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Women and gasoline don't mix.


"You know that fan on thefront of the engine?" It was my wife calling from town. Two hours overdue and the highways having been given a "slick and hazardous" rating on the radio that morning, I had good reason to worry. During the first hour I took comfort in the thought that the car had slid off the road and she was keeping the wheels spinning until it ran out of gas. After the second hour I began praying, "Dear God, please bring Lois home safely--so I can kill her." Now, at last, she was on the phone.

"Yes, I know the fan in front ofthe engine. What about it?"

"My raincoat is twisted up in it,and the car won't start."

How does a woman manage toget her raincoat wrapped around that fan in front of the engine? Simple. She spreads her coat over the engine to protect it from moisture from the snow melting on the hood and forgets to remove it when she's through shopping and has finished grinding on the starter. And the fan grinds up the raincoat. It required a Shell service-station man and his assistant and $24 to get it unground.

The automobile, obviously, wasnot invented with the woman in mind. From the time Henry Ford put the horse out of business, the only concession the car people have made to the off sex is to go from basic black to a choice of colors. So instead of turning in our '72 Olds Cutlass the last time I move up to a later vintage, I kept it for Lois to knock around in.

"A car of your very own!" wasthe way I phrased my sales pitch. "And I'm having Paul [the genius at Daniel's Garage who had several times saved the machine from the compactor] make a few alterations for your driving convenience."

I'll spare you the details. Butamong the conveniences were hard-rubber tires, a clear-plastic fuel tank visible above the windshield, and a full-length dresser drawer in place of that enigmatic instrument panel. I even stocked the drawer with her treasures from the old glove compartment: hair curlers, a 1963 Indianapolis city map, a handful of plastic spoons from McDonald's, a yellowed packet of Kleenex, four melted Life-Savers, three Wendy's ketchups, two Victoria Holt paperbacks, and a partridge in a pear tree (finger-painted three years ago by Kris, our grandson). This still left room for Paul to install the windshield washer-wiper and the radio. Somehow he also managed to rig up an audio system that would announce emergencies such as "oil low" ... "radiator boiling" ... "muffler has fallen off."

But not even Paul couldforesee every contingency. "You know that thing that's supposed to spray the windhsield?" She was calling again from town.

"Yes, what about it?" I asked,stretching the phone cord over to the sink, just in case.

"Only oil comes out," she said.

Yes, the woman I had taken forbetter or for worse--but certainly not for this--had filled the windshield washer with good old Kendall 10W40. Paul managed to get the container flushed, but the rubber hoses all had to be replaced.

Winter is an especially badseason for the woman on the road. Worse, of course, for the woman off the road--where one woman in particular spends hours at a time. We've already been kicked out of two motor clubs, and our membership in You go or We Tow, Inc., is hanging by a thread.

In an attempt to be helpful withoutflaunting my God-given male superiority, I suggested she put a few bags of sand in the trunk to hold the rear end down and give the car batter traction--especially coming up our driveway, which is more like a long ramp with a bend in the middle. If she got stuck the could put the sand under the wheels to keep them from spinning.

So what did she tore in thetrunk? Two 80-pound bags of "sand mix."

"I thought it was sand mixedwith salt," she whimpered when I came home one night and found her car solidly cemented to our ramp about halfway up.

For the next two days I had totake a by-pass through the barnyard until I could find a man with a jackhammer to come and jackhammer the wheels loose. It may be summer before the last chunk of concrete breaks off the tires and her car no longer sounds like a two-tone grocery cart with a flat wheel.

In my naivete I had thought thatwinter could hold nothing more traumatic for a husband than getting an emergency call from his wife during a snowstorm. I had overlooked the theory widely held by women that the faster they can make the wheels churn, the faster the snow will melt down to solid footing, and the sooner they will be on their merry way. Given the time, sufficient fuel, and a car that wouldn't slide out of the ruts, this strategy might even work. But not in our driveway, with its 40-degree incline (or decline, depending on whether we are coming or going. And further depending on whether she knows the difference).

Worse than an emergency phonecall from your wife is to get nicely settled in robe and slippers on a wintry eve and have her come stomping in, shower wet snow on your magazine--and the dog asleep at your feet--and say, "You know that fence by the barnyard gate?"

"Yes, I know that fence. Why?"

"Well, it's sort of down. Andthe car is sort of on the other side."

Exchanging my robe for a mackinaw,my slipper for galoshes, and the comfort of the sofa in our snug living room for the frigid blast sweeping up our driveway, I floundered down to the feeble glow of the headlights and saw that the radiator was sending up steam signals of distress.

Not only did I find the fencesort of down, but the gate was also sort of horizontal. And three fence posts were definitely not perpendicular.

A cursory survey of the battlefieldrevealed that Lois had kept the wheels spinning faithfully until the back bumper had come to rest against a sassafras tree--at which point she had humbled herself to come up and ask for help.

Regardless of the number ofyears two people have continued to unite their plights in holy wedlock, or whatever, few opportunities are made-to-order like this for the male of the species to prove his superiority. Although my glasses were already frosted to zero visibility and snow from the sassafras packed the neck of my mackinaw as I shoveled out the wheels and spread sand in the tracks, I welcomed the challenge.

Finally, with everything "go" exceptfor firing up the old bus and easing it out of there, I went back to the house and had Lois rewinterize herself and come down to watch. It was time she learned the proper technique for getting a car out of a seemingly hopeless. . . .

"You should have signaled before Iwent sliding through Miller's fence," I said, as we floundered back to the house to call for a wrecker. "Flapped your arms or something. A man just naturally would have known that."

"I yelled for you to stop," shesaid. "I guess you couldn't hear me with the tires making so much noise. [Did I detect a note of sarcasm?] I thought maybe you were trying to show me how to go through a fence without leveling the posts. But you took out four to my three. Congratulations."

Just between us men, I'd forgottenabout the lousy fence. And you know that driveway of Miller's? If I could only have kept the car sliding, I'd have hit it just right to be headed for the road.

But try explaining that to awoman--especially to one crass emough to count fence posts."
COPYRIGHT 1986 Saturday Evening Post Society
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Copyright 1986 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Stoddard, Maynard Good
Publication:Saturday Evening Post
Date:Jan 1, 1986
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