power of middle aged cleavage.
"Hey", he tells me "You'd better get this replaced right away if he has to commute to Lincoln every day."
At this he slid partly out from beneath the car, and in a low, conspiratorial, voice- like someone might hear us in an empty parking lot over the noise of a railroad track and 45 mph wind:
"Yeah, Lincoln police are (again, he whispers) assholes."
True enough, but hardly a secret. In fact, driving in I saw the police helicopter hovering low over an outdoor street party being held at the Salvation Army. Maybe they were afraid one of the destitute would take an extra cupcake or something. It really struck me as horrible, in a police state kind of way. I didn't notice any police state-ish activity once I got into South Lincoln. I didn't notice anything-it almost felt rural. At that point I was no longer afraid he was about to sing, but I did wonder if he was going to tell me about the chip in his head.
Dude, they can hear your thoughts.
After making use of an assortment of tools, Mr. Tow Truck guy finally removes the muffler. That was kind of funny-you could see where it was completely worn through and had actually been getting dragged along for quite some time before finally being pulled down. That car. We bought it after our other car was wrecked in the tornado. It cost $1,000.00 and we've put about the same into it, but it runs. Bonus fun-he bought it from a guy with a monkey. No really, I'm serious, the mechanic has a pet monkey-how awesome is that? A guy with a pet monkey isn't going to rip you off on a car. I don't have any statistics to back that up, save for my own anecdotal evidence (anecdotal based on one purchase because I've never bought another car from someone with a pet monkey, but still), but he's a good guy, who sold us a good car, even if it looks like a complete piece of shit. And he has a pet monkey. Come on, you think that's cool too. I wish I had a pet monkey. A complete shit-mobile inside (and it has a leaky roof, mould and god knows what else-but it runs. Mr. ETB has pretty low standards for automobiles, and in a way it is reassuring that if he decides to have some sort of mid-life crisis, he won't be out cruising chicks. No woman will get into that car, unless she's dragged in. I don't think he has the upper body strength to abduct anyone. He can't push the lawnmower.
"I'll just put the muffler in the trunk for you, if you open it."
"Oh...I really don't need it, can't we just leave it in a dumpster...or..."
"Oh no, you'll want this for parts. These are all original."
Original, but completely rusted. We're not talking about a collector's car. We're talking about a car from the early 90's. Sure, it has a turbo engine, which I guess is kind of rare for this car, but really, that muffler is going to sit in my garden shed, probably until we move.
"Mama? Are you sure this is classy?"
"Sure, baby. You don't want to get dehydrated."
I did make him go inside to use the restroom because I thought peeing along the railroad tracks in South Lincoln is probably some sort of felony, and you never know when the helicopter might be swooping by.
Finally, if you were the elderly man in the right lane with your windows down stopped at 27th and Cornhusker when someone went screeching through the light at what was probably 90 mph...thank you for laughing at my outburst. Some days, I think no one else understands when I'm channeling my grandmother.
"Jesus, Mary, and Joseph! Where'd he get his driver's license? In a Cracker Jack box?!"
God, I hope I don't need to go there again any time soon.