Thursday, January 29, 2009

A Classic

I've been reading a lot of other bloggers and their comments, issues and problems with the cold, icy weather back in the US and elsewhere, and I am reminded of two things:

1) Why we were happy to extend in Cairo. As Honor would say... Duh?... (where did she get that?!) It's mid-January and our lows are in the 50's, at night, even at the coldest right before dawn part of the day, even with wind. Now true, we have also been dealing with conditions that range from "Haze" (right now) to "Widespread dust" to "Sand" .. but at least it is warm sand. It is comfortable here! We could do without the pollution, but the weather is so mild. A light jacket, a fleece... I sometimes wear very thin gloves when out walking any distance in the mornings because I don't like my hands in my pockets and I am a wimp... but Brian will wear short-sleeve shirts to school and refuse to bring a jacket. Getting used to 15F and below again? Oh no. Ice on windows, sidewalks, sleet blown through your clothes, down your neck and into your bra, etc. No. Thank. You. Snow plows stacking snow/ice berms across your street so high that not even the National Guard's HMMWV's can make it through and the police/doctors they come to pick up have to hike it out ...and yes, HMMWV - High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle (HMMWV or Humvee) real ones, which can usually drive anywhere, unable to make it down the road... I'm not talking about one of those wimpy, wannabe civilian models... Am I looking forward to that kind of weather/road conditions again? No.

Also,

2) I am reminded of dealing with vehicles and driving in that weather. Specifically, this morning I was reminded of driving my old '79 Chevy Caprice Classic (from many many years ago, but some memories linger more brightly...) because I saw one parked on the side of the road today as I walked home from the school. My old Caprice took longer to warm up than the drive to work (and no, I did not live anywhere close enough to just walk). This was the car from which I met sasquatch. More on that later...

First, so you know what I am talking about, the Caprice was HUGE. A 1979 model. I bought it because I needed a car, had barely $1000 to my name, and while this car was old and UGLY as sin, body rusted out, paint faded, driver door a different color than the rest of the car... the engine had been completely rebuilt by someone I trusted, and most important, who had promised help if needed... a promise worth the car's weight in pure gold when you have no money! My car looked like this, only moldy brown and rusty:

It was dubbed Thumper by my friends - based on an incident involving a body (not my fault!) which is a story for another time. Notice how it does not fit into a parking space... this is the reality. You could sit 8 people or more in the thing (not all with seatbelts, but there was room) and I once fit an entire, live Christmas tree, over 8ft tall, in the trunk... and closed the lid. I believe that the car body needed to be this big in order to balance the weight of the 350cu engine. The engine was big enough to power a medium sized aircraft.. like a 737... and powerful enough to guarantee I never had to lift a finger to do anything with this car. I was newly, happily, married, so did not need a car for a guy-magnet, but single ladies take note, my rust-bucket of a monster car attracted men. All I had to do was pull up to a gas pump and guys would appear from all directions offering to pump my gas, and did I need my oil checked too? Please, can we lift the hood?!? I could not get an oil change without fending off offers to buy the car. My first car was an old Mustang and I got similar attention with that, but nowhere near this extreme.. and the Mustang had a nice paint job! We eventually sold this car - two years later, with more rust, 1000's of more miles on it, more bits fallen off, heater and defroster kaput... and we still got $700 for it without even trying.

Anyway... how ugly was it? Bad enough that when we moved into a new neighborhood in Georgia, the neighbors almost called the cops on us as we sat outside the house we were contemplating buying while waiting for the real estate agent. We bought the house and found we needed to keep the car hidden in the garage to appease these same neighbors. While still in the DC area with it, I found it to be an awesome car for rush hour. Do I want to pull onto the beltway? Yes I do. All I had to do was accelerate... space all around me opened up like magic. Someone getting a bit brave and crowding me? Waggle the steering wheel, shimmy the car... space! And parking? Where ever I wanted baby! It was huge, but I was used to driving big Army trucks. I had the ability to maneuver my land barge and park it, safely, where I wanted. And NOBODY would park me in or block my doors. I loved it! We lived in a Virginia apartment complex for awhile... and while they were polite enough to never say anything, I don't think they actually liked my car there either. In winter time the plow driver always 'strategically' piled all the snow around my car to hide it from the road... which brings me to bigfoot...

One bitterly cold, icy, snowy day... which I would have loved to have pretended did not exist - I could have stayed in bed and waited it out - but, I was active duty Army at the time, and essential personnel, so of course I had to go out at O' dark O'clock to get to work... It was about 4:30am. Pitch black dark, except for all of that swirling white snow. Cold. Nobody in their right mind was out yet, so the parking lot was not plowed and the sidewalks were slick. I was even out before the guy who delivered the Post showed up, and that took some doing. I skated out to the car, which was, as typical, hidden behind walls of plowed snow that had melted and refrozen in unfortunate places under, behind, and around the car. I unlocked the door - good the lock wasn't frozen - and yanked the door handle. The door was frozen. It did not move. My feet did, despite the good tread on my Army boots. Next thing I know, I wa looking up at the door handle from underneath... I'd slid most of the way UNDER the car (yes, the car was that flippin big).

