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Claire Thinking
Riding in Cars with Noise

I have a love/hate relationship with my car.

I love to drive. Put me behind the wheel with a full tank of gas and I'm on my way. It doesn't matter where I'm going, as long as the sun is shining, the tunes are cranking, and the open road is before me.

What I hate is anything that involves car maintenance. The little things like brushing off the snow in the winter, or pumping gas are things I can live with. They involve little time and I can accomplish them with success. But if it's time to change the oil or get new tires, or worse yet, if my car starts making some kind of noise, then I panic.

I look forward to taking my car in for repairs and upkeep about as much as I look forward to my yearly trip to my gynecologist. It's a similar experience. Something is up on a rack, someone is looking underneath, and I'm trying to pretend the whole thing isn't happening. Still, it's a necessary evil.

I have a two very scientific ways of determining whether my car needs to be taken in for servicing. There is the Sound Test and the Smell Test. These simple but effective exercises are all I need to keep me on the road. I didn't invent these tests. They are just the rules for car maintenance that all women innately know and follow.

The first test is the Sound Test, and it's quite simple. If your car makes a noise, turn up the radio. If you can't hear it anymore, then it's nothing critical and can wait. If you can't drown out the sound by cranking up the volume, then it's something that needs to be fixed, pronto.

The only flaw in this test is if your radio doesn't work. Don't ever drive around with a broken radio otherwise you are just asking for trouble.

The Smell Test is even simpler. If your car just smells like a car, you are fine. If your car is making a funny smell, and you haven't recently hit a skunk or set your carpet on fire, then something needs fixed.

Don't wear extra cologne and try to ignore your car smells. Smells usually mean you are leaking something and that's never good.

Even if you luck out and don't ever get to the point of using the Sound or Smell tests, you still have to take your car in for oil changes, tire rotations and other routine maintenance. Dealing with these can be just as stressful as strange noises or smells.

I recently coerced a co-worker to go with me to one of those quick oil change places during lunch. We both drove and took adjoining bays. What could be better? We get our oil changed, keep each other company, and have back up in case we have to make a car related decision.

We were both feeling pretty good about the whole affair as the mechanics busied themselves oiling hinges, inflating tires and yelling to each other from somewhere below our vehicles. Then one of the men approached and asked us to pop the hoods.

UhI realized that I had never opened the hood. Where was the release? Craning my neck to see under the dash, I spied the doodads that open the trunk and gas cover. Where did they hide the one to open the hood?

Noticing my confusion, the mechanic opened the door, reached under the dash, and pulled the release. Oh, yeah, the bright yellow one that said HOOD. Mortified I turned to my back up who, in true sisterly support, was making the loser sign on her forehead. Needless to say, I get my oil changes by myself these days.

Outside of listening to Car Talk on Saturdays I have no inclination to increase my knowledge about cars. That would most likely relieve some of the anxiety but I can't get excited about much more than what color my next car is going to be (aqua or turquoise if you were wondering). After all, I'm the girl who uses her senses to detect car trouble.

On the other hand, perhaps there is a Sight Test or Touch Test. Either could be handy. I can see the applications already. I could look to see if one of the tires is flat. If it is, then it's time for a repair! It's so simple it's genius. I'm sincerely hoping that there isn't a Taste Test. Wouldn't I look silly doing that?

Now, if only someone could figure out an Intuition Test, I'd love to learn it. My sister swears that it works for keeping track of her checkbook balance.


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