by Deborah L. Reed
Several years ago my husband and I were driving to Wal-Mart in one of our Thank-You-God cars. A Thank-You-God car, for those of you who have never possessed one, is a car that, when you reach your destination, you raise your eyes heavenward and say “Thank you, God.” It is not to be confused with an In-the-Name-of-Jesus car, so called because when you place the key in the ignition you are required say “In the name of Jesus, let this car start.” While alike in many ways, the two are not exactly the same. A Thank-You-God car starts quickly enough, but has a tendency to leave you at the side of the road, while an In-the-Name-of-Jesus car takes forever to start, but once it gets going it purrs along nicely. The two are similar, but each one provides its own special type of aggravation. I’ve owned both types, but this particular day we were driving a Thank-You-God car.
To get from our house to Wal-Mart we had to take the Loop, speed limit sixty. For the first several miles, our Thank-You-God car did just fine, but we had learned the hard way that disaster could strike at any time, so both of us were subconsciously keeping our eyes and ears open for any sign of trouble.
We had driven about five miles, were about half-way to Wal-Mart, when we heard a clunk. Our eyes widened and we looked at each other in horror. What fresh hell is this? Immediately following the clunk was a series of clangs. I turned around and saw something, I couldn’t tell what, bouncing merrily down the road.
“What was that?” my husband said.
“I don’t know.”
“What do you mean, you don’t know? Something fell off the car, you saw it, what did it look like?”
“I don’t know, it was just a something.”
My husband pounded his hands on the steering wheel. “Was it big, little, or what?”
“I don’t know!”
Another pound on the steering wheel. “How can you not know!”
Things went along in this vein for another mile or so until it occurred to us. How bad could it be? We were still moving, which, in a Thank-You-God car, counts as a success. We were silent for a moment as we listened to the engine. Nope, no strange noises…well, only the usual strange noises, for this car always sounded like it was going to die at any moment. We were still going about sixty, but it occurred to us that we might have a problem when we slowed to make the exit. This had happened before--inertia would keep the car going, but when we slowed down, the engine would die. We were still silent, each of us mouthing a fervent prayer, as we approached the exit.
Nothing happened. Nothing bad, I mean. The Thank-You-God car obediently slowed for the merge, then sped up again as we hit the access road. We looked at each other in bewilderment. Something had fallen off, what was it? We approached the parking lot. Perhaps the car would die when we made the sharp right turn. But no, nothing untoward happened. We pulled into a parking space with no difficulty whatsoever and my husband killed the engine.
“See if it will start back up again,” I told him.
A quick turn of the key and the engine puttered to life. We again listened for strange noises and again heard only the “normal” ones. This was turning into quite the mystery. Is it possible for something to fall off a car and it just not matter? The thing that clanged down the road must have some kind of purpose, right? We sat in the car for several moments, pondering this mystery, and then my husband gave a little shrug and opened the car door.
It fell onto the pavement.
Mystery solved. The “something” that fell off the car was the one thing that kept the door attached to it. There was a moment of stunned silence as we just sat there, the car in one place, the door in another. We were beginning to get strange looks as others, those who had exited their vehicles without the driver’s side door falling off, veered around us. We had to do something, but what?
I remained in my seat as my husband got out of the car, no easy task as he had to step over the door on the ground. He stared at it for a moment and then, rather testily, I might say, told me to get out of the car and help him, that the door was too heavy and cumbersome for him to handle alone.
“What are you going to do?” I asked.
“We,” he replied with an air of exaggerated patience, “are going to put the door back on.”
“I…don’t…know,” he replied through clenched teeth.
“But won’t it just off fall off again when you get back in?” I asked innocently. This was one question too many, for it pushed my husband over the edge.
“Get out of the car!” he roared.
By this time we were making quite a spectacle of ourselves, what with our doorless car and my husband ranting and raving at me. People gave us a wide berth as we picked up the car door and made several futile attempts to reattach it. It needs to be said that, although none of this could any way be construed as my fault, I bore the brunt of my husband’s ire throughout the whole ordeal. Finally, an innocent bystander, a male one, took pity on me.
“I can help you, sir,” he said as he approached us. And he did, whether he was a mechanic or a just a
Thank-You-God car owner himself, I don’t know, but he and my husband reattached the door in a matter of few minutes. We still had the problem of the door falling off again, but for the moment, the car looked almost normal.
We silently (by this time we weren’t talking to each other) completed our shopping and returned to the car. I stood to one side as my husband entered through the passenger door and crawled behind the wheel. We drove home.
Then what, you ask? I don’t remember. I have no memory of how we solved the car door problem, or even if it did get solved. We had so many used cars, you see, and they had so many problems, that, in self defense, I have blocked most of them out. I don’t even remember what kind of car it was, other than, of course, it was not an In-the-Name-of-Jesus car, but rather one of our many Thank-You-God cars. So I can’t tell you if we bought a new part, or another car or what. I can’t even give you the general date of when this incident happened.
I can tell you one thing though. Used cars are like foxholes; there are no atheists in them.