Doing the Can-Can

Inevitably, your car needs to go into the shop for maintenance and repairs. That’s part of life. There is another part of the car + mileage = repairs equation. What do you drive while your car is being fixed?

I, of course, have found myself in this situation more than once. It was December of 2008 when I was running some errands after work when the mighty 1992 Honda Accord began to overheat. I’d known it was inevitable. After all, the deer I’d hit in 2006 had done some damage to my radiator that I’d gotten JB Weld-ed back together. I harbored no illusions that JB Weld made for a professional and permanent repair, I’d just hoped to ride it out as long as I could. Well, my ticket was finally up.

I got Isabelle limped into the closest business I knew would have antifreeze in stock and rushed in. I wasn’t in the store even ten minutes and I returned to my beautiful (to me) little car hemorrhaging acid green fluid all over the tarmac. At that point, I had two gallons of antifreeze and hoped it was enough to get me home. Unfortunately for me, it was winter in an area of the United States that sits just west of the Rocky Mountains. Dumping water into the radiator as needed was not an option.

Once I limped my car home, I made all the phone calls to get things arranged for my Isabelle to be towed to the dealership. Unfortunately, repairs would not be immediate because parts had to be ordered and all of that fun stuff. That left me with one more call to make. My boss said she understood that I wouldn’t be in the next day. However, what wasn’t going to fly was me missing work the rest of the time my car was out of commission. She informed me that I could borrow her husband’s truck until this radiator kerfluffle was handled.

Relief struck me. There was no way I could have afforded a rental and the good folks at the dealership were out of loaner cars. I live in a place where you have to have a car. Public transportation isn’t an option since the busses only run once an hour and couldn’t get me where I needed to go. I worked fifteen miles away in another town. I was saved by the generosity and kindness of my boss and her family. I could not thank them enough when they dropped the truck off that evening.

These need to make a comeback. (Photo by eBay member *vintage*soul*)

My transportation for the next ten days was a 1983 Dodge Ram pickup truck complete with a topper and the original hood ornament. I was so grateful. I had transportation! Not only could I get to work and do trivial things like grocery shopping, I had a means of getting my goldfish, Opakapaka, to the veterinary teaching hospital about thirty miles away at Washington State University in Pullman. My big goldie had a weekly standing appointment to have fluid aspirated from her abdomen in what turned out to be polycystic kidney disease and she could not get her treatment unless I took her to Pullman.

Washington State University in the wintertime. (Photo by Kevin Delaney)

Driving this truck was an adjustment from my Accord. It sat higher, was harder to see out of, and when I looked into the rear-view mirror, I got a lovely view of the porcelain toilet that lived in the back. Park the truck, toilet. Go through the drive-thru at the bank, toilet. Hoof it up Lewiston Hill in the slow lane, toilet. Carefully back out of the tight parking lot at the veterinary teaching hospital, toilet. Oh, and I can’t forget the little muddy kitty feet all across the hood. Toilet.

There was not a single mile I covered in that truck without a grin on my face. It was like I had a constant source of smile-inducing sunshine. I was literally driving a bathroom joke. Now, I assume that the broken can rode around in the bed as extra weight over the rear axle for added traction in winter conditions. I hoped that anyone who happened to peer into the topper and see the toilet would smile as wide as I did. I liked the idea of spreading joy at the gloomiest part of the year that didn’t involve greed or children howling at mall Santas. While potty humor is not in good taste in most circles, certainly seeing a random truck with an equally as random toilet in it brings cheer.

The Dodge got abysmal gas mileage, which is probably the only thing that has kept me from sourcing my own and purchasing a cheap second-hand throne from the Habitat for Humanity Store to go in the back. My budget just could not and still can’t support a large truck, and as a Montana native, that does make me sad on a fundamental level.

Soon, I got the call that my car was ready and I could pick her up. I drove out to work that last time in my borrowed ride so I could turn it back over to my boss’ husband. I parked it up outside the office and glanced up at the mirror one last time. Toilet.

All I could do was laugh.