He popped the hood and looked and confirmed that I did indeed have a bad radiator and that I should drive straight to a garage to have it replaced, which is what I should have done that morning on my way to work when I first saw the billowing clouds of steam emerging from a place where you never want to see steam. Did I mention that I saw said billowing clouds of steam right as I was passing Sears Auto? Oh how dumb was I?
The Strange Man asked for some more water for the radiator and I told him I had none. We both fell silent. What to do? What to do? This was a rather desolate part of town. It was raining. No place convenient to fill the jug.
Except the big ditch by the side of the road. "But that water is dirty!" I protested.
He just looked at me. "Ma'am, that radiator has to be replaced anyhow. You just need to get home."
He filled the jug with rain water and poured it into the radiator. It worked. I chugged along home at about 20 miles an hour, staying on the side roads because if your car is going to fail, you definitely do not want it to fail on the highway.
I'm talking to YOU, my old Subaru, whose drive belt snapped on Highway 183 in Austin as I was on my way to see a customer. This was in the days before cellphones, so I had to leave the car and walk to the Whole Foods 100 yards away to call Triple A, who asked me where the car was and I said, "Right here by Whole Foods!" with an implied "Duh!" but then I realized that the person I was talking to was not even in Austin and didn't that shake my world view that something as simple as ordering a tow truck was no longer a local operation.
My similar recent experience was hearing John Tesch, on his radio show, talking about dental hygiene for pets and explaining that some pets need braces.
Braces? For a pet?
He went on to say that the braces are not for cosmetic purposes but because some breeds of dog have congenital teeth problems, to which I would say, Get a dog that doesn't need braces.
Braces. For a dog. Honestly. I'm just finally getting used to the idea of needing to brush the cats' teeth. For which they do not appear to make the appropriate toothbrushes. I went to Walgreen's just to get a little kid's toothbrush and all they have are Dora the Explorer and Dumbo toothbrushes, which cost $4 apiece. Just a generic small toothbrush would be fine with me, thanks, and I'll bet many parents do not appreciate having to spend that much on a disposable item.
Back to the teddy and the car. Given all the car drama I have had over my life, you would think I would know better than this and it's a good thing nothing bad happened this time, but I will never do this kind of thing again.
Primo's birthday was coming up. He is very hard to shop for. When he sees something he wants, he buys it. Within reason, of course, although I would argue that nobody needs 300 bottles of wine in the basement.
But we do not lack for stuff. We are over-stuffed. I would like to divest of a lot of our stuff, but I do not control all that now that I am a married woman. When you marry, you don't get to to be The Decider about how much crap enters your house. That is sad.
I thought I would make a Grand Gesture. Lingerie! What man doesn't like lingerie?
But where does one buy fancy lingerie? My underwear usually comes from Target and before you laugh, they have some cute underwear and why pay a lot for something that wears out at the same rate regardless of the source? I always laugh when I see white t-shirts in fashion magazines priced at $200. For a white shirt? That is going to stain as soon as the wearer eats raspberries? No. You buy your white t-shirts at Target and just get five each season.
Back to the underwear. Target does not or did not at the time seem to carry seduction lingerie, which is a category of its own.
I had to go to the mall, which I hate, because you have to find parking and then walk past all the stores that don't interest you or worse seduce you and your thin, unemployed now for a year wallet and yes I mean Godiva Chocolates and Origins Soap. I am powerless in the face of fancy chocolate and fancy soap.
So I parked right at the Dillard's entrance and went straight to the lingerie department, which I think is actually called "intimates," as if "lingerie" is a bad word. Or maybe it's just harder to spell.
The saleslady was so nice. She helped me find a red teddy which of course did nothing to flatter me in the cheap mirrored, florescent-lit dressing room, especially as I tried it on over my underwear, which is how you are supposed to do these things.
You would be surprised, though, at how tacky some women can be in the dressing room. I worked at Macy's for only a month and even in that short time, I saw complete chaos in the dressing room. As in, is it really too much trouble to put that evening gown back on the hanger after you try it on? One of the full-time salesladies told me that she had found - um - various human fluids and solids in the dressing room before. Oh ick.
When it came time to pay, I hesitated. This red teddy was not inexpensive. I hadn't worked in a while. I was living off my savings. But I decided Primo was worth it. I paid. The lady wrapped it and put it in a bag.
Then I drove straight to TJMaxx, where I found a similar item for one fourth the price. Oh snap.
I tried to time the Dillard's return for when the saleslady wouldn't be there because I didn't want to face her after she had been so helpful. But I also didn't want to waste the gas on making another trip. Dillard's was on the way home from TJMaxx so there you go.
She was there. I was mortified. But I decided honesty was the best policy, so I just told her I had found a similar item cheaper elsewhere. Maybe she didn't care. When I did returns at Macy's, I didn't care why someone was returning something as long as it wasn't because the product was defective. A good product can be re-stocked, a bad product cannot.
Speaking of that, if you want to return the elegant (and I use that term loosely) denim jacket with the studs on the yoke and collar a year after you bought it (with the tags on it and with a receipt), I will ask my manager if it's OK. When he says fine, return it for store credit, I will do so.
What I will not do is re-sell it to you for the one penny value the jacket has now acquired in the inventory system. After three months, products roll out of inventory and you can't return them by just scanning the bar code, etc, and pulling up all the data. You have to key in the item number and price. The system assigns a value of one cent to old inventory, hence the term "pennied out."
But just because the system says the value is one cent does not mean that that is now the sale price. Do not ask me to sell it to you for one penny. I would rather set it on fire than do that. If you wanted it, you could have kept it at the price you paid. And don't tell me that the other clerk does it all the time because that's just baloney.
Maybe the Dillard's lady didn't care. Maybe she just shrugged and thought, "Eh. Whatever." I hope so.
So now I had my red teddy for only $10. I had a nice spring coat. I had high heels. And Primo was flying in.
I put on the teddy and tried to put on the shoes, which were not very comfortable without pantyhose for I come from the pantyhose to work tradition and have bought my shoes accordingly. I removed the teddy, put on hose, then donned the teddy and shoes again. Looked in the mirror. Rolled my eyes. Oy. Really? But in for a penny.
Put on my nice flowered spring coat that I have not gotten to wear once this spring because it's been too cold for a light spring coat and drove to the airport. Prayed that the car would not die and I would be there on the side of the road in a coat I dare not remove lest I frighten small children.
Made it to the airport. Saw Primo waiting outside of baggage claim. Hugged him when he came to the car. And flashed him.
Which he liked.
Refastened the coat immediately. I am not good at this flashy sexpot thing. I am more of a white t-shirt and jeans person myself. But - he liked it. He liked the chocolate cake I had made for him. He was a happy boy. But he doesn't seem to mind my usual bedtime getup of red and white striped knit pants from Lands' End plus his yellow Beer Bike t-shirt from college. Primo, fortunately, is very easy to please.
The teddy has lived in my dresser since then. Four years, I think it's been. I finally put it in the Goodwill bag. I know if I tried that stunt here in the frozen north, the brakes would fail and I would careen into another car and then the ER people would laugh at my getup or I would get a flat and have to change it in the snow. We keep blankets, coats, gloves, and a snow shovel in the trunk for most of the year here. I do not need to tempt fate. It's back to Target underwear for every single day. Married + cold climate = no more teddies.