I didn't get hurt when I fell... it was a smooth, fast, slide down, but not hard... it was tough getting up again because of the ice on the ground and on my car. A serious case of the giggles was nearly my undoing - I could just picture the police having to contact my husband, who was out of state at the time - "Sir, we found your wife frozen under her car, she's expected to live, but we can't get her to stop laughing." Eventually I regained control, struggled out, got the door open, and started the car so it could begin to defrost. (This was back when the defroster actually worked and I didn't have to carry windex in the car to squirt on the windshield as I drove...) I went around and scraped all the ice and snow off of the car... even the roof, I am a considerate commuter and not one who will leave ice chunks on my car top to blow off at highway speeds and crash through your windshield (I HATE those lazy people...) I got in the car and tried to back out.

Um... with a car that weighed as much as a small house, getting 'stuck' was not normal. Add in the fact that the engine could haul your average Metro train, and the tires were in good shape.... well, it should have been IMPOSSIBLE for this car to get stuck. Push gas, car goes. Period. And yes, the driver had experience... Army 4wd, mud up to the floorboards, water pouring in the windows type driving experience.. the car would not go. The front and rear tires were sunk into perfect ice wells and no matter how I rocked the car... accelerate, brake, you name it... we weren't going anywhere. It called for chains, or something else, to use as traction, and I didn't own any chains, nor could I have installed them at the time... besides, a crowded parking lot isn't the best place to go skidding around wildly, in a rusty land yacht, with various bits of debris flying out from under the wheels... neighbors with NICE cars object.

So, I stopped. Sat there idling a minute, just looking out into the dark cold morning. Ice was trying to form again on the edges of the windshield, snow blowing sideways... and that's when I saw sasquatch appear. He looked cold. I saw him coming from out of nowhere - really, from where? the woods? Why was he out on the other side of the road at that hour, in that weather? I mean, it could have been a neighbor, or a homeless guy, but I don't know... He leaned against the wind as he crossed the empty, early morning street - I had the headlights off and I couldn't see much, just this HUGE hulking shape - and he walked right up to the front of my car. I felt around for the mace, but apparently, (fortunately), this was one of the well-mannered myth-types. He stopped in the front of the car, reached one hand down to the bumper, put his great shoulder to the front of the car, and motioned for me to start rocking the car back again. I was a little nervous about doing so.. the car was huge and I didn't want to hit him, but I did as requested. We rocked that car... every time we rocked back, bigfoot heaved on the bumper. I swear to god, the front end of my car - with that huge heavy massive engine - went UP off the ground. Unfortunately, the back end of the car was so far away that the upward, backward momentum had no effect. Eventually, my mysterious helper shrugged his shoulders and disappeared back into the snow... never to be seen again... and I'm no dummy. When some cousin of a Yeti says you aren't going anywhere because the weather is bad, you aren't going anywhere. I went back inside, called the unit, and said that if they really needed me, they could come get me. (Later that day, only after hours of chipping away ice with a shovel, I managed to free the tires.)

I am not looking forward to returning to the land of the snow-bound and ice-covered. OK, other things I do miss, and I do want to live with again... like clean air, trees, being able to walk through the lawn barefoot, etc. but the need for parkas?? Not really. Those of you dealing with it right now... you have my utmost sympathy. And if you should run into sasquatch, tell him I say "Hi".

13 comments:

LiLu said...

"...based on an incident involving a body (not my fault!) which is a story for another time."

Don't do a TMI Thursday if it's going to get you arrested!

Tina in CT said...

OMG! What an ordeal getting your land yacht unstuck. Fortunately I have never had such an experience. I am one of those weird people that love winter (but not ice).

Simple Answer said...

I drove the Rhino - a buick regal that could fit 4 across the front bench seat. Needless to say I could relate to a lot of this post!

No winter? Hasn't bothered me. All those things you miss, I second.

Veronica said...

Winter? What's that? ;-)

Connie said...

Veronica - ok Ms. Upside-down-yonder, you know what winter is... I'm sure if I could get National Geographic in Florida when I was a kid, you've seen winter in pictures too. ;-)

Bella@That damn expat said...

Hey, thanks for visiting my blog!

We've been having lots of sun lately but the cold is relentless. Oh how I envy you.

Nicole said...

You gotta love those "beast" cars!

I am so jealous of your weather! I can't really complain though, we have been pretty lucky here in CO. We have had it much worse in the past few years!

blue said...

Oh, I`m so with you on the ice and snow. It`s been chilly at night here in Guatemala, but during the day, we have tropical sun and it`s almost too hot . . . nope, I`m not going back to snow and frozen tundra!

Diane Mandy said...

Ha! Your post takes me back to the days of my white Ford Granada with a baby blue top and baby blue seats. We called it the Love Boat because it's size and handling!

Stacey said...

Hello I have a question. What made you choose to live in Egypt? I was just curious..

Connie said...

Hi Stacey... our jobs brought us here. It is a good place to be too. Very friendly, laid back, etc. I would hope to come back again in future for another tour.

Stacey said...

Hi Connie,
Thanks for answering my question... Your girls are gorgeous.. I have stoppped by a few times through The Reed's blog. I will be back to read your latest after dinner tonight.. I live in NY with my husband and 2 boys adopted from Russia and my baby girl from Guatemala..
I think your next post should be about Egypy.. I would love to find out how it is different to live there verses the US. Well nice meeting you!

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