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Suburban Island

Car Wars
Friday, Jan. 16, 2004, 10:10 a.m.

QUESTION: Am I bad?

WHAT I LEARNED: Have earplugs, will travel.

Am I bad?

This line from the movie Ė Clueless Ė delivered by the main character, Cher, at a moment in the film when she is making every imaginable mistake possible during the behind the wheel portion of her driving test, sums up my overall response to yesterday.

It really came to me that it was an am-I-bad day when I heard my husband arrive home in the afternoon and ask my daughter where I stowed those fabulous sourdough bread bowls and equally fabulous bowls of cheddar cheese soup that I said Iíd pick up for dinner tonight.

Am I bad?

Yes, I forgot.

Thatís okay because my husband and daughter had other fish to fry. They entertained me with a version of Letís Make a Deal that couldnít be switched off. It revolved around my daughterís car that had been put in the shop overnight and would not be ready until this afternoon. Iíd have really liked to find the remote that changed the channel on this one but it was nowhere to be found. Instead whole symposiums were conducted on the pros and cons related to this problem.

My daughterís position was this Ė pull out the car in the garage that is our emergency car and let her drive it until her car is ready. Simply. Practical. Cost efficient. Her resolve to win this debate is fueled by her desire to hang out with her pals in the wake of a week of midterms and no school to worry about until next Tuesday morning. Oh, and momís car wonít do for this venture. Whatís the problem, daddy-o?

My husband/s position was this Ė he had the car in the garage all cleaned up and under the tarp. Taking this car out of the garage was tantamount to pulling some gold bricks out of Fort Knox on a lark. This isnít an emergency situation, people. Nobody in our family is sure what his definition of emergency is with regard to using this little Dodge Neon but itís probably right up there with national emergencies and natural disasters.

And so the battle begins.

My husband has a creative mind in these situationsĖ suggesting everything from rental cars of dubious character and no CD player in the dash, to the use of the mother-mobile (my car) Ė hey the other kid can get a ride in the a.m. or walk a mile in freezing temperatures with a 50 pound bag of books on his back. His most brilliant - and most unlikely to be accepted - solution was to drive my daughter to visit her pal and pick her up in the a.m. Not a 17-year-old-friendly solution. Can't she ask another friend to drive her around - any friend will do from my husband's perspective.

Yes, any solution is a good one Ė except taking the car we have out of the garage. I know because I have had the unfortunate experience of losing this debate before and had to drive around in a smelly, rattling excuse for a rental car that my husband obtained for me at a bargain rate so that the emergency car could stay warm and comfy in the garage while my car was being repaired. Itís not a pretty picture Ė no, not at all.

At the height of this debate, I heard my husband offering to pay my daughter the cost of a rental to drive momís car. And what about mom? Mom, who needs to be on the road to client appointments by noon. Mom, who needs to drive the other kid to school in the a.m. Mom, who loves the 8 year old, 140,000-miles-on-her Mitsubishi Gallant thatís never given her more than a smidge of trouble in all its years of service.

As the debate ragged on, I was also subjected to extensive commentary and in-depth review of the situation from both sides of the table. There was no escape. When would it stop? Maybe this is why I forgot the sourdough bread-bowls complete with cheddar cheese broccoli soup.

Later last night, after 2 days of spirited discussion, I looked out the door and saw the emergency vehicle sitting quietly at the curb outside our house. The battle had been won. And I, for one, am glad that I will have my car after all, that my daughter will have her night out, and that this little car will have a few hours of freedom, a dose of loud music, and some delightful company before it goes back into hibernation.

The car wars are over. And for the moment - allís quiet of the western front.

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