Pop Culture Gadabout
Sunday, June 26, 2011
      ( 6/26/2011 09:35:00 AM ) Bill S.  


CRUSING THE VISTA: We paid off the PT Cruiser (a.k.a. Silver Surfer a.k.a. Boogie) a few months back, so now it’s time for it to start acting up, right? The A-C died recently -- not a good thing when you’re living in an AZ heat wave. Turned out there was a leak in the crimp to the hose feeding coolant. Had it scheduled to be replaced on the weekend -- after days of driving round the desert with the windows rolled down. As if sympathy with my own sweatiness, on Friday as I’m driving home from work, the car’s engine starts overheating. Turning on the heater, a quick temp fix, doesn’t help, so I tell myself, “I’ll have them check into the coolant when I take it in tomorrow.”

I’m supposed to be on call-out for my job as a part-time crisis worker, so I make arrangements for somebody else to be on-call while I’m sitting at the shop. I get three-hundred pages into The Girl Who Played with Fire before I’m given the prognosis. My radiator has sprung a leak, and they have to order a replacement, which -- this being the weekend -- won’t be in until Tuesday. “Will I be able to drive around town?” I asked. Keep the radiator topped off, I’m told, and I should be okay.

I get a crisis call before I leave downtown, am able to take it and get back home (a five mile drive or so) without incident. Once there, I refill the radiator with water and get a gallon jug filled for the car. Two-and-a-half hours later, I get my second activation for the day, so I drive over to see a patient in ER. Most of the people I get called out to see at the emergency room are there because they appear to be a danger to themselves -- either through drug overdoses or suicide attempts -- and it’s my primary job to do a crisis evaluation, then facilitate either pysch or detox hospitalization if it’s deemed necessary. This call proves relatively low-key, so I’m ready to leave around 5:30. Put some more water in the radiator and head for home.

Only . . . once I pass the city limits and have about two more miles to go, the engine light goes on again -- in symphony, a whole bunch of other dash lights start flashing, and the car dies. Pull out my refilled jug of water and attempt to replenish the radiator, but as I fill it, I can see water dripping out of the car just as rapidly. Silver Boogie refuses to re-start, so I’m stuck on the desert highway and forced to call roadside assistance. I look at the temperature, see that it’s 106 and thank myself that I also have a full bottled water with me.

I wait and watch the cars go by, consider the largely uninspiring patch of desert view that is mine, call my crisis supervisor to explain that I’m out of commission then finally start writing the first two paragraphs of this piece. I ponder the pioneers who once traversed this punishing landscape without benefit without benefit of cell phones or roadside assistance. Though the automated system tells me that there’s an ETA of an hour, the truck from Nuttall Towing arrives within a half hour.

The Man from Nuttall is friendly and efficient -- he gets a lotta calls like mine in the hell days of summer, so he’s not surprised when I tell him about my radiator mishap. He takes both me and vehicle back home, a tow of about two miles, and I tell him I’ll be needing him later in the week when I have to get the vehicle into the shop. Now all I have to do is figure out how I’m gonna get into work until I can get the car fixed. Two hours later I get a call from the crisis worker who is now filling in for me, asking me if I know anything about a client she is currently seeing in ER. I’ve gotten a call on the woman in question before, so I tell her what I know, feeling guilty as I do that I’m not the one taking the call.

The rest of the night is quiet, but for my periodic mental fretting about the car, of course. I can’t do anything about it now, but that doesn’t stop me from indulging in Worst Case Scenarios. Arizona summers can be tough on cars -- and on car owners, too. I received that basic lesson on this fact of desert life this weekend . . .

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Pop cultural criticism - plus the occasional egocentric socio/political commentary by Bill Sherman (popculturegadabout AT yahoo.com).



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