PASSING NOTES: <span>With a very loud boom</span>  

“Loud like a trashcan cherry bomb / Like a storm before the calm / It was loud, yeah, yeah”—Sammy Hagar “Loud”

Seven years ago, six months before my 40th birthday, I bought a convertible. I know this in part because of Facebook memories, which is also, incidentally, the only way I can keep up with the ages of my cats, and, increasingly as the years pass, with my own age.

She was not a new convertible even then. In fact, she was 16 when I got her, so if you’re not into doing the math yourself, that makes my car 23 years old this year, still a couple of years from her “historic license plates” birthday, but no spring chicken.

I love my car. She is metallic green. Actually, I think of her as British Racing Green, but technically she is not because she was designed and built by a German car company and, for somewhat obvious historical reasons, they do not paint their cars “British Racing Green.”

I call her Esmeralda, which is a name taken from the Spanish word for “emerald,” and also the name of Quasimodo’s beloved gypsy girl in “The Hunchback of Notre Dame.” This name suits her, and she and I are friends.

I feel I should point out here that I am not so sexist as to describe all cars as “she” cars. Esmeralda is a female, but for many years I drove a Toyota Celica that was unmistakably male and was named George. I referred to George exclusively by his proper name, which sometimes caused confusion among strangers who assumed George was my boyfriend right up until the moment when I said something about him having a dent in his hood.

In hindsight, I probably had some older professors who thought that was some kind of euphemism or at the very least one of the bizarre things that young people say about each other.

This is something I can see myself doing now. I routinely have to ask my friend Susan’s children (who are no longer children, but are young adults and talk like young adults and listen to the rap music) to explain some bit of slang I’ve picked up in class or in the wild and untamed cultural jungle that is YouTube.

At any rate, Esmeralda is on the IL, which is what Major League Baseball now calls the DL out of concern that the term Disabled List wrongly conflated injury and disability. (This is the world we live in. Try to keep up.)

It’s a sad story.

On Saturday, I put my friend’s ragtop up, and she and I went down to Johnny Wheels to get her a proper bath. I am already a little embarrassed because Esmeralda’s ragtop is covered in cat hair, which, along with showing our moral and financial support for the Corbin Redhounds Football Team, is why we are at this fundraiser car wash to begin with—to get rid of the cat hair and also the pollen.

Being a ragtop, Esmeralda does not care for drive-through car washes.

Now, I might have mentioned that Esmeralda is not a spring chicken. She has some quirks, as do I, so we generally get along fine. But one of Esmeralda’s quirks is that she has a little trouble regulating her internal temperature. I understand that. I’m no spring chicken myself, and I increasingly overheat for no good reason as well.

So, while we are waiting in line to have our bath, Esmeralda overheats.

Then she exploded.

Well, not exactly exploded, but inside the car or standing close to the hood that’s what it sounded like. Grown men ducked and looked around for the cannon that had fired on them.

It turns out Esmeralda had blown her radiator, and when I say “blown” I mean it. She blew her radiator in two. Grown men who had “been working on cars [their] whole life” had “never seen the like.” Every coach and football dad in the entire Johnny Wheels parking lot, as well as a few football players and some guys who had just pulled in to have their trucks washed, were called over to look at the remains of Esmeralda’s radiator.

I was pretty well shell-shocked. After all, I was sitting in the car when that cannon went off, and there was an awful lot of what looked like smoke (but I’m told was probably steam).

So it was a sad day, but through it all, I counted a lot of silver linings.

For one thing, if your radiator is going to crack like an egg, it’s handy to be sitting in the parking lot of a garage.

For another, it’s mighty useful for that parking lot to be brimming over with teenage boys who apparently lift up cars as part of their regular workout routine. Okay that probably isn’t true, but I’ve seen those tackling sleds, and I think pushing Esmeralda was probably something of a break from their regular football practice. In fact, they didn’t even use the REALLY BIG guys.

Also, shell-shocked as I was, I still managed not to say that I didn’t know cars still had radiators. (It’s carburetors that cars no longer have, if you’re interested. It took me a while, but I looked it up on the internet.)

And finally, I was reminded, yet again, of why I love this little town. Everyone was very, very nice, from diagnosing the problem, to offering rides, to getting Esmeralda scheduled for her repairs. One man, whose name I neglected to get (shell-shocked, remember?) was especially helpful and seemed to recognize that my yoga breathing was not working and that I was about to collapse into a puddle of goo and somehow managed to keep me together until my friend Susan and her husband showed up to rescue me. I owe that guy.

I will keep you posted on Esmeralda’s convalescence. And for your own edification, modern cars do indeed still have radiators.

Well, mine doesn’t, but most do.

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